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Mayor: 'Critical moment' for Schenectady police

Stratton warns cops to clean up their act

Thursday, March 5, 2009
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— The mayor has had enough.

After yet another embarrassment Wednesday, in which a police supervisor had his teeth cleaned while he was supposed to be working, Mayor Brian U. Stratton warned every officer that the Schenectady Police Department’s days may be numbered.

“This is a critical moment for the Schenectady Police Department,” he said at meetings with each patrol shift. “If this department is going to survive, it’s going to take the work of every officer.”

He urged them to work their full shifts without taking unapproved breaks for dentist appointments, bowling tournaments and three-hour visits to private apartments — three of the latest incidents in the long list of police work-ethic failings.

He also urged officers to keep their colleagues on the straight and narrow.

“They need to know we’re at a critical moment. I asked for their help,” Stratton said after meeting with the morning and afternoon shifts at 4 p.m.

“Sooner or later, if these things continue, it’s going to become impossible for them to do their jobs.”

The city could abolish the department and call in state police or contract with the county sheriff’s department, as suggested in a Daily Gazette editorial Wednesday. Stratton said he was moved by the editorial, which he praised.

He said he scheduled the police meetings after reading the editorial and then learning that daytime patrol supervisor Sgt. Eric Clifford had his teeth cleaned while on duty Wednesday. Another dental patient saw Clifford walk in just after 10 a.m. for an appointment and then use his radio to report that he was “on detail.”

The phrase is used to indicate that the officer can’t respond to calls but is working — possibly filing paperwork or going to the bathroom. It cannot be used for personal errands, including dental work, Chief Mark Chaires said.

The dental patient called The Daily Gazette to report the matter. A reporter then observed Clifford, who hurried to his patrol car after his cleaning. Chaires said once Clifford knew he had been observed, he reported his errand to his lieutenant. The lieutenant told Clifford that he would have to give up his lunch hour to make up the time he spent at the dentist, Dr. Kenneth Schwartz.

The situation was particularly disturbing, Stratton said, because supervisors had been told just last week to strictly enforce rules banning all personal errands during the workday.

That policy change came in the wake of officer Dwayne Johnson’s suspension for spending hours in an apartment each week when he was supposed to be patrolling.

Both Stratton and Chaires said then that they suspected supervisors knew about Johnson’s absences. They began investigating the possibility of collusion among supervisors to allow routine absences. Chaires also changed several policies to force supervisors to keep track of their officers and emphasized that officers must work their entire eight-hour shifts.

Yet Clifford seemed to believe that he could get paid to spend 45 minutes at a dentist, Chaires said.

“There seems to be a little confusion,” the chief said. “The purpose of a ‘detail’ is to let someone know you’re going to be tied up. There’s meal detail where we bring meals to the jail, for example. But it is absolutely not to be used for personal errands.”

The only personal activity that can take place on detail is a bathroom break, Chaires said. He found himself writing yet another policy Wednesday to make it clear that officers can’t go to the dentist on the taxpayers’ dime.

“We’re definitely clarifying that,” Chaires said. He also wrote a new policy listing the activities that can take place during a lunch hour. Officers have said they run personal errands, sleep and visit friends instead of eating.

But they are only allowed to eat, or work out at the department’s in-house gym.

“We’re going to clarify that up, as far as what’s acceptable on your lunch hour. You can’t leave the city. You can’t run errands,” Chaires said. “Even on your lunch, if something happens, you can be called out. We want to make sure whatever they do will allow them to be called out. You can’t be at the dentist. What if something happens and you’re under novocaine?”

Stratton has not yet researched options for abolishing the police department, but his comments Wednesday are far stronger than ever before. In the past, he has refused to entertain the possibility of abolishment. On Wednesday, he said he’s down to hope.

“If we can do a better job with supervision, I think we can survive this,” he said, emphasizing the word “think.”

“Things are not going to change overnight, but the repeated discipline, continued scrutiny … I don’t know what the options are, but my instinct is to believe that this is a storm we can get through.”

He paused. “I’m not ready to throw in the towel,” he said, then added, “Let’s take it day by day.”

 
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comments

March 5, 2009
6:31 a.m.
keliegh1225 says...

I am off to my job with my new tax assemnet in hand . I work to pay my bills and my taxes. I am very sure I won't be able to make appts at the expense of my employer what a joke, My tax dollars hard at work in schenectady

March 5, 2009
7:28 a.m.
RCordone says...

Kudos to the citizen who called the Gazette to report that officer. We all should be keeping an eye on Schenectady PD officers and reporting any infractions we observe. That will clean up this mess quicker and cheaper than appointing yet another assistant chief to a do-nothing position.

Perhaps the Gazette could set-up a hotline for citizens to call?

March 5, 2009
8:11 a.m.
resident says...

Now the solution is apparent, We the citizens will monotor the police and they will never know when they are being observed or reported... SO they will have the possibility of "BIG Citizen" looking over their shoulder..... I suspect the next step will be to form a citizen patrol to monitor each police officer in the city, See how they would like that
They will try to get away with anything they can, No honesty in the Department, No credability in the Department and simply more of no, no, no, etc.

