Tagged with " police"
Feb 27, 2021 - Uncategorized    No Comments

New police policies up for review in Saratoga Springs

How could Saratoga Springs improve police and community relations and address any racial disparities in policing?

Those are two of the many questions tackled by a task force whose recommendations are available for people to question during a Zoom meeting Wednesday. The recommendations and meeting registration are on the front page of the city’s website. Here’s the link to read the report and register for the meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 1.

After public input (provided in writing and at the online forum) is gathered, the task force will polish its report and submit it to the City Council. Municipalities across the state have until April 1 to adopt (and begin to implement) a plan to improve police department policies, practices and community relations.

I watched the task force’s most recent meeting, when recommendations prepared by its subcommittees were voted on for inclusion in the report that I, for one, intend to read. Task force members have invested a lot of time and effort.  

The creation of the task force was ordered last June by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, spurred by the need to do something concrete in the wake of the May murder of George Floyd in Minnesota and the nationwide protests that followed in response to that and other racially biased and needlessly deadly law enforcement (including more than a half-dozen in New York state).

The governor’s order spells out the rationale, goals, requirements and deadline and leaves it to locales (a sensible and politically expedient assignment) to tailor a plan best suited for their community. The carrot for meeting the deadline is continued receipt of state money (and federal money funneled through the state) to local governments. However, I’m not clear how the multitude of municipalities’ plans with be measured for both content and implementation. No one benefits from a report gathering virtual dust.

Fresh pairs of thoughtful, informed eyes can improve just about any operations, including police departments. That said, many desirable policies regarding police procedures and accountability already exist; more transparency would show how diligently they are followed.  

How is racial and other bias recognized and addressed? What are Saratoga Springs’ policies regarding use of force, including chokeholds; no-knock warrants; and penalties for misconduct? How are those terms even defined? What alternatives exist during and after calls that involve someone who appears mentally ill and dangerous? Those are among the questions that I’ll have in mind as I review the recommendations and the rationales for them.

Jan 18, 2021 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Still waiting for Saratoga police records re Darryl Mount case

Signs at the June 2020 Black Lives Matter march in Saratoga Springs are reminders of remaining questions about the death of Darryl Mount.

On Aug. 26, 2020, I asked Saratoga Springs for public police records pertinent to the still-pending civil lawsuit against the city brought by the mother of Darryl Mount, a Black man who died from injuries suffered in an August 2013 chase by several officers.

I’m still waiting.

The task of responding to requests for records regarding Saratoga Springs police has been delegated by City Hall to the very law firm defending the city and its police officers – including those in the Darryl Mount case.

Saratoga Springs and other municipalities across the state have been swamped by requests through New York’s Freedom of Information Law since last summer, when the state at long last made certain police disciplinary records accessible to the public. With that in mind, I’ve offered to prioritize my admittedly large request and to review records piecemeal, yet haven’t received a single document.

I don’t doubt that the city’s FOIL officer needs help responding to requests. Still, it feels like a conflict for the private attorney hired to defend the city and police to also be in charge of reviewing and redacting records that may reflect negatively on the defendants.

Here’s my FOIL request timeline:

Aug. 26: I submitted to the city attorney a request for numerous public records pertaining to officers involved in the Darryl Mount case and complaints about excessive force.

Sept. 15: I emailed the attorney noting that the Aug. 26 request had not been acknowledged.

Sept. 16: The city apologized for this oversight, promising a response granting or denying my request within 20 business days. (I believe this was an honest mistake, but I was back at the end of line even though two weeks had elapsed since my request.)

Oct. 23: About 25 business days later, I informed the city that I still had no response.

The city later that day advised me that the documents “have been forwarded to counsel for the Saratoga Springs Police Department for review and possible redaction” and that I “may reasonably expect a response by Nov. 30.”

Nov. 30: Nothing.

Dec. 4: The city emailed that “due to the scope” of my requests the city needs “some additional time to respond” and that I should expect a response in “approximately 45 business days.”

By my count, that brings us to Feb. 9, 2021 – more than five months from my initial request.

Other cities and police departments are denying or delaying requests for records that should be public (with some redactions). I’ve been assured my request is in the process of being granted. I could consider the repeated extensions tantamount to a denial that I could officially appeal. But I am inclined to wait optimistically for Feb. 9.

My expectation is that these records will shed light on police behavior and procedures that could address at least some of the unanswered questions about the death of Darryl Mount. That, I believe, is worth waiting for. But for how long?