City Axes Police Chief's Position Due To Pandemic Budget Deficit, Keeps Officers
Watervliet, NY – The Watervliet police chief has been laid off for at least three months in an effort to help offset a potential $1.2 million deficit caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was truly a decision as to what was best in the operation of the city on how to make that,” Watervliet City General Manager Joseph LaCivita told WRGB. “It was an agonizing decision.”
LaCivita said that the potential deficit forced the city to choose between cutting Watervliet Police Chief Anthony Geraci’s position or those of three uniformed Watervliet Police Department (WPD) officers.
“Replacing three guys away from the streets, away from filling the shifts, public safety would have been put in jeopardy as well as public safety of our patrolmen, so it came down to those three positions lost versus the one,” the city’s general manager explained.
Chief Geraci’s furlough will go into effect on May 18, WRGB reported.
The 21-year law enforcement veteran is a father of four, the youngest of whom is seven years old.
He said it has been his “lifelong dream” to serve as police chief – a position he was appointed to approximately one year ago.
“I would never want to see three people lose their jobs, especially with young families during this global pandemic, during this financial crisis,” Chief Geraci told WRGB. “If I was forced to face the tough decision, obviously it would be me before three members of the department.”
Even if the alternative was to cut just one WPD officer instead of the chief’s position, his recommendation would be the same, he said.
“If I was posed with that question – me or someone else – you know I would definitely step aside,” Chief Geraci told WNYT. “Not that I want to turn my back on the city or the department but I think you have to make courageous decisions during times of crisis."
Watervliet Mayor Charles Patricelli said that he hopes to bring Chief Geraci back to WPD in the future.
"I took it that this is more of a furlough, it's not anything permanent that we're doing," Patricelli said on Tuesday, according to The Record. "This is something that we have to decide at a later date.”
“[Chief Geraci] has done wonderful things here for the city and it will be a tough position to fill in the future or [however] we're going to handle it,” the mayor said. “He had a huge following and [residents] liked him and we liked him…We applaud what he has been able to accomplish in the short time that he’s actually been here.”
LaCivita said that the city hopes the chief’s layoff will not extend past 90 days.
"Then at that point and time, there will be an evaluation of the fiscal standing of the municipality to make a further determination,” the city manager added.
Chief Geraci noted that the pandemic has affected everyone, and that many are facing situations that are even more dire.
“People are losing their lives as we speak,” he told WRGB. “A close dear friend of ours is in ICU right now fighting for her life. I’m looking at a potential loss of income. So, I really want to put that in perspective.”
“Every single person watching this has been affected by this pandemic emotionally, mentally, and financially,” Chief Geraci added. “I’m not exempt, nor is the city of Watervliet.”
The WPD’s executive officer will take over the chief’s responsibilities for the time being, WNYT reported.
More employee layoffs in other departments throughout the city will soon be announced, LaCivita told Spectrum News.