Tensions between Saratoga Springs residents of color and the city police department were put on full display in an online forum Wednesday night.
Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton organized the Zoom call Wednesday night. It was billed as a listening session between city officials and members of the community.
In the wake of national civil rights protests magnified by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis Police custody, Dalton, a first-term Republican, told the audience on the call that she welcomed an open dialogue.
“I understand that I have a privilege that I have enjoyed as a white woman, and learning more and more about that every day,” said Dalton.
Dalton was joined by Saratoga Springs Police Chief Shane Crooks and Assistant Chief John Catone.
Throughout the hour-and-a-half meeting, Saratogians of color discussed their experiences with members of the city police department.
Adia Cullors said she was warned about the city police department before she arrived for her college experience at Skidmore.
“When I say your department is openly and directly hostile to us, I know that being pulled over and being told to ‘go back to my school’ for no reason other than the color of my skin is not an uncommon experience. I’ve been told to leave downtown public areas by your police department. I’ve been targeted, I’ve been intimidated, I’ve been harassed by your police department. And it’s not the kind of prejudice that can be undone by bias training,” said Cullors.
Natasha Myrie shared her experiences of growing up in the Spa City.
“Saratoga is so…it thrives out of old money. And it’s disgusting. The ignorance here is ridiculous,” said Myrie.
Myrie said her father, who is Black, was targeted throughout her childhood. Myrie said city police knowingly took advantage of her father, a Jamaican immigrant who could not read or write well, by asking him to sign search warrants, allowing police to enter his home.
“This happened over a dozen times throughout my childhood. You guys had him sign something that he could not read that gave consent to search his house.”
Myrie said one time she called police while being beaten by her son’s father, and the police took 25 minutes to arrive.
Several people on the call were still looking for answers surrounding the case of Darryl Mount Jr. Mount was seriously injured after a brief foot chase in downtown Saratoga Springs in 2013. He later died of his injuries.
For years, protesters have accused police of injuring Mount. Police had said officers lost sight of Mount during the chase, and that he was discovered injured at the bottom of a construction area.
Lexis Figuerero, a member of group All of Us who organized a recent Black Lives Matter protest in the Spa City, described his interaction with a city officer during the protest.
“I asked him, what happened with Darryl? Why did you guys do this? And he said, ‘Why did he run?’ And then he tried to intimidate and told me that I should be scared of the police. I told him that he was scared. He said, ‘You guys should be scared of us.’ I said, ‘I have no reason to be scared of you.’”
But Dalton, like her predecessors, did not comment on the Mount case. She pointed to the ongoing litigation between Mount’s family and the city.
“Because the fact that this is actively being litigated in court right now, I am forbidden from commenting on it. No one from the city can comment about any kind of active litigation that is going on, at all, especially in this case.”
Though he did not comment on the Mount case in the Zoom call Wednesday, Chief Crooks responded to a question by the Times Union about the case earlier in the week by saying in part: “I have no intention of lying to anyone.”
The city’s former police chief, Greg Veitch, admitted in testimony that he misled a reporter about an internal investigation into the Mount case.