Move to dissolve Town of New Paltz Police Commission sparks controversy

(L-R, back): New Paltz Police Commission members Randall Leverette, Ira Margolis, Matt Aube and Justin Finnegan. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

For the past year, Police Commission members in New Paltz have worked hard to keep Chief Joseph Snyder accountable, questioning his spending, hiring and staffing decisions at almost every turn. The Police Commission in 2011 has pushed so hard that they’ve had to ask town attorney Joe Moriello exactly where their power ends and the chief’s begins.

At various times, Chief Snyder, Supervisor Toni Hokanson and Deputy Supervisor Jane Ann Williams have all accused the five-member civilian oversight group of trying to micromanage the New Paltz Police Department.

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Apparently, that hard-line activism hasn’t gone unnoticed at the Town Board. During the Dec. 15 meeting, the board considered a new law that would permanently dissolve the commission.

Ira Margolis, the acting Police Commission chairman, made sure to register his displeasure with the Town Board’s plan.

“I believe the commission is broken,” the acting chairman admitted to the board. Margolis said that a key problem for the board was not knowing the true authority of their role. The acting chairman said he thought the town had other options than just eliminating the Police Commission altogether.

“It seems this action is being rushed,” Margolis said. “Let’s work to fix the problems together.”

He added that Police Commission members felt that they were living up to the job role entrusted to them in the town code — safeguarding the taxpayers’ money.

Despite the occasional nerve they hit, commissioners worked closely with the chief and found about $70,000 of cuts to make to the 2012 budget. The Town Board’s unprecedented failure to pass the budget on time in November meant that none of their careful plan went into action.

Commissioner Matt Aube also asked the board to reconsider their plan. “I find the timing of this proposal to dissolve the Police Commission highly suspect,” he said.

Aube said that the Town Board itself had some share of culpability for breakdown on the commission since they never gave any feedback to the subcommittee. He asked that the town tweak the law establishing the role of the commission — rather than doing away with it.

For Councilman Jeff Logan, the New Paltz Police Commission is a bit of an oddity. Not many other towns in Ulster County have them.

“If you look at other communities, they’re not doing this. More government doesn’t equal better government,” Logan said.

He added that he felt having the commission separated the Town Board from one of its most important jobs — managing the finances of its largest department.

Supervisor Hokanson agreed with the assessment that the town might be rushing into dissolving the commission. Chief Synder, for all his head-butting with current commission, also felt similarly.

“He’s in shock that this is on the agenda,” she said.

Town Board members agreed to let the next version of the Town Board take up the issue after being sworn in in January. ++

There are 4 comments

  1. John

    Dissolve the police dept. All they do is bust kids at 1:00 a.m. for open container vaioations, that more the half of the force was in violation of before they were cops. Yes, wwe know them. We had them as students or friends in New Paltz and Highland!!

  2. max

    The word around for everyone is “stay away from new paltz unless you want to get a ticket.” The new paltz PD just drives around and tickets people in a sad attempt to justify there jobs.

  3. Jeff

    There are way too many NP police with nothing better to do then bust college kids. Between the NP and State police there are WAY to many cops with little to do. How much REAL crime do they actually investigate?

  4. Paul Andrews

    I STOPPED driving through New Paltz altogether three years ago, which is a shame because I really like New Paltz. The NPPD is out of control. They will ticket you for-literally-no reason other than they can. I’ve talked to many from Kingston, Rosendale and Highland who also avoid the town due to its useless, lazy cops. I will NEVER enter that town ever again until half the police are laid off. I’m sick and tired of having to be worried that a fat lazy cop, wearing a tactical vest like he’s going to help in a URGENT raid, is going to pull me over because he got into a fight with his wife, his boss yelled at him, or his kid told him off.

    I meet great cops every day. Every time i’m in Kingston, Newburgh or Poughkeepsie and I see a police car flying by with their lights on, it means they’re going after bad guys. Those cops deserve all the doughnuts they can eat, and a raise. The Police in New Paltz are power tripping, taxpayer draining idiots who think they deserve a job because they’re part of a family or someone’s brother-in-law. I have no respect for them. Period.

    If you get pulled over by NPPD, film them. Remember, they cannot search anything that is locked in the car without a warrant, and NEVER waive your 5th ammendment rights of protection against self-incrimination. When you go to town court, keep in mind that the same cop who wrote a ticket for you is now going to negotiate a deal with you. Keep in mind, he is not your friend. Again, plead the fifth, and ALWAYS have a lawyer. Skip the lawyers in New Paltz, half of them are friendly to the Town Court, and will just make you plead down to a lesser charge. Instead, get an out of town lawyer, and demand charges get dropped.

    Out of the six tickets i’ve recieved from 1995 to present, five were from New Paltz. This is no coincidence. Keep in mind that i’ve lived across the country and across the world, and New Paltz is the only place i’d never drive through again. I drive safely and never speed, but that dosen’t matter with the NPPD. They’ll ticket you ‘cuz they feel like it. Avoid that town, and if you live there, move out. No one should suffer police harassment ‘cuz they own a car.

    ‘Nuff said.

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