By Timothy Chipp
The Town of Niagara Police Department has undergone some significant changes in the past few months. So, the Town of Niagara Board took steps Tuesday to help settle the situation.
Following the sudden retirement of former Chief James Suitor in August – a process where Suitor provided two weeks' notice to Supervisor Lee Wallace between monthly meetings with little fanfare – the five-member board appointed Capt. Craig Guiliani provisional chief.
Guiliani sat nervous outside the doors to the town’s conference room while the Town Council discussed his appointment in closed conference during the Sept. 7 work session. He fell back on his years of experience in the department, as well as his family’s history in law enforcement.
But Wednesday, the new interim chief was in much higher spirits, accepting both compliments and some ribbing from the five councilmen who placed their trust in him to lead the town’s police department going forward.
Wallace, in particular, spoke of Guiliani’s presence and his past, both noting that officers in the department took time out of their night to support him, but also harkening back to when Wallace coached Guiliani on the football field years ago.
But it was the presence of the officers, supporting their new boss, that gave Wallace pause.
“He’s worked long and hard to get to where he is,” Wallace said following the brief six-item agenda meeting Wednesday. “That, plus his demeanor (make him right for the job). He is the captain, but also, the guys on the force like him.”
Wallace said he wishes Suitor well, but that “It’s probably good to start fresh.”
But Guiliani’s appointment to the provisional post, good for a maximum period of nine months, is only one part of the police department’s news. Other changes became official Wednesday, as well.
Wallace said the department is shorthanded, with multiple resignations in the past few months. Several months in a row have featured tabled agenda items calling for both part-time and full-time officer hires, meant to help close the gap in the force.
One of those positions was filled Wednesday, with the board approving a part-time officer hire. But they also accepted the resignation of a part-time officer.
The board did approve a request to post for civil service examination, per the town’s contract with the police department, for a second part-time officer. But that won’t be filled for months as the process begins.
“We’re a little short-handed,” Wallace said. “The procedures make it difficult to say, ‘We’ll hire you tomorrow.’ Also, the changing of the chief has been a lot to digest. Do I think we’re being a little short-minded? Yes. Do I think we can cope with where we’re at? Also yes.”
In other town news, the council:
√ Approved spending up to $20,000 from the water department’s share of the American Rescue Act funds to purchase new water meters, a reading system and accompanying software.
√ Withdrew $1.35 million from the Host Community Standing Committee bank account for use toward projects outlined in the park improvement plan. The account’s new balance is roughly $1.1 million following the transaction, the town said.
√ Recognized the 100-year history of Cooper Sign in the town, presenting the owners of the business with an engraved glass sculpture honoring the time. Cooper Sign started in the LaSalle neighborhood, then part of the town, according to Councilman Marc Carpenter.