Police complaints are noted in public
Another reform recommendation reviewed at the July 15 police commission meeting was to modify the practice of praising in public and punishing in private. Reform and Reinvention Collaborative members noted that compliments are read out during commission meetings, but complaints are not acknowledged. Chief Robert Lucchesi told commissioners that this was taken into consideration and that the practice has been changed; the reason no complaints have been mentioned is because none have been filed since then. Those eager for salacious details will be disappointed, however: the nature of any complaint will be included in monthly and annual reports, as well as the result of the adjudication, but that doesn’t mean that any officer’s name will be included. The secrecy around police discipline records has technically been stripped away, but state civil service law protects the privacy of any government employee to a certain extent.
Main Street mayhem
Close observers of Town of New Paltz police activity sometimes point out that most of the action takes place in and around the bars, and sometimes characterize the police as acting as security for those business owners. An incident that took place in June seems to reinforce that belief. According to Chief Robert Lucchesi, on one night soon after bars were reopened, the overnight officers spent nearly an hour trying to manage an unruly crowd of 150 to 200 people who were engaging in “disorderly conduct, obstruction, pushing our officers and challenging them to altercations.” At various times, each of four officers took out pepper spray and threatened to use it; one officer did spray it in an individual’s face, but was unable to pursue the fleeing individual because there was so much more going on.
Commissioner Neil Bettez had previously reviewed the body camera footage, and reported with a tone of amazement how calm the officers all remained while being regularly provoked. Lucchesi explained that the officers were constantly breaking up fights on the street during this time, even as they were being directly threatened by others at the scene.
These details were part of the report of activity of June, but the chief told police commissioners that five more incidents worthy of note have occurred in the first two weeks of this month. In one case an individual grabbed an officer’s groin and spit in the face of another. On another occasion an officer conducting foot patrol was followed by an individual who issued threats and challenges until the sergeant on duty opted to make an arrest. Lucchesi said that this resulted in a temporary order of protection, the likes of which the chief has not seen a judge sign during the chief’s 28-year tenure on the force.
Traffic stop paperwork to include more information
To help document whether there’s any bias — conscious or unconscious — in traffic stops, Town of new Paltz police officers are now keeping records even when they don’t write a ticket. They will note down the operator’s name, observed gender and race and any actions taken. This may result in motorists being delayed longer even if there’s no citation written, but it will help residents understand if factors like skin color can be correlated to who is pulled over and what happens next. Race and gender are based on the officer’s observations, because it’s believed that asking about those details can itself seem intrusive.
Police: Intoxicated New Paltz man threatened juveniles at town pool, attacked officer
The New Paltz Police Department reports the arrest of Aidan S. Sullivan, 45, of New Paltz. Sullivan was arrested on July 13 and charged with the following:
One count Assault in the Second Degree, a class D Felony
One count Attempted Assault in the Second Degree, a class E Felony
One count Resisting Arrest, a class A Misdemeanor
One count Endangering the Welfare of a Child, a class A Misdemeanor
One count Disorderly Conduct, a Violation
On July 13 at about 4:35 p.m., New Paltz police officers responded to Moriello Pool, located at 32 Mulberry Street in the Village of New Paltz, for a report of an adult male who was intoxicated and threatening juveniles. The initial responding officer located the male, who was accompanied by a nine-year-old female. According to police reports, the male was extremely belligerent and uncooperative. As the officer was escorting Sullivan out of the facility, he allegedly attacked and tackled the officer, punching her in the face and slamming her head into the ground. A second officer arrived on scene and began to assist. Sullivan continued to fight with both officers who were eventually able to take him into custody with the assistance of a third officer.
One New Paltz police officer sustained physical injuries and was treated by the New Paltz Rescue Squad. Sullivan was transported to the New Paltz Police Department for processing where he continued to be combative and threatened to harm department members.
He was arraigned by New Paltz Town Justice James Bacon and remanded to the Ulster County Jail in lieu of $10,000 cash bail or $20,000 bond.
County housing plan reviewed before Town Board
County officials Dennis Doyle and Evelyn Wright have been making the rounds to municipal boards, showing off details of the housing-action plan being put into place to address the housing crisis, which was serious two years ago and has only been accelerated by the pandemic. They provided the same update before the Village of New Paltz board in May. With the exception of the wealthiest 20% of county residents, it’s becoming harder and harder to afford to live in Ulster because both rents and house prices have been rising much faster than wages for some time. It appears that those who live here are largely opposed to seeing the population of this somewhat rural county increase; that’s evidenced in the opposition to building almost any housing at all. That opposition is sometimes direct — people showing up to meetings and otherwise working to prevent a project from being approved — and also shows up in the form of a lengthy and expensive approval process.
Wright said that the municipalities where residents are having the most trouble are New Paltz’s village and also down the road in Gardiner. Those communities are at opposite ends of the income scale, yet more than a quarter of the residents of each are “severely cost-burdened,” meaning that more than half of that income is needed to pay the rent or the mortgage. It’s hoped that by enticing local leaders with a share of county funds, methods can be used to streamline application processes, including identifying areas that are preferred for housing, and recognizing that a vocal minority is not necessarily in step with a silent majority. Supervisor Neil Bettez was particularly intrigued by the idea of pinpointing specific parcels and then inviting developers to build there, rather than waiting to see who might file an application with the Planning Board.
“It’s not getting rid of rules, it’s providing a better path for developers,” Bettez said.
Moriello Park bridge to be replaced
Built in the 1980s, the foot bridge at Moriello Park in new Paltz is perilously close to the end of its useful life and must be replaced. This has been on the radar for some time; senators Jen Metzger and John Bonacic each provided some money while they were still in office, but there’s some $35,000 still to be covered. Supervisor Neil Bettez plans on borrowing the money as part of a larger bond that will cover the planned changes to Henry W. Dubois Drive, as they both relate to bicycle and pedestrian access and the Empire State Trail.