Report due soon on Schenectady cops' stripper bash
SCHENECTADY Police have interviewed the officers and witnesses to last month’s platoon Christmas party, at which the officers hired strippers to perform for them.
Police brass, the mayor and City Council members said the party was in poor judgment, but it is not yet clear whether any laws were broken.
Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said he has been given a preliminary report, and expects a final draft early next week. If he is satisfied by the amount of investigation in that draft, he said he expects to discuss the final report with the new police chief by Friday. They will decide whether anyone should be disciplined for actions at the event.
“Are some people guilty of some misconduct and others not? Did anyone break any law, or violate our procedures? And if so, who?” Bennett said.
The report may resolve questions as sexual activity or drunken driving occurred. But even if they didn’t, Bennett isn’t impressed by the party plans. “It appears there was some very poor judgment exercised,” he said.
Officers drank for hours while watching the strippers, then traveled to another bar, where they kept drinking. After a short time, they drove back to the first bar to continue the party, according to bartenders.
It’s not clear whether sober officers drove.
The department currently doesn’t require police to organize designated drivers for their annual Christmas platoon parties. Bennett said officers shouldn’t have to be told to avoid driving drunk, but now a requirement may be imposed.
“It’s something we will discuss,” he said. “We can strongly suggest it. And I know that has been done in the past.”
He added that most officers don’t need such a rule.
“They have to take responsibility for their actions,” he said. “You’d hope they are adult enough.”
But he acknowledged that officers have driven drunk after other off-duty events.
“We don’t want a repeat of a couple of incidents we’ve had after social functions,” he said.
Some spouses are also questioning why they aren’t invited to the annual platoon parties. They said their husbands told them there was a policy prohibiting spouses from attending any party.
Some angry women gathered outside Johnny Goo’s Clam Shack the night of the party, watching through large glass windows as their husbands and boyfriends danced with the strippers. They angrily texted and called other women, some of whom confronted their husbands and boyfriends over the nature of the party.
Bennett said there’s no written rule banning spouses, but that many officers prefer to party alone.
“Some people in the rank and file don’t believe in attending with their spouses,” he said. “That’s not a Schenectady Police Department thing.”
City Council members said there should be new policies governing platoon parties, particularly regarding designated drivers.
“You could just say, ‘If there’s drinking, you’re required to have a designated driver,’ ” Councilman Carl Erikson said. “Maybe it’s an education thing. If you’re going to go out, drink responsibly. Keep it to one drink an hour. If you drink too much, call a cab.”
Erikson added that strippers are legal, and that he assumes no police officer paid them for sex. But, he said, having strippers is inappropriate for a party for a full platoon of police officers. It’s not professional, he said.
“Any event sanctioned by the city should be family-friendly,” he added. “I don’t think a Christmas party should be a frat party.”
Councilman Vince Riggi also noted that stripping is legal, but said police should not have hired them for a private party.
“You know how that goes. It certainly can lead to some things,” he said. “This is a free country, but it certainly isn’t good judgment at an official party.”
He said the simplest way to clean up the parties would be to invite spouses.
“That way some of this can be avoided,” he said. “I think parties without spouses invited is not a good thing.”
Erikson also said spouses should be invited to the platoon parties. But he added that officers might think twice about their entertainment plans if they had to invite the mayor.
“If at any point he can walk in, they might say well, ‘We’re not going to have strippers if the mayor’s invited,’ ” he said.