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Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Forming Advisory Board

Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Peter Martin
Lucas Willard
Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Peter Martin

The City of Saratoga Springs may soon have an advisory committee to increase communication between the police and public. The proposal by the city’s public safety commissioner comes after recent controversy over the city’s handling of a five-year-old case that led to a death. 

Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Peter Martin, a Democrat, says the publication of a Times Union article in August about the city’s handling of its investigation into the events surrounding the injury and later death of a Malta man following a police foot chase served as a “catalyst” for his proposal to establish a new community police advisory board.

“I think that the Saratoga Springs Police Department does a really good job but every human organization could be better,” said Martin. “And one of the ways to be better is just to make sure that we’re communicating better.”

The article, written by former Saratogian editor Barb Lombardo, examined the city police department’s handling of the case involving Darryl Mount Jr., who was found injured at the bottom of a 19-foot scaffold after a brief police foot chase on Labor Day weekend 2013.

Mount’s family called for an external investigation, alleging police brutality. The city’s police chief, Gregory Veitch, told local media that an internal investigation into potential police misconduct would be completed, but such an investigation was not completed. Veitch has maintained that there was no evidence to suggest any officers involved acted unlawfully.

Following the article’s publication, city residents have come forward asking the case to be re-examined. Some have suggested creating a police review board, including resident Sam Brewer at a city council meeting earlier this month.

“So I’d like to continue to encourage the council to create a police or public safety oversight committee which will prevent these types of events from happening in the future,” said Brewer. “Because, notionally, the panel would be able to make personnel changes in the police department, fire department avoid these types of situations.”

Commissioner Martin has resisted the concept of a review board that would oversee public safety operations. Instead, he has proposed the idea of an advisory board of appointed city residents that would communicate with the Public Safety department, but would not have investigative powers.

“We already have a citizen who is reviewing those activities of the police, and that’s myself,” said Martin. “I’m an elected citizen, I’m not a trained police officer. I haven’t gone through the academy or anything of that sort. So, I think in Saratoga Springs, under our commission form of government under our charter, we have that part covered. I certainly want to hear from all of the different groups in town so I’m sure I’m providing the right level of review.”

Martin’s idea is to foster communication between the police and public.

“A lot of people in town don’t know what it is exactly the police do and how they do it,” said Martin. “And so I’d like to get, at least, this board much more up to speed on that so that, among other things, the communication would flow two ways. And they could go out into their communities and say ‘oh, you know, the police actually are handling this issue. The police are actually available for this kind of thing.’”

But Mount’s family, which still has pending legal action against the city, is not optimistic about the board.

Patty Jackson, Mount’s mother, says the city’s main focus should be to re-investigate the circumstances surrounding her son’s death and the police department’s handling of the investigation.

“That’s what the city should be looking at right now versus an advisory board or anything else,” said Jackson. “They were suggested to do a review board many years ago and denied it so my thoughts are that it’s just useless at this point.”

Martin suggested the public safety advisory board would meet at least twice per year. Mayor Meg Kelly declined to comment on the idea.

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