Robert Sisco is no longer a New Paltz police officer. Town council members have determined that Sisco violated the terms of a “last chance” agreement, and are exercising their right under that agreement to terminate the officer. This may not be the end of the line, though, because Sisco is signaling a desire to appeal — which is also a right that’s described in the agreement.
Sisco first came under scrutiny after posting a rap video, filmed while on duty and in a police vehicle, that was widely condemned for content that targeted transgender people, as well as Hillary Clinton. There was an attempt to fire the officer at that time, but in the police contract town officials agreed to hand their right to terminate officers over to an independent arbitrator. The arbitrator in this case hashed out this “last chance” agreement for Sisco, which resulted in a public apology that was well received, community service and a period of suspension from active duty.
In January, Sisco made a series of Instagram posts that included discussions about a documentary the suspended officer was shooting, with the topic being police corruption. In other videos Sisco discusses the advantages of cannabis and admits to using it. At a council meeting, the question was raised about the number of guns Sisco — who had a side business selling rifles — possessed. Sisco has acknowledged that police have taken possession of that business inventory after being called for a domestic disturbance, and has characterized the response as part of a racially-motivated response.
“A black man’s words are punished more harshly than a white man’s fists against a black man’s face,” Sisco said in a recent video posting. That’s a reference to the case against former New Paltz police officer Robert Knoth, who admitted to punching the handcuffed Paul Echols in the face while Echols was in the back of a patrol car. The police commission, after reviewing camera footage never released to the public, concluded that Knoth — who retired soon thereafter — had not used excessive force under the circumstances.
Sisco is of the understanding that the arbitrator has to agree before the termination goes into effect, but town supervisor Neil Bettez does not see it that way. “I can see how it could be interpreted each way since technically the arbiter has the final say on if he is fired, but the agreement says, ‘If Sisco engages in misconduct that is the same as or similar to the misconduct alleged in the notice of discipline dated July 9, 2020, the town may terminate Sisco’s employment. The town will be entitled to issue a notice of discipline without following the procedures specified in article 6.3 of the [police contract]. The termination will be appealable directly to a hearing,’ so we fired him and he can appeal.”
It does appear Sisco will do just that, saying when contacted that plans were in place to testify before the arbitrator. Ideally, Sisco would like to have that hearing someplace where it’s safe to have 500 people in attendance and signaled a willingness to pay for such a venue.