Tompkins County Unarmed Officer Pilot Program Details Released | WETM

TOMPKINS COUNTY, NY (WETM) – The Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office has announced plans to implement a pilot program to answer certain types of non-emergency calls with unarmed sheriff’s clerks.

Unarmed responses will be handled over the phone or in person at the sheriff’s office, using the same computerized case management systems that link the dispatch center and highway patrol vehicles. The pilot program is part of the Tompkins County Reimaging Public Safety Plan and is led by the Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Derek Osborne.

Currently, there is no concrete start date for the pilot program, but it should officially begin in early summer. There will be two positions, and they have already been filled. Those hired were placed through a thorough background check, similar to that which MPs must undergo. Clerks will not be uniformed officers.

Eventually, these positions will be directly supervised by Highway Patrol Sgts, just like deputies, so the supervisor is aware of what’s going on in the county at all times. With this system in place, it will make it easy to upgrade or downgrade a call from a clerk response to a deputy response, or vice versa.

We do this in order to handle certain calls in a different way, using civilians on site while freeing up highway patrol resources for more urgent calls.

Derek Osborne – Tompkins County Sheriff

The objectives of the reimaging plan are to better align available resources to respond to emergencies. The pilot program aims to evaluate the effectiveness and results of unarmed responses to certain types of calls for service. Another goal of this program is to be able to free up time for deputies to respond to emergency calls, conduct investigations, and build more relationships with community members. This program only includes the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office and does not affect calls for service from other law enforcement agencies in the county.

The sheriff’s office will alert the community about what to expect when the changes are official and how appeals will be handled further.

In the information that was released, there were 7 types of service calls described that could be handled by new sheriff clerks.

The pilot program includes the following call types and determinants:

  • Call Type 1: Car vs. Deer
    • Are there multiple vehicles involved? If so, an assistant would be dispatched.
    • Are there any injuries at the scene? If so, the appropriate deputy, fire department or emergency medical services would be dispatched.
    • Is the vehicle rolling? Otherwise, an assistant would be dispatched.
    • Does the deer involved in the accident have life-threatening or disabling injuries? If so, an assistant would be dispatched.
  • Call Type 2: Assistance – Traffic Complaint
    • Is the call in progress (in progress)? If so, an assistant would be dispatched.
    • Is it a “Fix It Ticket?” Clerks would handle admission to the TCSO.
    • Example: the caller wants to talk about a speeding violation during school hours in the neighborhood (not occurring at this time) – If all criteria are met, the call is seized for service and assigned to a sheriff’s clerk.
    • Reckless Driving/Road Rage Incident – If yes, Deputy A would be dispatched.
  • Appeal Type 3: Property Claim – Lost DMV Items
    • These calls are related to the driver’s license or license plate.
    • If there is any information related to a suspect of a crime, it would be sent to a sheriff’s clerk. If there’s any information on a theft suspect, a deputy would be dispatched.
  • Call Type 4: Property Verification – Vacant Property Verification Requests
    • If the caller contacts the 9-1-1 center, the call is entered for service and routed to a sheriff’s clerk.
    • The appeal may also be entered directly by the Sheriff Clerk if contacted through TCSO.
  • Call type 5: Fraud/telephone scam
    • The call should be entered by the 9-1-1 center and sent to a sheriff’s clerk.
    • If there are jurisdictional issues, the sheriff’s office will handle all cases if the other agency is not available.
  • Call Type 6: Fraud/Larceny
    • If suspicious evidence or information is present, a deputy would be dispatched with potentially a joint response with a sheriff’s clerk.
    • The dispatcher will enter a service call and assign law enforcement. Law enforcement will notify dispatch if a sheriff clerk will be added to the call.
  • Call type 7: Noise complaint
    • If information is present that indicates a large gathering, the presence of alcohol, or a dispute, a deputy will be dispatched.

Calls for service typically originate from 9-1-1, where emergency dispatchers communicate information directly to first responders. Calls can also be initiated by a walk-in call or a direct call to the TCSO. Once this pilot program is implemented, when someone in Tompkins County calls 9-1-1 for assistance and it is within the sheriff’s jurisdiction, TCSO can respond via an unarmed or telephone system. .

The Sheriff’s Office will report results and data from the pilot program as the program progresses and communicate updates through the Reimaging Public Safety website. A plan to solicit community feedback was launched on the website, asking the community to “review the list of pilot program types and share how you think the success of this pilot program should be measured.” You can submit ideas on their website which can be found HERE.

According to the email sent:

Tompkins County Sheriff Derek Osborne said, “We are excited to be considering a new approach to these appeals. We don’t have to answer every call we receive with a deputy, we can free up their time to do the important police work assigned to them while providing more immediate responses by an unarmed person to non-emergency situations. . Osborne continued, “We are committed to seeing how it goes and reviewing the data to decide on a long-term solution for our office. We may add more call types in the future, this is meant to be a start so we can see if we achieve the results we set for ourselves.

Deanna Carrithers, Director of Equity and Diversity for Tompkins County, said, “This is one of more than 20 plans to reimagine our collaboration, I commend Sheriff Osborne and his team for worked to launch a meaningful program and study the results. One of Reimagining Public Safety’s charges is to reduce disproportionate minority contact with police and the criminal justice system, this pilot program is part of that effort.

For more information on the public safety reinvention plans being implemented in Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca, visit

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