Deciding which laws to enforce aggressively and which to let slide in an effort to minimize social contact and contamination is a challenge that police now face. While there may be fewer instances of drunk and disorderly conduct in public places when the bars close, officers must be alert to the rising likelihood of domestic violence incidents as tensions rise within families quarantined together.
So one might say that former Rosendale chief Perry Soule, who stepped down from his post on March 11 to accept a position in the private sector, got out while the getting was good. “It was well-timed” is how his replacement, former deputy chief Scott Schaffrick, puts it, with a laugh. “He had been planning it for some time.”
Chief Schaffrick was officially appointed to take over Soule’s job by a vote of the town board on April 8 — at a virtual meeting, after the one scheduled for April 1 was canceled. “That was probably for the best, because it was April Fools’ Day,” he jokes. With all participants communicating from their homes, the transfer of power was “very unceremonious,” conducted without the usual investiture ritual, photo ops and speeches. There will be time for that when life gets back to normal, Schaffrick says.
Putting on this particular chief’s hat brings his career full circle, since Schaffrick, a Kingston native, began his law enforcement career as a part-timer for the Rosendale Police in 1990, while attending the Police Academy in Hudson. Within a year a full-time position opened up in New Paltz. He transferred there and stayed on until 2014, eventually attaining the ranks of sergeant and supervisor. During this period he was involved with the creation of the bicycle and motorcycle patrols, and served for 18 years on the board of the New Paltz Regional Chamber of Commerce, acting as a liaison between the police force and local businesses.
“I’ve always been very community-minded,” says Schaffrick. “When I was doing foot patrol in New Paltz, I would check in on businesses. Police work is based on relationships: actually talking to people, not sitting in a car or in an office. And those relationships should not be adversarial.”
That approach carried over after his retirement from the New Paltz police force, when he was recruited to return to Rosendale in a supervisory capacity. He says that he and Soule have been “friends for more than 30 years. Our approach is very similar; our vision is very closely aligned.” As a result, he foresees, “There’s not going to be a large transition,” in terms of the new regime in Rosendale.
Schaffrick says that he and Soule working together have “done a lot to professionalize” the Police Department in Rosendale in recent years, ensuring that officers get plenty of additional training each year. They’ve also cultivated a “great relationship with all area fire departments. We meet at least twice a year to go over protocols.”
While no great changes in the department are anticipated, demands on the 15-member staff have changed in the face of the pandemic — particularly in terms of how the Police respond to medical calls. In the past, the protocol was for an officer to arrive on the scene of a medical emergency simultaneously with Mobile Life. All members of the police force have emergency first responder training, and some are certified EMTs. But now, Schaffrick says, a “staging” protocol has been established to minimize contact with coronavirus patients: “If it’s not a life-threatening situation, we let Mobile Life go there first.”
These days, with fewer people out and about, “We’ve noticed a decrease in call volume,” Schaffrick says. With regard to the domestic violence incidents that typically accompany economic downturns, “We haven’t seen an increase in it yet. We expected to see a spike in that, with a lot of people at home. But the past few weeks, the nice weather has been giving people the ability to get out of the house.”
Once the pandemic is past and Rosendale resumes its usual level of outdoor activity as the Festival Town, its police force will once again be kept busy managing traffic flow and keeping public order on the streets. Following a long period of confinement, some of those citizens may be partying harder than in past years, but Bhief Schaffrick and his crew will be ready to respond.