In yet another example of their tone deaf approach to government the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors has established something called “Executive Order 203 Compliance Group” to address the issue of police reform and race. This was in response to executive order 203 issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo requiring municipalities to re-evaluate their law enforcement agencies with special consideration to problems of race.
In order to put the county’s committee appointments in context it is helpful to compare them with the city’s.
As readers may recall, the city of Saratoga Springs established its committee several months ago. The deadline to submit reports to the state from these committees is in February and given the scope of the charge by the executive order, this is not far off.
The Saratoga Springs committee is a diverse group drawn both from the community as well as from the ranks of public safety. Saratoga Springs Police Chief, Shane Crooks, is on the committee. It includes people of color. It is chaired by persons of color. Here is the list of the city’s committee:
Camille Daniels (Co-Chairperson)
Jason Golub (Co-Chairperson)
Vince DeLeonardis, City Attorney
Winston Grady-Willis, Skidmore College
Terry Diggory, Saratoga Immigration Coalition
Daesha Harris, MLK
Chuck Caputo, Saratoga Pride
Shane Crooks, Chief of Police
Kimberly A. Galvin
The city’s website includes extensive supporting documents to assist the public to both understand the issues and to better participate. Note the publishing of police policies for activities related to the use of force.
This is what transparency is all about.
- NYS Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative
- Executive Order 203
- SSPD Policy 300 – Use of Force
- SSPD Policy 302 – Handcuffing and Restraints
- SSPD Policy 303 – Control Devices
- SSPD Policy 304 -Conducted Energy Device (TASER)
- SSPD Policy 305 – Officer-Involved Shootings and Deaths
- Use of Force Model Policy, NYS MPTC
- National Consensus Policy and Discussion Paper on Use of Force
- Recommended Guidelines for the Use of Conducted Energy Devices, NYS MPTC
- New Era of Public Safety – Chapter 1
- New Era of Public Safety – Chapter 4
- Arrest Totals by Residence, Race, Gender.pdf
- Lexipol Agreement for Use of Subscription Material
Saratoga County: A Club Closed To The Public
In a recent Times Union article, with a flourish of magical thinking, the Board of Supervisors self congratulated themselves by extolling the appointees to the county committee as “diverse group of local stakeholders.”
The make-up and charge to the committee is available on the county website.
The committee is co-chaired by the county’s Director of Mental Health Michael Prezioso, and by the Undersheriff Richard Castle. In addition it includes:
District Attorney Karen Heggen
Public Defender Andrew Blumenburg
Assistant County Attorney Michael Hartnett
Malta Supervisor Darren O’Connor
Mechanicville Supervisor Tom Richardson
Opal Hinds, Attorney practicing in Schenectady
Racism? What Racism?
Ms. Hinds is the only member of the committee that is not employed by the county and the only member of color. Ms. Hinds is originally from Jamaica. She is an attorney practicing law in Schenectady. According to the Times Union article Ms. Hinds told the newspaper that ?”…she has not had any negative experiences regarding racism in the U.S.” I find this rather stunning. At the risk of sounding snarky, I am impressed by the ability of the county to find a person of color for their committee who has not experienced racism.
To their credit, the committee has met frequently. They have met five times including their first meeting on October 27.
I have skimmed the minutes of the meetings. What impresses me is both the earnestness of the members of the committee and their obliviousness regarding their insularity. Bare in mind that this committee is supposed to be addressing racism as it affects law enforcement. For all the time they have met, the word racism has hardly appeared in their minutes. Granted the meetings do include thoughtful discussions regarding issues like the use of body cameras and the role of School Resource Officers assigned to schools.
This apparent myopia has to do with the fact that the members of the committee are all white with the exception of Ms. Hinds who herself allegedly has little experience with racism.
They have apparently solicited input from some groups from the general community. One meeting included participation by the superintendents of area school systems and another had participation by clergy. As far as I could tell, all the clergy were white.
It should be noted that Saratoga is a very white county. According to minutes from their meetings, the county is 94% white.
Chair Dr. Prezioso: Poster Child For Disfunction and Cronyism
Dr. Michael Prezioso is the co-chair of the “Executive Order 203 Compliance Group.” He is the director of the County Mental Health Department. Dr. Prezioso had previously worked for New York State. In 2008, the Office of Mental Health investigated Dr. Prezioso and determined that he had been guilty of systematic sexual harassment of a secretary in his office. The state ended up awarding moneys to the secretary for her ordeal. Classically, among Prezioso’s duties at the Capital District Psychiatric Center was to train people on issues of sexual harassment.
The New York State statute that set up county mental health departments established mental health advisory bodies. In order to prevent the hiring of directors of mental health offices from being political appointees, the advisory body is required to have a majority of credentialed mental health professionals and it is this body that is supposed to select the directors.
As I documented in blog posts at the time, the Board of Supervisors circumvented the advisory committee and state law when they hired Prezioso. Prezioso had been active in Republican politics in Saratoga County. Following his hire, his management of the local Mental Health Department resulted in serious staff problems documented in my blog and in the media.
Here are some links to these related stories:
Staffing Crisis Under Prezioso
Board of Supervisors Violate State Law In Hiring
Saratogian Newspaper Confirms Violation Of State Law In Hiring Prezioso
Scandals Plague Saratoga County
Matt Veitch Dismisses Need To Adhere To Mental Health Laws
More On Matt Veitch and Prezioso
Supervisor Tara Gaston: Classic Double Speak
In the Times Union article, Tara Gaston offered a statement that is emblematic of her approach to county government. I will let the readers judge what she meant in the excerpt.
Saratoga Springs Supervisor Tara Gaston, who has been critical of time it took to appoint a committee, said that she is not concerned with the membership. She is concerned with how it will hear those silent voices.
“I agree it should be a more diverse committee because you can’t figure out if you are missing anything or not if you don’t have voices on the committee,” Gaston said. “However, if that committee is reaching out and doing appropriate engagement with populations that aren’t represented in that particular group, then I lean toward accepting their recommendations. But I’m not sure they are doing it.”Times Union December 2, 2020
Business As Usual At Saratoga County
The leadership of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors takes no chances. Their selection of the members of the “Executive Order 203 Compliance Group” insures that thorny issues will be ignored and that nothing remotely critical of the county will emerge as a result of their deliberations.