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Mayor questions police progress

State of City address highlights planned road upgrades

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
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— Problems with the police have grown so serious that they overshadowed even the economy in the mayor’s State of the City address Monday.

Mayor Brian U. Stratton started his speech by reiterating his willingness to abolish the Police Department if officers continue to act unprofessionally.

“If need be, we must be resolved to find another way to provide police services. And if need be, we will,” he said.

He added that he is no longer certain the department can be reformed.

“Despite our best hopes, or previous steps taken toward real reform, it is obvious that progress in this area will come more slowly than we had hoped for. That is, if it can be achieved at all,” he said.

On other matters, his speech had a more optimistic note. He detailed plans to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of stimulus money to repave streets, rebuild sewer and water pipes, and demolish blight. He believes the city will get $700,000 in CDBG grant money — but held out hope for millions more.

“Our need for stimulus dollars is crystal clear,” he said, calling the stimulus a “new opportunity” for Schenectady. Today he is meeting with the governor to learn how to apply for additional funds and how much he could realistically expect to receive.

“Schenectady must aggressively compete for its fair share in this federal funding,” he said.

He also announced one new goal for 2009: developing a 311 system to handle non-police calls for help from residents. Problems with garbage pickup, road potholes, burned-out street lights and code violations could be reported through the system, he said.

New York City has a system that is staffed 24-7, but Stratton said Schenectady’s system would likely include leaving voice messages or e-mails after business hours.

He said the system could help residents get information faster while also enabling the city to more quickly dispatch crews to problem areas.

“Faster service . . . will be our goal as we explore cost and other options for possible implementation here,” Stratton said.

He finished his speech by promising to focus on the neighborhoods — which could get stimulus funding in his proposal — and on public safety.

“We go forward with optimism, caution and with our eyes open,” he said.

Council members reacted to his speech by asking him to research the options for abolishing the Police Department.

Councilman Mark Blanchfield, one of three who asked for the research, said, “I say this not out of a sense of anger because, frankly, I’m past it.”

He said children are forming negative views of police and are questioning the legitimacy of laws because of police actions.

“If we don’t have a situation where people can look up to law enforcement personnel and respect them, we’re going to have a lawless situation in a few years,” Blanchfield said. “I’m very concerned about it. I think we have to explore all the options out there.”

He and Councilwoman Denise Brucker stressed that they aren’t considering abolition “to punish” good officers.

But police Chief Mark Chaires told them, “That’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to be punishing innocent officers.”

He insisted that he could reform the Police Department, adding that every officer who misbehaved under his short tenure as chief has been punished.

“We’re holding officers accountable. I’m confident we can turn it around,” he said. “Officers have been arrested, put in handcuffs by their brother officers [for DWI]. Short of roadside executions, I’m not sure what you’d have us do.”

 
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comments

March 10, 2009
4:22 a.m.
YesWeCan says...

The City has come a long way in a few years' time. The Mayor and the Council deserve credit for the outstanding progress in righting the city's finances and creating a more efficient government that provides solid services to its people. The Mayor and council also deserve high praise for not ignoring but instead taking on the suite of big problems the city faces which are common to all small cities in this state.

One can only imagine where we would be today in these difficult economic times if the old Republican leadership was still in place that managed to nearly bankrupt the city in good economic times...

++++++++++++++++++

THE POLICE DEPARTMENT:

Thomas Jefferson once said famously with respect to public policy: "The hole and the patch should be commensurate."

The question here, with respect to the Schenectady PD, is whether there is a departmental failure or whether there are some people in the department who need to be disciplined for their individual actions. All of the recent problems fall into the latter individual action category and should be dealt with accordingly.

While the frustration of city leaders is apparent and shared by many, I think Jefferson's timeless advice on proportionality should be heeded. As the chief said: “Officers have been arrested, put in handcuffs by their brother officers [for DWI]. Short of roadside executions, I’m not sure what you’d have us do.”"

March 10, 2009
7:56 a.m.
wmarincic says...

I have to say this a third time. When I first met Stratton he was running for his first term as Mayor. He came by my house and introduced himself, I asked him what his plan's were for the crime and drug's in the city? His response was "Not very much right away, it is a difficult problem". The Mayor has never concerned himself with the crime problem in Schenectady and he has never been a supporter of the Police. His ajenda is simple, focus on bringing some business's to Sch'dy and make the downtown area look a little better so that when he run's for Congress very soon he will have his sound bytes for the Ad Campaign. Period.....

