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Oswego County Legislature votes to remove residency requirement for sheriff's department

Payne Horning
The Oswego County Legislature approved a resolution to remove the requirement that corrections, patrol, and school resource officers live in Oswego County.

The number of people who applied to work as a corrections officer in Oswego County dropped from 221 in 2012 to 49 this year and those applying to be a patrol officer dropped from 171 in 2012 to 108 in 2019. Oswego County Sheriff Don Hilton says it's consistent with a nationwide decline in candidates for law enforcement jobs. So he petitioned the legislature to remove the requirement that corrections and patrol officers lives in Oswego County.

"I want to be able to go up to Fort Drum or down to the 174th and recruit military members," Hilton said. "I think they've earned the shot at these positions and I think we owe it to them to them to offer these jobs to military people.”

The Oswego County Legislature voted to remove the residency requirement with a strong majority, but some members opposed the change. Legislator Heather DelConte (D-Oswego) tried to amend the resolution to require that any outside candidates hired move to Oswego County within a year, but the amendment was defeated.

"Over a quarter of our  jobs are paid for by our taxpayers and yet we have a third of our workforce that live outside our county," DelConte said. "So we need to find other creative ways to keep our tax base here and make sure that those who are receiving tax dollars for their jobs are also paying property taxes or at least keeping our sales tax here."

Hilton also requested the change so he can begin his initiative of placing officers in Oswego County's school districts. He wants to hire 6-12 school resource officers by June. In order to apply, you must be a retired police or peace officer and have a degree and or experience of working in a school.

"That cuts the pool down of available officers," Hilton said. "It makes it extremely small."

He says Onondaga, Cayuga, and Madison counties also do not require their sheriff department personnel to live within their counties. Hilton formerly worked in the Syracuse Police Department but has remained a resident of Hastings in Oswego County his entire life. 

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.