Saugerties police trends: More mental hygiene arrests, more body cameras

Saugerties police chief Joseph Sinagra

The Saugerties police report for 2017 includes a record high in spending, earnings almost triple that of last year, and the purchase of new equipment, including eight more body cameras, a high-capacity data server to store video footage and a replacement police modem. The police department also increased the use of Facebook for public outreach.

Joseph Asprea was hired in September to replace officer Jonathan Tiernan, who joined the Poughkeepsie town police last July.

“I want [people] to understand that the cops are out there working. Although we spent more money, we spent it frugally. In order to provide a good police service we need to spend money,” police chief Joseph Sinagra said. “Although I acknowledge that we went over budget, we made great strides to bring revenues in. We have been forced to find ways to bring money in legally without stepping over that line in the economy of the last ten years. When we write tickets, we are not writing tickets to make money for ourselves; we write tickets to educate the public.”


The department spent $2.61 million, $138,000 more than last year. It took in $217,946 in revenue from sporting-event security, impound storage fees and charges for nuisance alarms.

More expenses, more revenues 

“We spent more money this year because of unforeseen information technology issues,” explained the Saugerties police chief. “We had to replace a server that we didn’t intend on replacing.”

There was also a lot of overtime at the beginning of 2017. “We had an officer that was deployed and another that underwent major surgery. We spent a lot of the overtime money very quickly.”

Non-traditional police services increased. “We also obtain revenues through Carfax and [Freedom of Information Law] requests.”

“We had lots of grants,” Sinagra reported. “We received [$10,000 in] grant money from [state] senator George Amedore’s office, an $8000 grant from the federal government for ballistic helmets, and we received $13,000 from the Department of Homeland Security for a new canine and a $10,000 sustainability grant. We’ve gotten almost $27,000 in grants from Homeland Security. We also took in $20,000 in computer hardware grants. We took out $111,000 in back charges for events and private security. We received $4000 in body-armor grants.”

The pedestrian safety program launched in 2013 has led to a 70 percent decrease in pedestrian-vehicle accidents. In the first five months of 2013, three individuals were killed in this fashion and 14 non-fatally struck. This year, only four non-fatal scuffles between people and cars took place.

Mental health problems

In 2017, there were 148 domestic violence-related arrests, 42 more than in 2016.

There were also 31 more people forcibly taken to the hospital in Saugerties by police under Mental Hygiene Law 941. Rather than a local shortcoming, Sinagra regards this statistic as “just a sign of our times.” “It’s an example of how dysfunctional the mental-health system is,” said Sinagra. “It’s the fault of the governor of this state and his inability to properly fund mental-health institutions. There are not enough to take care of those who are mentally ill, people are experience more crises than they ever have before, and in this country we tend to medicate people and send them on their way.” On 100 of the 148 times people were sent to the hospital against their will, they were sent in a police car rather than an ambulance.

Members of the police department completed a total of 3875 hours of training this year. Some officers completed special programs. Lieutenant K.J. Swart graduated from the FBI Academy in November of this year, and Ulster County Emergency Response Team officer Sean O’Keefe completed both the DCJS SWAT Program and the DCJS Sniper School.

Smile, you’re on camera

Body-worn cameras have become as standard as firearms and handcuffs. According to the report, footage captured on these cameras in 2016 led to guilty pleas in two murders without either case going to trial. In a car accident, evidence from an officer’s body camera led to a conviction without trial for vehicular homicide.

“The things that were captured immediately were advantageous toward their attorneys saying, ‘We can’t go to trial on this, we need to take a plea deal,’” said Sinagra. “There was a lot of physical evidence captured that made it difficult for defense attorneys to defend their clients.”

Eight additional cameras were purchased this year, bringing the department’s camera total up to 32, with three charging stations. In total, the equipment has cost the department “less than $45,000.” The department’s IT team installed a new server last year to handle the storage of the video captured by the cameras.

In February, the department’s outdated communication console was replaced, facilitating radio communication between dispatchers and officers in the field.