New Paltz Town Board wants rapping cop disciplined and/or fired

New Paltz’s town board met in executive session last Wednesday to decide what to do about town police officer Robert Sisco, who posted a politically-charged rap online apparently recorded when he was on duty. Some have come out in support of the officer. More have loudly called for his termination, A few would like to see the members of the town board follow him out the door. The elected officials are now saying they plan on convening a community coalition to look at policing.

New Paltz Town Supervisor Neil Bettez called another special meeting for Monday, June 29. That second meeting lasted nearly two hours, with three minutes four seconds being available to the public. Supervisor Bettez indicated that Sisco was present during that executive session.

Upon emerging, council members unanimously passed the following resolution without discussion: “Be it resolved, that the board determines that formal disciplinary charges seeking a penalty up to and including termination will be preferred by the chief of police against Officer Sisco and that such disciplinary charges shall be in accordance with Article V, Title B of the Civil Service Law of the State of New York and the applicable terms of the collective bargaining agreement.” That collective bargaining agreement does not appear to be available on the town web site.

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Sisco posted a rap video to the Instagram account for his business, Black Mamba Rifle Co., during which he is seen wearing his uniform, identifies himself as a police officer, and is apparently in a patrol vehicle. Over a minute and ten seconds he hits on a number of charged political topics including race relations and violence by police. The parts that sparked outrage were a declaration that only two genders were valid and the suggestion that Hillary Clinton ought to be hanged for treason.

Thursday’s special meeting was on a personnel matter, which was widely understood to be about Sisco, although board members aren’t allowed to say so in public. After about two and a half hours, that executive session was concluded without any action being taken. “We’re going to continue reviewing the records and see what our options are moving forward based on our attorney’s advice,” said Supervisor Bettez.

The New Paltz Town Board (L-T): David Brownstein, Alexandra Baer, Supervisor Neil Bettez, Dan Torres and Julie Seyfert-Lillis. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

Member David Brownstein announced Thursday that the town board’s regular meeting of July 2 will have other police issues on the agenda. The transcript of the questions asked at the community town hall on policing “and our best effort of answering those questions” are expected to be ready at that time. Brownstein said that meeting will be presenting “our initial draft plans for convening a community coalition to explore police reformation and transformation.”

A letter on behalf of the Concerned Parents of New Paltz to the town board read by Edgar Rodriguez said that it was time for the members of the town board to resign because of their “historic failure to adequately address cases of racist violence committed by police that has laid bare a pattern of conduct that can clearly be identified as institutional racism.” 

The group’s prime exhibit of institutional racism has been the Paul Echols’ case, in which an officer struck the already-injured Echols in the back of a patrol car while trying to get him inside the vehicle. The police commission found officer Robert Knoth had not used excessive force as defined in the department’s policies. Echols was later found not guilty of resisting arrest by a jury of his peers, and is now suing Knoth — since retired — personally for “excessive and unreasonable force against plaintiff …. causing the fracturing of plaintiff’s jaw and other injuries.” According to testimony at Echols’ trial, he was also struck in the jaw by another individual a few minutes prior to being arrested.

The town’s independent police commission was dissolved in 2013. The town board now serves in that role, which includes preparing the department’s budget and reviewing disciplinary actions. There has been a call to return to some kind of independent oversight.

The Concerned Parents of New Paltz has expressed a lack of confidence in board members on issues of race, and imagines creation of an independent oversight group being created “while we await your resignation decision.” A civilian review commission with members selected by and for various stakeholder groups in the community would be charged with developing a plan “to challenge, defund and reinvent all four occupying police forces in our town” by reallocating resources to crisis counselors and other situations where police are frequently asked to step in.

In an earlier version of the letter that was read during a virtual town hall on policing, Rodriguez had asserted that the town was named as a defendant in Echols’ federal lawsuit. His attorney, Michael Sussman, confirmed that this was not the case. In acknowledging the error, Rodriguez called it “a misunderstanding.”

There are 16 comments

  1. Chris

    It almost seems like running your mouth and posting it online for all to see maybe isn’t such a good idea.

    With the capability to broadly share ideas that the internet gave us, how did we arrive at a point in time where tweets, like button clicks and rap videos are considered viable ways to discuss the many serious issues that we all face?

    Yes, Mr. Sisco, Trump is still our president. And judging by your video, the damaging degree to which he’s lowered the bar on our nation’s discourse will sadly outlive his presidency for quite some time.

  2. Justin

    The officer’s behavior is extremely unprofessional and unethical. Even if he was posting these lyrics online out of uniform, on his own time, using all his own resources, the publicity generated should still be a cause for review of how his behavior affects his role in the community. The same is done for all professions according to their canons of ethics. Unfortunately in the age of Twitter, megalomania is celebrated as a publicity stunt, so it is up to the professional leadership to demand better behavior, not the general public. I believe the review process ending in his termination is appropriate.

  3. Master C

    Sisco is a good cop, I dont see what the big deal is, he isnt a threat to anyone but criminals.

    Then most of the people who want to ruin this black man’s life (I thought New Paltz was all about BLM?) who has a history of being a good police officer, but then go vote for Killery who has murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people, women and children included all over the middle east and Africa. Its beyond hypocrisy.

    1. SteveInNP

      I despise Hillary Clinton, but your referring to her as “Killary” and attributing the results of a decades long conflict solely to her when she never held a government position in which she made unilateral decisions pertaining to that conflict demonstrates both your immaturity and ignorance.

      I take it you are an adult, right? Over the age of, say, 15 or 16? And you publicly use childish name calling? Is that really who we’ve become? A nation of physically adult but mental children who can’t express themselves without name calling and other pettiness?

