Did Schenectady cops overreact?

Friday, November 2, 2012
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It’s clear enough, both from anecdotal evidence over the years as well as from comments made by a Schenectady Civilian Police Review Board member in an Oct. 27 Gazette story, that people who run afoul of the law sometimes don’t hesitate to point an accusatory finger — even a false one — at police in an attempt to justify their own improper behavior.

Whether that is indeed what happened in a Sept. 9 incident involving Schenectady Patrolman Jonathan Haigh, two fellow patrolmen and Jamie Smith, Haigh’s on-again, off-again and currently estranged girlfriend (and mother of his 11-month-old daughter), is unknown at this point. But police have taken the virtually unprecedented step of citing the woman for lying in the internal affairs complaint she filed with them. And while their action may be justified, given the circumstances it can’t help but raise suspicions of their own attempt to deflect blame for bad behavior.

Smith’s allegations are disturbing: She says that after she’d phoned Haigh repeatedly, pleading with him to come stay with their daughter so she could go to the hospital for emergency medical treatment for her brain tumor — he gave her apartment keys to two colleagues. She claims that after they banged repeatedly on her apartment door at 6:30 in the morning, the patrolmen used the keys to open the door and, when she slammed it shut, kicked it in and arrested her for harassment.

Police assert that Smith made 60 calls to Haigh’s cellphone over the course of a single night, which some might construe as harassment. But without a warrant (which they didn’t have), it would have been illegal for them to enter her premises — either by key or by kicking the door in. Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett acknowledges as much, but insists it didn’t happen as Smith claims. OK, but he won’t say how it did happen.

In the meantime, cops have charged Smith with misdemeanor making a false statement. It’s an extraordinary response to something that happens often enough — civilians arrested by police making claims of brutality, etc. — and in Schenectady has been borne out at least occasionally. The problem, whether the countercharge is justified or not, is that the case involves a Schenectady police officer’s personal dispute. And that makes the department look like it’s overreacting to protect one of its own.

There’s also the issue of the chilling effect the extraordinary response is likely to have on other police “customers” who feel they’ve been wronged one way or another by improper police conduct. They need to know they can lodge a complaint without fear of retribution.

Better that the cops had handled Smith’s complaint the way they do others, with Internal Affairs conducting an investigation, making a determination and letting the Police Review Board consider the results.

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November 2, 2012
8:03 a.m.
wmarincic says...

Let's start at the top with FACTS. If she was given a pass by internal affairs the Gazette would have printed a frnt page story for a week in a row on how SPD takes care of their own. it is probably you're fault.....

Smith said that Haigh lied about comming over, well maybe he was afraid of what would happen since she is prone to violence as she hunted down Haigh's ex and beat the crap out of her.....

The police did what they had to do under the circumstances, stop bashing them and making them into something they are not. They are great men and women who serve this city. They even serve the Gazette as they handled an armed suicidal man in your lobby who attempet to kill an officer with a knife.

November 2, 2012
5:36 p.m.
ThePhilistine says...

People should know they can make complaints IF they have one and that if they make a false one and lie they will be locked up. It is a crime to make a false statement. Does locking up someone making a fake bomb threat stop people from calling in a real threat? Gazette is grasping at straws to try and continue their bias against SPD.

November 3, 2012
9:40 a.m.
ajames says...

If you give a sworn statement to gov't officals and lie in it which obviously could create a hardship on another individual (a police officer who stands to be disciplined anywhere from suspension days, job termination to even arrest) why would the Gazette advocate for the law (making a false statement, etc) being ignored? What about the rights of the individual being lied about? Nevermind the huge waste of tax payer dollars associated with investigating a false complaint. Moreover, restitution to the tax payers should be part of the sentence if an individual is found guilty of this charge.

November 3, 2012
1:20 p.m.
Bwarren14 says...

This is absurd! I remember the first article about this, that cop is garbage he is using his badge to harass his girlfriend and his coworkers are backing him. Did we honestly think they would find in Smith's favor? Obviously the boys in blue are going to cover their own behinds. If the officer gave his coworkers his keys to enter the apartment without a warrent that's a violation of Smith's Rights, they are harassing this girl and clearly they didn't learn their lesson with the first article so they're going back for more. she has a brain tumor doesn't she? Leave her and her innocent child alone the police were in the wrong. She dates a police officer I'm sure she knows everything's recorded, noone would knowingly go file a false complaint about something with that knowledge come on, it was already proven that they had no arrest warrant so they had no right to arrest her! They went to her house with keys and no warrant and they arrested her while she was sick over some phone calls? These officers should be ashamed of themselves go arrest real criminals for real crimes not relationship disputes my god!

November 3, 2012
1:48 p.m.
Bwarren14 says...

wmarincic: prone to violence really? He was scared of what might happen? Please get real, if that was the case Haigh wouldn't have dated her and had a child with her and from the sounds of it still been in a relationship with her when this took place. It wouldn't suprise me if all the above comments were Haigh's friends and Co-workers judging by them speaking about specific events as if they know him personally you all need to grow up. BOTTOM LINE is they had no right to go to her home, they had no warrant, and he had no right to give them her keys to make entry. These officers are abusing their power to harass Haighs girlfriend/ex-friend, they wouldn't pull these special favors for any other complaintent infact most complaintents have to wait hours just for these cops to show up and essentially end up doing nothing. But hey if one of their own are involved they run right over and violate peoples rights! Is sickening, in the last article Wayne Bennet said Smith needed to go file a complaint now SPD is accusing the complaint of being false? Common now, that sounds like a set up to me, I for one am not surprised did we think they would find against their own? Even Mayor MaCarthy said no one's ever arrested for making false complaints, how come Smith was? And why won't Bennet comment on what supposedly Smith lied about? SPD is pulling at straws leave this girl alone. The Gazette is doing a good job, and should keep investigating this currupt behavior until they stop harassing her.

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