Thursday, 07 October 2021 12:52

Commissioner Dalton Pitches Plan for Civilian Board

By Thomas Dimopoulos | News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A public hearing is scheduled to take place Tuesday, Oct. 19 regarding a proposal that calls for the creation and specifies the functions and authority of a five-member citizen board to act as a liaison between the community and the Police Department. 

A draft of the proposal calls for the five members of the Community Police Board, or CPB, to be chosen “to represent a range of culturally and economically diverse experiences and views,” with all members able to “objectively, dispassionately, and fairly” represent the community. 

Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton brought the draft proposal to the City Council during its meeting in the Music Hall at City Hall Oct. 5.

The CPB will be tasked with the authority to perform a series of advisory functions. These include, among others: recommending amendments to the current rules, bylaws, policies and regulations; developing procedures for the filing, investigation, and resolution of formal written complaints related to interactions with an officer; reviewing records held by the Police Department that are reasonably necessary to conduct a review of a submitted complaint. Subsequent to that review, the board will have the ability to recommend further action be taken by the Chief of Police or the Commissioner of Public Safety to resolve the complaint.

According to the draft, each of the five City Council members will be asked to propose one person each for appointment to the board – with appointment approved by a majority of the council.  The proposal prohibits elected or appointed officials, as well as city employees from being on the board and stipulates all members will serve without compensation and be subject to both an initial background check and continuing education and training. All appointees must have been city residents for at least three years. 

City Mayor Meg Kelly raised objections to the proposed ordinance, “I’m not sure this reflects what the Task Force is looking for,” Kelly said, adding that it was “vague” and “troublesome.”  “This is empty legislation as I see it,” she said. 

A public hearing regarding the proposed ordinance is scheduled to be held at the next City Council meeting, Oct. 19. 

On a separate agenda, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan announced she is crafting a plan to assist in the funding of a Civilian Review Board, as per recommendations adopted previously by the City Council. “These funds will be available in the 2022 budget (and) I will be bringing forth more information about that as we craft these assignments.”  At its last meeting, Jason Golub – a member of an independent city advisory committee tasked with studying police reform – told the council securing the support and involvement of police and political leaders, ensuring the board is comprised of credible and impartial members, and setting appropriate funding that would secure budgetary needs over multiple years would be critical in forming a successful board.     

During this week’s meeting, on Oct. 5, a series of speakers addressed the council during the public comment period and raised concerns regarding public’s right to free protest in connection with the recent arrests of Saratoga Black Lives Matter activists and leveled allegations of racist practices among some members of the public safety department. The catalyst of both - the formation of Saratoga Black Lives Matter, and public calls for a citizen review board – was the death of Darryl Mount, Jr. in 2014. 

In late summer 2013 Darryl Mount, a 21-year-old biracial man, suffered injuries that left him in a coma after fleeing police on Caroline Street and allegedly falling off a scaffolding behind The Washington building, which was then under construction. Mount died eight-and-a-half months later.  Mount’s family subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit and city Police Chief Greg Veitch later came under public scrutiny following reports that the public safety department never conducted an internal probe into police actions, after earlier claiming there was one. 

This week, attorney John Aspland, who is representing the city in the Darryl Mount lawsuit, provided an events timeline regarding the case during the council meeting. 

“The purpose of tonight is to give a recitation of the series of events that have occurred during litigation. It’s not a discussion of the merits (or particulars) of the case. It’s just simply for informational purposes,” Aspland said. 

Aspland recited email communications between then-city Police Chief Greg Veitch and then-Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy initiated Sept. 1, 2013, through the depositions of more than a half-dozen officers of the Saratoga Springs Police Department in the spring of 2017, up to the further deposition of city police department staff that was conducted this past August. 

“The time frame for a decision to be issued is really within the discretion of the court based on how much volume of work the court encounters at the time the motion is made,” Aspland said. “I reasonably anticipate there will be an appeal regardless of who wins, and a trial date is probably not reasonably anticipated until late 2022 or the early part of 2023.” 

A “Case litigation Timeline” has been posted on the city’s website alongside, audio and video files related to the matter, and may be viewed by going to: www.saratoga-springs.org/2408/Darryl-Mount-Information 

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