March 10, 2009
8:41 a.m.
hillbilly says...

Blanchfield and Councilwoman Denise Brucker stressed that they aren’t considering abolition “to punish” good officers.

But police Chief Mark Chaires told them, “That’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to be punishing innocent officers.”

Oh well Mr.Chief.........Just like in sports when you have one rogue player that doesn't understand the word TEAM- that team will either be destroyed by that rogue player or the rest of the TEAM (good cops) will step up and take on the rogue player and force them out.

It's high time we hear from some of YOUR GOOD COPS, and it's high time you start to understand that you alone cannot change the whole dept.

March 10, 2009
8:47 a.m.
cfoote says...

Mayor Straton is focused on the economy while crime and abuse runs rampant in the Police Dept. The Police chief states we would be punishing innocent officers for the actions of some. Well Chief how many of the innocent ones came forward to tell you of the abuses? They were aware of time off for dentist visits while on duty,sprending hours away from their car and in apartments, and other infractions, yet not one came forwward to you or the mayor to tell you so. Why? Two reasons. 1. They all do it, and 2. the Code of Silence. No one is going to rat out a fellow brother officer, so we the citizens of Schenectady or news reporters have to do it for you. The Mayor and Chief have buried their heads in the sand and are hoping the problem will just go away. Well it won't unless you take action!

March 10, 2009
9:12 a.m.
wmarincic says...

cfoote,

You have to realize that the Police have to count on their other officer's to have their back's in a dangerous situation. I would have to guess that none want to be surrounded by violent criminals and have their backup take a few extra minutes to show up because you ratted them out for taking an extra 15 minute lunch hour. The job of Police and the situations they are in are unlike our job's and like it or not there IS a different set of rules. That is why it is up to the SUPERVISORS to supervise the Police.

The question that should be asked is why do we continue to elect the people that manage our city and have no concern for the citizens that they are suppose to represent. I dare you to try to speak to Mayor Stratton, you wont even get past his first secretary and if you happen to get to his second one you will be put though to an assistant that can hardly speak English let alone handle the issue you have. I have had one on one conversations with U.S. Senators and Congressmen and have never had a conversation with Stratton, I've given up trying.

March 10, 2009
11:36 a.m.
Realitycheck127 says...

Retired,
Obviously you did not see the news that night Sgt. Clifford used his own personal time to have his teeth cleaned, which he is allowed to do according to the mayor and his supervisors, it was on news 6. Where is the gazettes retraction article. Oh thats right I did not see one. Another sensless smear by the Schenectady Gazette. Who is holding the media responsible for reporting lies. Once again I will reiterate, if you look at the other options in reguard to a county department or the State Poice coming into schenectady, its not going to happen. We need real leadership in the city of schenectady. It all starts with the mayors office, he should not make such unresponsible statements without having his facts right. Once agin he is telling people what they want to hear so that he can benifit from it. We need real leadership in the city.

March 10, 2009
12:34 p.m.
tuesday says...

I feel the same as other citizens that you cannot punish the whole SPD for a chosen few that made mistakes. It's nice to see that the Chief is backing his men. EVERYONE makes mistakes and they need to except responsibility for them and move on. We need the SPD on our streets, abolishing the Dept. is not the way to go.

March 10, 2009
12:45 p.m.
wmarincic says...

tuesday

The Chief is backing his men? That's the first I have ever heard that said without loud laughter.

March 10, 2009
12:47 p.m.
resident says...

It's easy to be critical of anything, but it is impossibile to implement changes when you don't have the power to make changes, SO the Mayor hires a Public Safety Commissioner and a new Police chief and he expects them to implement changes.... If there is any failure that you don't like, Tell the Mayor that he is ultimately responsible, Hire individuals who are willing to place the stamp of authority beyond the Union Power and to make real changes, Remember the GPS was a result of a failure and credit is given to Management to implement changes. Now those policies that need correcting are the first priority to the Chief, and I would suggest that he make unscheduled visits to the Police Headquarters at various times and make his presence known..... Check on the Supervisiors, Check on the status of dispatches, Review what the Police are doing on their tours, The problems will be present and corrections will be made.... As I said its easy to be critical. Let the Police Chief and the Public Safety Commissioner perform their functions, If Not, Than we hire someone who will...
and vote on a new Mayor......

