Opinion - Saratoga Springs Politics

The below blog posts are written by John Kaufmann.
These opinions do not reflect the views of Saratoga TODAY newspaper.

Monday, 07 August 2023 09:18

A Look At BLM’s Claims Of Police Misconduct in Saratoga Springs

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics
A Look At BLM’s Claims Of Police Misconduct in Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Black Lives Matter has alleged that the Saratoga Springs Police Department has been responsible for frequent abuse of and violence against people of color in this city. One of their frequent chants in street demonstrations downtown has been, “How do you spell murderers? SSPD!”

According to BLM, the Darryl Mount Case is the most egregious example of misconduct by the SSPD. In this post, I offer a brief update on that case, but I have also taken a deep dive into two other cases often cited by BLM as evidence of police abuse to try to assess the validity of their claims. What follows is documentation I obtained through the Freedom of Information Law pertaining to two cases that occurred in the city in the last couple of years:

  1. The stopping for questioning by the police of a black military personnel after a late-night break-in on Broadway.
  2. The stopping and questioning by the police of BLM activist Alexis Brown and her boyfriend following a BLM demonstration.

The Darryl Mount Case

The Mount family has sued the city, claiming that the police killed their son, Darryl Mount. This case is finally to be tried this fall, and an independent jury will hear the evidence and decide whether the city has any culpability in the matter.

While for the last two years, the New York State Attorney General’s Office has been conducting a review of interactions between the SSPD and BLM, particularly related to a demonstration in July of 2021, none of the police officers who were involved in the Mount incident have been subpoenaed.

The local media have reported that BLM leader Lexis Figuereo has met on several occasions with the Attorney General’s office. According to Figuereo, the AG has been updating him on the progress of her investigation into the interaction of police with BLM protesters. He has never brought up, however, the failure of the AG’s office to investigate the Darryl Mount case.

Figuereo has repeated many times that the police “murdered” Darryl Mount and that he wants Justice for Darryl Mount. One would have expected Figuereo to be outraged at the apparent unwillingness of the AG to pursue an investigation into Mount’s death. It is interesting that rather than publicly criticizing the AG for her inaction or organizing protests to try to pressure her to investigate the Mount case, Figuereo is silent.

The Case of Michael Vaughn

Michael Vaughn was an active-duty army captain visiting family in Saratoga Springs when he was stopped by the police following a late-night home invasion incident on Broadway in 2022. He submitted a complaint about being stopped.

The call to 911

On May 6, 2022, just before midnight, the police received a 911 call from a woman living on Broadway that a man had attempted to enter her apartment through a window. Here is the recording of that call (it has been slightly edited to protect the identity of the victim).

According to police records, the call was received at 11:57 PM. As the shift change for the police is midnight, the four-to-twelve shift was returning to the police station when they were directed to deploy in the downtown area looking for the suspect.

As indicated in the call, the victim gave sometimes contradictory descriptions of the intruder, which is not unusual for first-hand accounts.

The police encountered Captain Vaughn on Maple Avenue just after midnight. Captain Vaughn met some of the characteristics described by the caller.

The Body Cams

The following are two body cams from the officers responding to and questioning Captain Vaughn. A plainclothes detective, who is not required to wear a body cam, had already engaged Captain Vaughn 20 seconds before the officers wearing body cam arrived. Captain Vaughn is questioned for about 5 minutes.

Captain Vaughn submitted a complaint to the police department about the incident. Lt. Laura Emanation was tasked with reviewing his complaint. Following is the audio file of her phone conversation with Captain Vaughn regarding her investigation of the incident. While it is 35 minutes long, I urge readers to listen to the entire recording where Captain Vaughn lays out his concerns, and Lt. Emanation responds by explaining the police procedures that were followed minute by minute. Among other things, she asks Captain Vaughn if he thought the police could have done anything differently that they didn’t do that night. He replies, “Catching the guy who did it before approaching me.”

(Listen to recording here:)

Alexis Brown Stop

Following one of the BLM downtown demonstrations in 2021, the police stopped Ms. Brown and her boyfriend, who were returning home from the downtown action.

Ms. Brown’s friend had been reported to have placed a bag of some sort in their car, and the police were dispatched to check the bag.

Ms. Brown has repeatedly denounced the police for this stop. She described the experience as traumatic but did not file a complaint.

Body Cam Footage Of Brown Stop

Some Thoughts

As a person committed to social change, I believe that it is important to criticize and insist on change where government fails in its responsibilities, but it is just as important to praise and support those we see as performing in a manner we want to continue.

The central question is whether it is fair to associate the actions of our police with the excesses that we frequently see on national television occurring in other cities. Are the gratuitous acts of excessive force and belligerence against people of color graphically dramatized on the evening news regularly replicated here in Saratoga Springs?

This city is fortunate to have had many outstanding police officers who have performed in a way that we should admire and support. I would also add that some of our best people on the force have retired prematurely due to the abuse of authority by our current Public Safety Commissioner, James Montagnino. We should not confuse his unfortunate behavior with the men and women who serve under him.

In my opinion, the officers in these incidents showed professional restraint and courtesy in their interactions with the individuals they stopped. I leave it to the readers of this blog to assess for themselves whether these incidents support the BLM claims.

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