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Saratoga County Sheriff's Deputy Slapping Incident Raises Questions About Recording Police

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A Saratoga County law enforcement officer caught on video in a confrontation with two local men is now facing criminal charges and has resigned. But what if no one had been filming? The viral video has raised questions about the need to document police.

The case of former Saratoga County Sheriff’s Deputy Sergeant Shawn Glans, who resigned after a video of a confrontation with two civilians drew national attention, has sparked conversation about how police are held accountable.

The video in question was taken by Adam Roberts during a roadside interview. In it, Glans repeatedly curses and allegedly slaps Colin Fitch, who was being questioned early Friday in the town of Halfmoon.

In an article published this week in the Glens Falls Post Star, the sheriffs of Warren, Washington, and Saratoga County all said they were working to adopt more video surveillance technology, including cameras to be mounted on officers’ uniforms and patrol cars.

Prominent Albany-area attorneyTerence Kindlon is representing the two men in the video with Sgt. Glans, who intend to sue Saratoga County for violating their constitutional rights.  

Kindlon said Sgt. Glans’ demanding to search the vehicle because he spotted a rifle in the backseat is unconstitutional.

‘It is high time that people across America started to say to police across America, ‘Wait a minute. Here are the boundaries and you are illegally crossing them every time you come into my car without probably cause because you’re a cop and I’m not.’ That’s ridiculous.”

Kindlon sent notices of claim by mail to Saratoga County Attorney Stephen Dorsey and County Sheriff Michael Zurlo. KIndlon said he intends to file a lawsuit against Glans.

Melanie Trimble, Capital Region Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that she encourages police surveillance video equipment as long as there are guidelines in place to protect both citizens and officers.

“I mean certainly, body cameras, that’s one of the reasons why we’d like to have police departments to have really firm, solid policies on what they’re going to capture and who is going to look at it, how long they are going to store footage of innocent behavior when they turn on the body cameras…and so on…so that we can protect the public and the officers from any kind of abuse.”

The issue of police surveillance in the region has also been debated in Saratoga Springs after the injury and resulting death of Darryl Mount, Jr. Mount was chased by police over Labor Day weekend in 2013 after allegedly pushing his girlfriend.

Police have said they lost sight of Mount during the footchase, and contend he could have been injured after falling through a nearby scaffold. His family has disagreed with that account. Mount later died from injuries sustained that night, and exactly what happened is still a mystery and topic of public outcry.

Saratoga Springs began equipping officers on routine patrol assignments with light-weight cameras in October 2013. An initial pilot program concerning police cameras was begun in October 2012.

Reached by telephone Wednesday morning, Saratoga Springs Police Chief Greg Veitch would not comment on the issue surrounding police surveillance in the case regarding the county sheriff’s office.

But in a February statement, Veitch said the on-officer cameras in Saratoga Springs ”are another tool for law enforcement to effectively document incidents provided their use is balanced with the privacy rights and dignity of all citizens we encounter.”

Sheriff Zurlo did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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