March 10, 2009
1:05 p.m.
jpatrick says...

We stand by our story.

Judy Patrick
Managing editor

March 10, 2009
1:49 p.m.
wmarincic says...

Judy Patrick

What is your issue with the Sch'dy Police, were you jilted by a cop or maybe it was something as small as being given a ticket.
You go out of your way to do all you can to make the whole department look bad, your stories are full of erroneous information yet you refuse to retract. You post photo's of a mugshot for day's all over your website and then tell us that there is no bias.
I wonder why you never went after Stratton when he ousted Commissioner Boyle because he supported the Mayors opponent in the election, surely that would have been a much bigger story than a cop that got a DUI.
Your newspaper has zero credibility as far as I'm concerned and there are many who feel the same. What next, will I be banished from the online site or will you refuse to post anymore of my letters to the Editor?

March 10, 2009
1:51 p.m.
Realitycheck127 says...

to Jpatrick,
I have a story for you, why dont you go take a look around Schenectady, go into all the neoghborhoods and see how your city is doing. The mayor claims all this recognition for what, throwing some paint on some buildings downtown that someone else did, while all the neighborhoods around downtown burn down around it, why don't you write about that????? Why don't you post a story that is going to make our city better instead of slandering good people.

March 10, 2009
3:25 p.m.
wolfden says...

TO HAVE AN OPINION MEANS NOTHING BECAUSE EVERYONE HAS ONE. HOWEVER, WHEN YOUR OPINION ALLOWS OTHERS TO CREATE THE SAME FEW WITH VERY LITTLE FACTS, IT IS SAD. KATHLEEN MOORE STORIES ARE ONLY AS STRONG AS THE COMMUNITY MAKES THEM. SHE DOES NOT DEFINE SCHENECTADY POLICE DEPARTMENT NOR DOES SHE COMMIT TO PUTTING HERSELF ON THE FRONT LINE AS OUR OFFICERS DO. THE SCHENECTADY PO'S HAS A JOB BIGGER THEN THE "DAILY GAZETTE" REPORTERS. SO IF THEY FEEL AS IF THEY ARE SERVICING THE PUBLIC, THEN KUDOS. SHE HAS DONE HER JOB BECAUSE THE SCHENECTADY HIGHER RANKS ARE NOW SECOND GUESSING THEIR OWN POLICIES. UNBELIEVEABLE!!! YOU WILL NEVER AND I MEAN NEVER GET A 100%. SCENECTADY BETTER WAKE UP AND START REALIZING THEY HAVE A BIGGER CRIME PROBLEM, THEN A CAR OUTSIDE AN APARTMENT, OR A DWI. CRACK KILLS, AND SCHOOLS ARE FAILING. I NEVER DID SEE THE WORD "CRIP" SPRAY PAINTED ON SOMEONE'S BUSINESS IN THE PAPER. KATHLEEN, HOW LONG DOES THE COMMUNITY HAVE TO BE INTIMIDATED BY GANGS???? WHERE ARE THE PICS FOR THEIR TAGGING???? OR THE DRUG DEALINGS??? SHOW THE PUBLIC WHAT THE POLICE HAVE TO FIGHT ON A DAILY BASES. PUBLIC SERVICE NEEDS JUST THAT THE SERVICE FROM THE PUBLIC. THE MAYOR NEEDS TO STAND UP TO THE PAPER AND SET SOME BOUNDARIES SO EVERYONE ELSE CAN DO THEIR JOB. STOP BASHING THE SCHENECTADY POLICE THEY HAVE THEIR OWN PROBLEMS WHICH CAN BE HANDLED INSIDE THE DEPARTMENT. THE PAPER CAN NOT DICTATE THE PROBLEMS OR THE SOLUTIONS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT.

THE SCHENECTADY POLICE OFFIECRS ARE TRUE HEROES EVEN WHEN THEY FALL BECAUSE THEY CAN GET BACK UP. GOD BLESS!!!!

March 11, 2009
6:37 a.m.
jack1680 says...

Amen to that WOLFDEN. perfect.

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