Residents Demand Answers From Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force | WAMC

Residents Demand Answers From Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force

Mar 4, 2021

The Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force received some public comment Wednesday night on its draft police reform recommendations. But one case continues to dominate conversation around policing in the Spa City.

Last week, the Task Force approved a set of draft recommendations to be considered by the Saratoga Springs City Council, as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s directive for municipalities to “reimagine” policing.

Wednesday night, the public was given time to offer comments before the recommendations are considered by the city council.

But one topic continued to dominate discussion among members of the public – the death of Darryl Mount Jr. Mount was involved in a police foot chase in August 2013 where he was seriously injured. He died months later.

City resident Ed Lindner, an attorney by trade, highlighted the importance of a civilian police review board, as noted in the recommendations, and also suggested the city hire a part-time per diem investigator to assist in its oversight. He cited the Mount case in his support for a review board.

“Whatever happened that night, a properly-run civilian review board could have provided a forum for the department to talk about what happened and what choices were made, and for the public to find out the facts and make their own choices,” said Lindner. “Perhaps that wouldn’t resolve all of the acrimony and the distrust that I see, but that’s the kind of a process that you need to have that kind of review possible.”

The Mount case gained renewed attention during a summer of protest following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020. Mount’s family has been pursuing legal action against the city, and, in turn, the city has been reluctant to share details on the case. In 2018, the Times Union reported that court testimony showed the city’s former police chief, Greg Veitch, misled reporters about the status of an internal investigation into potential police misconduct that night. In fact, no such review was ever performed.

City resident Barbara Trypaluk wanted to know if the Task Force had answers.

“What recourse do the citizens of Saratoga have to do something about Chief Veitch’s lying about an internal investigation?”

Task Force Co-chair Camille Daniels responded, attempting to explain the goals of the committee over the last several months.

“Our charge, our purview, is not about specific incidents. They do, of course, inform the overall areas of focus… so that’s the best answer I have for you,” said Daniels.

Trypaluk continued to press Task Force members about seeking action against the former chief.

“I mean, there should be some accountability here so that this never happens again.”

Task Force member Kim Galvin, also an attorney, responded.

“The District Attorney could have and could still, in my opinion, prosecute him for that. And with regard to Darryl Mount, as I said in our previous meetings, the District Attorney could investigate, or the Attorney General’s office – specifically set up to investigate police misconduct – could investigate. This Task Force has no authority to –“

“—How about those private emails that were exposed?”

That’s an unidentified audience member cutting off Galvin, referring to emails from Veitch to police staff two days after the Mount incident in 2013. The Times Union reported Veitch emailed staff saying he did not believe any officer assaulted Mount.

Members of the public continued to press the Task Force to respond during the public hearing on specific recommendations, including police accountability.

Lexis Figuereo of the group All Of Us, which organized several of the demonstrations seen across the Capital Region last year, including a counter-protest to a pro-police rally in Saratoga Springs July 30th, also spoke.

“I mean, we also have July 30th. That’s still never been answered at all…There’s no policy in here whatsoever, that I see, that deals with anything with protesters or anything with the city’s response to protests. And that was one of the biggest things of this. The reason why the executive order even existed in the beginning is because of protesters and because of George Floyd’s blood.”

Figuereo grew agitated with the Task Force, which resisted answering specific questions during the public hearing. Here’s an exchange with co-chair Daniels. All Of Us was granted a dialogue with Task Force members after requested by Figuereo at last week’s meeting.

“What I’m saying is your comment has been received…”

Task Force member Andrew Sephas eventually grew frustrated and responded to an irritated Figuereo.

“The Task Force ain’t having it…”

“…Maybe you shouldn’t have been on the Task Force then!”

“Hey, how about we go vote on the last proposal and then come back to public comment?”

That’s Galvin, asking that the Task Force vote on the last remaining category of recommendations – which is exactly what happened.

The city council must approve a police reform plan and submit it to the state by April 1st at the risk of losing state funding.