March 5, 2009
8:13 a.m.
wmarincic says...

The useless do nothing Mayor actually spoke to the rank and file Police Officers, well that's a first. We would not have these problems if he did not get rid of Commissioner Boyle because Boyle did not support him in his reelection. Politics as usual, and as long as Schenectady keep's voting in the do nothing tax and spend liberal's nothing will change. I said before that I will never forget the first time I met Stratton when he was first running for Mayor. I asked him what he was going to do about the drug's and crime in Sch'dy? He told me "Not very much right away, it is a difficult problem". Well Mayor that is the ONLY true thing you have ever said. If I see him again I think my next question will be "Do you plan to ever do anything about the drug and crime problem"? I bet I get the same answer I got so many years ago. Want to bet?

March 5, 2009
9:44 a.m.
hillbilly says...

WOW! What are they 1st graders that need to be reminded of everything? (sorry 1st graders)

This is a very surreal situation, when does it end?

March 5, 2009
12:11 p.m.
miseno says...

...I'm sure not all the police are goofing off. Feel bad for the ones that are on the level.

We only hear about the exception-to-the-rule as in anything we hear on radio, see on TV and read in newspapers.

Equal time and kudos for the officers who go over and beyond the call of duty to help people out and put their lives on the line for us.

March 5, 2009
12:16 p.m.
keliegh1225 says...

I can say that Schenectady is like the wild wild west. I as a tax payer am sick of all the bull that goes on. Until the people of Schenectady stand up and say we are not going to take it anymore, nothing will ever change.

March 5, 2009
12:49 p.m.
Realitycheck127 says...

INGNORANCE IS BLISS

March 5, 2009
1:45 p.m.
sprint67 says...

I second the idea of the citizens keeping an eye on the PD and reporting anything suspicious they see. Only through media attention will the corrupt members of the force be forced out. Personally I know of an officer that lives on my street who drives a brand new Mercedes. Something about that doesn't sit right with me, you better believe I'll be keeping an eye on him...

March 5, 2009
1:47 p.m.
salsaluti says...

You think it's just the police department? It's the fire department too. Those guys are all over the place when they're "working" -- You got guys working out, going out on dates, having lunches -- one guy was building a house in Duanesburg for Christ's sake -- all on the clock! If they're going after the PD, they need to look at the FD too -- and the rest of the city workers for that matter. It's rampant. And it's been going on for YEARS -- this is nothing new.

March 5, 2009
5:16 p.m.
Realitycheck127 says...

I think that a News reporter following people around trying to make the police department look bad is ridiculous. When are the people going to understand that the Police Department is not the enemy, its the news that reports a slanted view on everything. Why dont you go follow our wonderful politicians around and see what they do all day, I would think that you would find something a little more juicy then someone getting there teeth cleaned. The only way the gazette can sell news papers is by publishing stories about how a cop got a teeth cleaning while on duty. This article really makes a great story, the streets of schenectady are a much better place b/c of it.

March 5, 2009
6:29 p.m.
Johnny says...

Get rid of the entire force and start from scratch. All of them are painted with the same brush. If you say you're a Schenectady Police Officer, how long will it take for the snickers to stop?

Once again, this city is too small for so much corruption. It's not even a city of 60,000 and they're having this much of a problem?

March 6, 2009
1:19 a.m.
Realitycheck127 says...

I really dont think that someone getting there teeth cleaned would constitute corruption Jhonny, and it is apparent that you did not see the evening news, where this so called corrupt person did this on his own personal time. He really should not have to look over his shoulder when he is doing something on his own time. If the author of this article is wrong about this what else is she wrong about, who is going to hold the media accountable when they are wrong. Like I said Ignorance is Bliss.

March 6, 2009
6:48 a.m.

I believe that this is also a "critical moment" for the Mayor. If he fails to address this issue, this will undoubtedly be his last term in office. He will not win an elected position in government if he doesn't act and act decisively.

March 6, 2009
7:39 a.m.
gino45 says...

Personally, I think that every County in the state should control police services to the people through the Sheriff's Department. It is done very successfully in other parts of the country and with an elected Sheriff at the helm, don't you think you'd get a more concientious leader than some appointed chief (NO disrespect to the current leader) who only has to answer to a select few? (mayor & council) City police departments have had their run. Eliminate the redundancy and at the same time eliminate a level of tax supported government.

March 6, 2009
8:42 a.m.
jack1680 says...

I bet when the mayor addressed each shift it took a long time with all the stuttering going on.

The mayor is horrible, the only reason he is addressing the police now is because it is starting to make him look bad. He is LAZY, LAZY, LAZY. He ran on his fathers GOOD name and now he might actually have to do his job. He is a lame duck mayor.

March 6, 2009
8:52 a.m.
jackdaniels21 says...

How much longer will the people of Schenectady be embarrased by the actions of the police department? It is time to take action and if that means bringing in the State Police so be it - do it!!!!

March 6, 2009
10 a.m.
wolfden says...

