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Ulster County DA Denounces Incidents Targeting Off-Duty Police Officers

The Ulster County district attorney joined the county sheriff and local police officers this morning to call for positive relationships between law enforcement and the community. It comes on the heels of recent incidents targeting off-duty police officers.

Ulster County District Attorney Dave Clegg says there have been four incidents of off-duty police and their families being targeted.

“The concern is that throughout the country there are incidents where police are being attacked, and we want be out front and say, this will not be tolerated here. We want to send that message,” Clegg says. “It’s counterproductive and destructive in so many ways. Follow the law. Make a legal complaint, if there is one, but please leave family members and off-duty police alone, let them live their life. They’re out there dedicating themselves and putting themselves at risk to protect us. Let’s respect that.”

Three incidents occurred in the past month in the same town. Lloyd Police Chief James Janso:

“We’ve had three incidents where officers have noticed people at their residence following them, taking videos and taking pictures of their houses while they’re home,” Janso says. “That in itself might not be a crime, but what’s their intentions? Would you like to have somebody stop at your house and stay there and take videos and photos? Probably not. It’s pretty much one of those things where they’re saying, I gotcha, we know where you live. They’re making a statement.”

He says citizens and the officers themselves witnessed the surveillance. The fourth incident occurred in Esopus in April, when Clegg says criminal mischief took place at a police officer’s door. It is being investigated as an attempted burglary. Town of Ulster Police Chief Kyle Berardi is president of the Police Chiefs' Association of Ulster County.

“But society’s views on law enforcement are changing, There are members of our society that believe in revenge and that their cause is greater than the safety of others,” Berardi says. “Instead of trusting in law enforcement and letting justice prevail, they are channeling their frustrations by using harassment and fear tactics to intimidate and instill fear.”

Berardi says law enforcement officers know the risks of their work, but they and their families should not have to worry about their safety in their own homes.

Ulster County Sheriff Juan Figueroa says he believes the incidents in his county are isolated, though he watched the situation in Rochester unfold earlier in September and is keeping an eye on any ripple effects. In that city, clashes between protesters and police erupted when video finally emerged of the March 23rd arrest of Daniel Prude, who died after being held down by police. In the demonstrations, a few protesters were arrested for allegedly attacking police.

Meantime, Figueroa says he will be planning for safety surrounding the November 3rd election.

“We are actually having a meeting amongst the chiefs, the state police and the district attorney’s office in regard to potential unrest for the upcoming elections. We’re well aware of the public sentiment of what’s going on nationally and locally,” says Figueroa. “And so we are, we are going to put a task force together, if you will, to look at the potential issues throughout the county, to include outside the county, and the potential issues, for example, in the City of Poughkeepsie. As you know, we have a couple of bridges that cross over into the City of Poughkeepsie, and so we’re going to be looking at that and having a plan together in case something happens.”

Clegg, a Democrat who ran on a progressive platform, says there have been advancements in policing and the criminal justice system.

“We can’t let some vigilante-type behavior change the course of what we’re doing. We’re going to accomplish a great deal in this county. It’s going to be very positive. And I want to make sure it stays on track for that to happen,” Clegg says. “So this office is going to take very seriously any attempt to scapegoat a police officer.”

The officials spoke during a press conference outside the Ulster County Courthouse in Kingston. On the steps behind them sat candles, posters and other remnants from a Sunday evening vigil for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday.

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