Mutual Aid: Covering a ‘Brother Officer’s’ Back

It means reinforcing, not replacing, other cops, Burke says

When Larry Burke, officer-in-charge of the Cold Spring police, addressed the Nelsonville Village Board on Aug. 16, he mostly focused on license plate readers — a fraught topic, as questions arose about the need for the devices in a quiet community. 

But he also touched on another police tool: mutual aid, the practice by which officers from one agency help those in another.

Last winter, mutual aid became an issue in Philipstown when the Town Board learned that the Philipstown Volunteer Ambulance Corps, largely funded by the town, filled in for five months for ambulance services in Kent and Putnam Valley. The concern was that the PVAC allowed those towns to avoid expenses.

In an interview two days after the Nelsonville meeting, Burke explained that for the Cold Spring Police Department, mutual aid does not entail replacing another agency on the job for an extended period. Instead, he said, it typically means backing up Putnam County sheriff’s deputies on potentially dangerous calls, such as those involving domestic violence, burglaries or anything that could escalate into “a little bit of a wild situation.” 

The Sheriff’s Department polices Philipstown and Nelsonville, which once kept small forces but disbanded them years ago. The department operates a substation in Nelsonville less than a mile from the Cold Spring police headquarters.

The CSPD is “not going into their jurisdiction to respond and handle calls for them,” Burke said. “It’s to make sure everybody is safe and the situation is safe. And as long as that’s OK, then we go back to our patrol.”

Burke said that when a single deputy or lone Cold Spring officer patrols, mutual aid ensures the presence of two officers on a scene if violence should occur.

According to Burke, the CSPD also engages in mutual aid with other forces, such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) police and New York State Police. “Say I’m at Chestnut Ridge or [Route] 9D and I have a vehicle stop,” he said. “If a [state] trooper is in the area, they usually call to see if I’m OK. We do the same” if a trooper pulls over a car within the village. 

“We all do that because we’re all brother officers and we want to make sure nobody gets hurt,” Burke added.

At the Nelsonville meeting, Burke said that his department has “a great rapport with the Sheriff’s Department. When I need certain things, they help us out the best way they can. We’re both committed to protecting the west side of the county.” 

Nelsonville Trustee Chris Winward observed that “we don’t have a contract with the Cold Spring police. If we have an issue, it’d go to the Sheriff’s Department.” However, she continued, “I’m sure you guys would offer mutual aid, if necessary.”

“Absolutely!” Burke replied. “We’re all here for you guys. We’re here for the public. Whether it says ‘Cold Spring Police’ or ‘Putnam County Sheriff’ [on a badge], we’re here to help.”

3 thoughts on “Mutual Aid: Covering a ‘Brother Officer’s’ Back

  1. This paper is full of crap. PVAC never did mutual aid to other agencies for free so they had a free ride. You’re being misguided by a corrupt Philipstown Town Board, mainly Supervisor Richard Shea. Learn the real truth before you spread crap, like your whole paper.

  2. The Philipstown Volunteer Ambulance Corp. did not “fill in for five months for ambulance services in Kent and Putnam Valley,” as you reported, so those agencies could avoid expenses. We were providing mutual aid under the county mutual aid plan, which all agencies under the Bureau of Emergency Services participate in. It was also during a pandemic that put strain on all agencies across the county.

    Tobin is president of the PVAC.

    • To clarify, at a Town Board workshop in December, a PVAC representative, Steve Sherman, said the ambulance corps had entered into a five-month agreement with Putnam Valley and Kent because the former was down to one ambulance and the latter was having staffing problems. Supervisor Richard Shea and other board members ex-pressed concern. “If we’re so active that we’re enabling Kent to not meet their responsibilities and it’s coming back on the Philipstown taxpayer, it’s something we need to address,” Shea said. “If it’s mutual aid, it’s one thing. But it feels like it’s not mutual.”