WHERE ARE THE REPORTERS FOR THE PAPER WHEN THE DRUG DEALINGS ARE GOING DOWN? THEY SEEM TO "SO CALL" GET THE WHEREABOUTS OF THE POLICE OFFICERS. SO WHY CANT THEY TAKE PICTURES OF THE OPEN DRUG DEALINGS ON THE STREET CORNERS OF SCHENECTADY. THEY SHOULD JUST MAKE THOSE PICTURES/CORNERS KNOWN FOR THE CITIZENS TOO AND HELP POLICE THE GANG ACTIVITY WHICH IS EXTREMELY ACTIVE IN SCHENECTADY. ALL OF THAT IS OUT IN THE OPEN AND THE POLICE NEVER SEEM TO HAVE ENOUGH EVIDENCE. DAILY GAZETTE NEEDS TO START BEING PRO-ACTIVE AND DO SOMETHING. THE POLICE DEPARTMENT WILL ALWAYS HAVE MY VOTE BECAUSE NO ONE IS PERFECT, AND YET THE BASHING CITIZENS OF SCHENCTADY ARE JESUS CHRIST THEMSELVES. ITS A HARD JOB, AND EVEN THE NYSP WILL HAVE ISSUES WITH POLICING HERE, TRUST. NEW YORK CITY PROBLEM, NO EXPERIENCED ADMINISTRATOR TO HANDLE IT. TRAINING NEEDS TO COME FROM THE NYPD ACADEMY.

March 6, 2009
12:13 p.m.
AlplausBaby says...

You need to start with firing all of those who are in direct defiance of the rules and regulations as outlined in the "terms of employment". Please do NOT tell me the "Union" will NOT allow it. If you start replacing people in the Police Dept for violations of conduct, you have a chance to "clean up the city".

March 6, 2009
2:01 p.m.
wolfden says...

MORE LIKELY THEN NOT, CITIZENS OF SCHENECTADY ARE MORE PRONE TO TURN THEIR BACKS ON THE REAL CRIME THAT HAS INFESTED THE CITY. THE AMOUNT OF FEAR THAT DRUG DEALERS/GANGS BRING IS MORE KNOWN TO GO UNNOTICED BECAUSE OF RETAILIATION. IF THE DAILY GAZETTE WANTS TO MAKE A MORE POSITIVE IMPACT AND BECOME A PART OF A TROUBLED CITY, REPORT PICTURES AND NAMES OF ACTUAL DRUG DEALINGS AND GANG HANG OUT AREAS. NOBODY WANTS TO DISCUSS THE REAL ISSUES. EVERYONE ON THIS EARTH HAS HAD A "LITTLE WHITE LIE". THE OFFICERS ARE UNDER STAFFED, OVER WORKED, AND STRESSED. WE AS CITIZENS NEED TO STOP TAKING IT AS A JOKE THE AMOUNT OF STRESS AND SCRUTINY THEY ARE DEALING WITH EVERYDAY. SOMEONE HAS TO STAND UP FOR THE OFFICERS. SUICIDE AND ALCOHOLISM IS EXTREMELY HIGH IN THIS BUSINESS, YET THEY PUT THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE. ITS MUCH EASIER TO POINT FINGERS THEN TO PUT ON THEIR SHOES. THIS IS NO PITY PARTY, ITS FACTS. YOU CAN LOVE YOUR JOB, EVEN IF IT KILLS YOU. STOP EXPECTING THE POLICE TO BE THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING, AND REALIZE YOU TOO HAVE TO DO YOUR PART. YOU HAVE GOOD OFFICERS THAT MAKE MISTAKES AND THEY SHOULD BECAUSE NOBODY IS PERFECT. INSTEAD OF BASHING THEM REACH OUT TO THEM AND TALK TO THEM, THANK THEM, WORK WITH THEM BECASUE YOU MAY BE SAVING TEHM AT THE SAME TIME. NARROW-MINDEDNESS GETS YOU NO WHERE!!!!!
TO SCHENECTADY OFFICERS: MAY GOD WATCH OVER ALL OF YOU DURING THESE TRYING AND TROUBLING TIMES

March 6, 2009
3:02 p.m.
wmarincic says...

wolfden and Retired Well Said Bravo!!!!!

March 7, 2009
3:29 p.m.
Realitycheck127 says...

I Agree well said wolfden and wmarincic, nobody wants to tell the truth. The News paper should also tell the truth about the Sheriffs Department and the State Police, they do not have the man power to support such an action nor so they want it. The Gazette never wants to hold the people accountable that are ruining the City like the drug dealers the gangs, the mayor. He does not really care about the people, it obvious he only cares about himself and getting elected to a higher political position. We need leadership in the city that gets the job done, not point fingers. We need real leadership

March 10, 2009
1:10 p.m.
tuesday says...

Everyone that owns a Mercedes be careful because you are going to be watched by Sprint67.You must know its all about the vehicle you own,not the person you are and have become. Talk about shallow (Sprint 67) HELLO!!!!

March 13, 2009
4:12 a.m.
realist says...

ok, ok, this is getting a little crazy now! I have been reading these blogs for a long time now, and have never felt the need to comment till i read the most ignorant blurb by sprint67. . You are watching a SPD officer who lives by you because of the car he drives? WOW! Now I see what these officers are up against.

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