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Sheriff says ‘sentiment’ leads to low numbers

OBSERVER file photo Chautauqua County Sheriff James Quattrone is pictured during an October 2021 press conference in Mayville.

There was a noticeable decline in applications last year to the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Academy.

One big reason for the drop, Sheriff James Quattrone believes, is due to the “perceived anti law enforcement sentiment that can be portrayed in the national media as well as by various (New York state) policy makers.”

The sheriff’s academy is run in partnership with Jamestown Community College for those interested in law enforcement careers. It serves three counties — Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany — and is held every year.

Quattrone said the academy that is about to conclude will graduate 13 students. Prior class sizes have averaged between 25 and 30 students.

While there could be several factors for declined interest in a law enforcement career, Quattrone thinks it could be the culmination of negative police interactions around the country. The tipping point, he said, may have come following the death of George Floyd Jr., a Black man killed in May 2020 by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd’s death sparked outragee and led to protests across the country against the use of excessive force by police.

Several rallies in support of Floyd were held in Jamestown not long after his death.

“There had been other incidents over the years where police officers have not acted properly,” Quattrone said, “but I do not believe that is representative to all law enforcement. Yet we see in the national media a broad brush painting law enforcement in general as the problem.”

He added, “The lack of qualified candidates is an issue around the country. When individuals are hearing calls to ‘defund the police,’ a term that has different meanings to different people, it is difficult to invest in a career with the possibility of no opportunities in the future.”

Locally, Quattrone did say there seems to be a lot of support for police.

Of the 13 students currently in the academy, nine are from Chautauqua County while four are from Cattaraugus County.

Five of the local students have already been hired to police departments in the county. There remains four available who are completing the academy, with graduation coming in May.

“We are in the process of enrolling recruits for the next academy,” Quattrone said. “At this time, we do not know how many will be accepted as they still need to go through physical agility testing, background checks, as well as medical and psychological exams.”

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