In recent weeks, Town of Ulster and City of Kingston police have launched a series of joint investigations targeting drug dealers who operate across municipal boundaries. But Ulster Town Supervisor James Quigley III says liability and labor issues make any formal consolidation of police services between the adjacent communities unlikely.
On March 26, members of the KPD’s Special Investigations Unit and Town of Ulster Police detectives mounted an undercover operation that netted two alleged heroin dealers operating in Lake Katrine. On March 28, another interagency operation resulted in the arrest of a reputed crack dealer who lived in Lake Katrine motel and allegedly sold crack in Kingston. The very next day, SIU and UPD cops carried out another undercover operation that resulted in misdemeanor charges against clerks at six area convenience stores for allegedly selling alcohol to minors.
On the command level, meanwhile, Town of Ulster Police Chief Anthony Cruise has begun attending monthly strategy sessions with KPD brass to coordinate activities under the state-funded Operation IMPACT crime fighting program.
“If it’s a good idea and it’s feasible for us to do it together, we will,” said Cruise. “We’re always looking for opportunities to work together as far as providing services.”
Members of both agencies say that cooperation between town and city cops is nothing new. The Town of Ulster virtually surrounds Kingston, creating a metro area where Town of Ulster patrols are often the first to arrive on Kingston crime and accident scenes and vice versa. The Town of Ulster’s K9 team is available to help city cops with drug searches and manhunts while patrol units from both agencies, along with sheriff’s deputies and state troopers — will come together to handle a rowdy closing time crowd at a downtown nightspot.
Detectives with the departments also work closely on investigations, which frequently cross the city line. In January, for example, a resident of a Route 28 motel allegedly killed a woman in her downtown Kingston home before ditching her vehicle in another Town of Ulster Parking lot.
The ripple effect
While routine cooperation is the norm, officials in both departments say that the need for joint operations has increased as the Town of Ulster begins feeling the ripple effect from two high-profile drug sweeps and many more routine buy-and-bust operations conducted by the KPD’s Special Investigations Unit. Street-level drug activity, once centered around a few streets in Midtown Kingston, is migrating over the town line as dealers seek less conspicuous accommodations in outlying areas.
“It seems to me that a lot of dealers feel a little safer outside of the city these days,” said KPD Detective Sgt. Brian Robertson. “Now they’ll come in [to Kingston] do the loop, make some money then they go out and live in the country.”
Kingston Police Chief Egidio Tinti said that he had met with Cruise recently to discuss ideas to improve and increase “resource sharing” between the two agencies. But, both chiefs and Quigley say that there are no plans for a more formal consolidation. In dismissing the idea of a town-city police shared services agreement, Quigley is bucking a trend towards consolidation in government services. County Executive Mike Hein successfully pushed for a shared services agreement between town and county highway departments. In Kingston, Mayor Shayne Gallo orchestrated the folding of the city’s tourism office into the county’s promotional budget. Since 2007, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have tackled investigations countywide under the auspices of the Ulster County Sheriff Office’s Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team.
Avoid foreign entanglements
But, according to Quigley the nature of police work, and a number of other issues have made him leery of binding agreements when it comes to police work. In 2010 Quigley withdrew a town detective who had been assigned full time to the URGENT task force. According to Quigley, he ended the town’s participation in the program after he realized that the town could be held liable in a lawsuit filed in relation to an URGENT bust in Woodstock, despite the fact that the officials from other agencies were in command of the operation.