Antiquated. Obsolete. Restrictive. Unfair.
Those were some of the adjectives used by members of the Genesee County Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative to describe the New York State Department of Civil Service during its meeting on Monday night via Zoom videoconferencing.
And, going beyond sharing their opinions of Civil Service, the committee agreed that now may be the “perfect opportunity” to reform the system that administers tests for government jobs.
“There has been a push throughout New York State for years now about reforming the Civil Service requirements and the testing procedures,” Sheriff William Sheron said, responding to a question from committee member Julie Carasone about changing the procedure to ensure more diversity in hiring. “I guess my best answer to that is to push on our state senator and assemblyman to try to change that or put pressure on New York State to change their Civil Service regulations.”
Sheron said he is speaking on behalf of administrators in various job sectors who are hamstrung by Civil Service’s restrictive guidelines.
“That you have to select from the top three individuals, to me, makes no sense in the world. I think there should be more of a test and interview process rather than a guarantee that if you’re in the top three – that we have to try to choose from the top three,” he said. “Many times, the individuals that you have to choose from are not satisfactory but it’s very difficult to get them removed from the list.”
The sheriff said it would take a unified front consisting of government, municipal and community leaders to put pressure on Albany, noting that “it’s definitely time for some type of Civil Service reform.”
Committee Member Gregory Post, who is the Batavia Town supervisor, said it was his belief that Civil Service “hasn’t had a total rehab since Teddy Roosevelt was president.”
Post: Collaboration Can Make a Difference
“But, that being said, this is the perfect opportunity now because there has always been, in my 45 years in the public sector, one component -- which is generally the employers or the management side petitioning the governor and Albany and some of the more partisan politicians on the east and Downstate to amend Civil Service policies to address our reality.”
“This opportunity that has been presented to us in the past year, I think for the first time in several decades, empowers this organization to ally with the constituents and in a combined manner (with) all parties involved …working collaboratively. It shouldn’t just be county officials and legislators. They’ve been asking for this for a hundred years.”
Post said he would like to see a partnership involving “constituents who are most impacted and most benefitted from this change, and the only way we can do that is to involve them and engage them, and I think we need to invite the press to be participatory in that. … Being in the top three has not served us as well as trusting our instincts and giving people a chance that otherwise wouldn’t have one.”
Sheron noted that a deputy sheriff’s position is opening soon and said his plan is to get the notice out to the public as quickly as possible, working with Human Resources to reach the minority communities. He also said he is enlisting the services of the Genesee County Career Center to help those interested in taking the test, including resume preparation and interviewing techniques.
Sheron and County Manager Matt Landers concurred that the county’s ability – or inability -- to find worthy minority candidates for law enforcement and other positions has been a stumbling block.
“I think the starting point for us is to trying to go down the avenue of getting the word out about our test coming up and providing individuals the education and the tools to be able to be successful in taking the tests,” Sheron said, adding that only a few members of the minority community have taken the deputy sheriff’s test and even fewer have passed it.
Landers: We Can Do Better
Landers said finding a path to change Civil Service would be a major challenge, considering the bureaucracy involved, but emphasized that he didn’t want to downplay the effort to reform it.
“But at the same time, we can’t lose sight of the fact that we can do better with our recruitment and advertising efforts,” he said, “I think that’s something that we control in our own hands that we don’t need outside help with. We can try to reach out to segments of our population and do a better job of education and better job of notification.
“We can change the rules all we want -- from (the top) three to five to 100 – but if we don’t get diversity in people in taking the test, then it doesn’t do any good at all.”
Landers also criticized the time gap in the Civil Service process, noting that it sometime takes up to year to fill the position after the taking of the test.
“The way Civil Service works – it’s kind of a unique situation – a person signs up for a test, it’s taken three months later and the results come out three months later – where an opportunity might open up six months later,” he advised. “It’s such an antiquate process, in general, that it’s kind of like a secret in some ways that people have to be planning way ahead.”
As far as reaching the minority population, he suggested that the sheriff reach out to groups such as Just Kings in the City of Batavia to “spread the word and that might have more of an immediate effect.”
Sheron: Let's Put it in the Report
While Genesee County ramps up its effort to reach a more diverse audience, Sheron said it is important that this committee include its evaluation of the Civil Service process in the report it will send to New York State by April 1.
“We recognize that there are problems with Civil Service and should incorporate it right into our report to the state,” he said.
Post agreed, adding that the chance to see a change would be possible “if we can get 5 percent (of Genesee County residents) to support some kind of petition to address this as a vital component of what they’re asking us to do here. We need to strike while the iron is hot … as the whole system is corrupt and obsolete.”
County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said she supports moving on this immediately.
“Right now is the time, with the leadership in Albany, to grab a hold of this and update the entire process of Civil Service,” she said.
Committee member Gary Maha, former Genesee County sheriff, said Civil Service would be a “very difficult nut to crack” and called upon the New York State Association of Counties, Conference of Mayors, county managers and city managers … “to get the attention of our (state) legislature.”
Sheron and Undersheriff Brad Mazur opened the meeting by presenting an outline of three areas mentioned in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order on police reform – Violence Prevention & Reduction Intervention, Model Policies and Guidelines Promulgated by the NYS Municipal Police Training Council, and Standards Promulgated by the NYS Law Enforcement Accreditation Program.
- Violence Prevention & Intervention
This involves removing or reducing underlying causes and risk factors, such as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, gang activity, illegal weapons possession and domestic conflicts.
The sheriff’s office currently works with professionals from several sectors in this effort, including the YWCA, Genesee County Mental Health, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, school resource officers, Crisis Intervention Team, PAARI (Public Safety Assisted Addiction and Recover Initiative), Independent Living Continuum of Care and Criminal Justice Advisory Council.
- Model Policies & Guidelines
The sheriff’s office follows Municipal Police Training Committee (MPTC) model policy – as well as policies of other accredited law enforcement agencies -- in various aspects of police operation.
Not every model policy is suited to adoption by every agency, Sheron said. Many agencies develop their own policies and procedures by studying model policies from many sources, and by studying actual policies being successfully used by other law enforcement agencies around the country.
- Standards Promulgated by the NYS Accreditation
The Genesee County Sheriff’s Department has been an accredited agency with the New York State Law Enforcement Agency Accreditation Council (LEAAC) since 2000, and currently is accredited through November 2025.
The sheriff's office has developed a Citizen Comment Form for positive comments, as well as legitimate concerns and/or constructive criticism, regarding the Sheriff’s Office or Sheriff’s personnel.
The next meeting of the Genesee County Police Reform Collaborative is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Jan. 19.