      As for her hand in the conflict that lead to the deaths of so many, have you forgotten the wars in the middle east fought by the Bush family? Did you vote for them? If so, under your demonstrated reasoning, how are all the deaths in Iraq not YOUR fault?

      I would love a modestly intelligent reply, but I know that’s lot likely. Intelligence isn’t American anymore. We just latch on to absurd arguments to justify the position we took with little, if any, real thought, refuse to acknowledge that the world is rarely black or white, and top it all off with childish name calling.

      Is it any wonder we’re in the situation we are? No, it’s not. Maybe if you, and people like you, would grow the heck up, we might be able to claw our way out of our hole, but your physically being an adult will very likely stand in the way of accepting that mentally, you remain a child.

      1. Master C

        Killery voted for the War in Iraq, that blood is on her’s. She is a full accomplice to mass murders from Iraq to Libya. She earned that name.

        Your immediately trying to de-legitimize me through ad-hominem, and if I want to insult a war mongering genocidal lunatic with name I maturely have the right to do so just like Officer Sisco has.

        I never voted for Bush and he needs to be arrested for his war crimes and many multiple violations of his oath of office immediately. He should spend the rest of his life in Gitmo bunking beds with Darth Vader Cheny, and throw in Killery and Obama in the room next to them too.

        Your judging intelligence by prioritizing political correctness where as you can be a genius and be politically incorrect simultaneously (no im not a genius, Ill admit that LOL!) but no sorry I dont play by people’s political correctness rules when it comes to the dirty game of politics. People get more distracted with silly names rather than policy and thats what bother’s me the most. I dont mind being slightly immature on certain things while being a confident grown intelligent adult.

        In regard’s to being “physically an adult,” your constant ad-homenims, stereotypes and prejudices of people (after all you assumed I voted for Bush when I clearly think he is trash) who share a certain legitimate views and moral standards, perhaps show’s you will very likely stand in the way of accepting that mentally, you remain a child.

        1. SteveInNP

          “…your constant ad-homenims, stereotypes and prejudices of people (after all you assumed I voted for Bush when I clearly think he is trash)”

          This demonstrates the futility of attempting a discussion. I assumed nothing. I asked if you voted for them, and offered an analogy if you had. Even though you state that you didn’t vote for them, the analogy stands – just because someone was a *part* of course of action doesn’t mean they are guilty of all outcomes of that course of action.

          You then go on to state that you opinion of the Bushes is clear when nowhere in your prior comments was any mention of them found. How, therefore, could your opinions of them be clear?

          How can a conversation be had when one constantly resorts to immature name calling and faults an interlocutor for missing details that were never shared.

          So add strawmen and unsubstantiated claims to name calling. Finally, your accusation of ad hominem demonstrates that you don’t even understand what that is. My comments on your maturity were based on the demonstrable immaturity of your words, were precisely part of the issue, and I explicitly addressed the dubious logic of your accusations of guilt.

          I again say people need to grow the heck up. But that you double down on immature name calling is a clear statement that no growth is likely.

          1. Master C

            Forget me that’s a distraction, Killery is a humanitarian criminal and should be charged and sentenced. And I in no way am singling her out, I have big list.

            I’m gonna visit Black Mamba gunshop and personality thank officer Sisco for services to our community and also ask him to run for New Paltz mayor. This town needs change and diversity.

  4. Tim Hunter

    Master C…you claim of “judging intelligence by prioritizing political correctness”
    I just see judging your post by its obtuse hyperbole and lack of logic
    And thank you for posing one fact that I can agree on
    “no im not a genius, Ill admit that LOL!”

  5. CI

    The blatant attack on trans people is a horrible affront when so many Black Trans folk are being brutally murdered. You would think someone Black might sympathize for being attacked because you don’t look the way people think people ought to look. But when you put on a uniform and a badge, you divorce yourself from the community you’re supposed to serve and protect.

    We don’t give cops a post to pass judgment on others. That’s out of bounds. Whether it’s trans people or Hillary. And no, I don’t like Hillary. But it’s not for me to say how she should be dealt with for her sins or crimes.

    Not sure about Ulster County, but in Orange County, I’d be calling the hate crime line and reporting this,

  6. Robert

    What a gas! Got more popcorn ready to go. So, don’t stop on my account. Have at ‘er, of course; Marques of Queensbury rules are appropriate at all times!

  7. ELG

    Can we just stop, all above comments have valid points and opinions. but this started as an opinion on the proper discipline or non-discipline of a police officer who was rapping on the job making some people laugh and other people upset. Not Hillary Clinton.. everyone has a right to be heard, but in my experience when people start yelling and slinging mud nobody can hear you anymore.

    1. Master C

      You are right.

      What I wonder is did the people hurt in the community try to reach out to the police officer and talk to him? Do people talk these days? He is not hard to find. A public meeting could have been set up, or a more private setting and talk over some non-alcoholic beer. I really think if they simply talked to him at least give him a chance to respond and talk to them, perhaps apologize and they can all move on with their lives and have a better understanding of each other. Trying to ruin the officer’s life and career over this without at least expressing concerns with him directly is really disturbing and sad.

      I truly believe Officer Sisco would have an open heart and mind to this community and learn from what happened to better serve everybody.

      1. Master C

        On second thought, why dont they just do that? Set up a talk between the officer and the community affected and try to resolve the issues as adults, learn from each other and move on.

  8. wowjustwow

    I’m curious: How many members of the Concerned Parents of New Paltz are black? I’m presuming none.

    1. Master C

      Its not fair to just presume, but I just checked their facebook page and they seem like a diverse group.

      I think the more important question to ask is how diverse are their political leanings and of course you can figure out some answers from there. That being said I have to say regardless of their political leanings Im sure they are a good caring community, but this is politics.

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