Under an executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo to reassess policing practices, municipalities were charged with establishing commissions to carry out re-evaluations of their law enforcement departments and to report their findings to the state.
Saratoga County’s committee posted a survey for the public to respond to on the county’s website. The original survey was so long and ineptly crafted that they ended up issuing a “condensed survey” which, while shorter unfortunately still has many of the same flaws as the original.
You can access both the long version and the condensed version on the county’s website. There is no explanation as to why there are two versions. There are no directions as to which one you should fill out or if you should fill out both.
The original version begins with this:
If you have the patience to read through this text, it is basically a promotional piece touting how professional the county’s Sheriff ‘s Office has been in developing their procedures and policies. Aside from the question of the appropriateness of using this as an intro, its length and irrelevance only acts as a disincentive to continue to wade into the survey.
If this were not enough to discourage potential participants, consider the link at the bottom of the page:
To complete this survey you will need to view several items included in a pdf appendix which can be found at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FiwgEXAthHLZCyFsWwhj4oeJH1umh105/view?usp=sharing . You should have this appendix open in a separate tab or window while completing this survey.County Original Survey Instructions
This link takes you to “Appendix A and Appendix B” which together run some 33 pages and contain the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department’s policy and procedure manual.
Apparently modesty was not a consideration in the drafting of their policy manual because it begins:
The Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office will be recognized as one of the finest law enforcement agencies in the State of New York. Our members will be renowned for their professionalism, dedication to excellence, teamwork, community partnerships, and commitment to making Saratoga County a safe place to live, work and raise a family.Appendix B
As though they had not digressed from their survey and self promoted enough, the first page where the actual questions begin starts like this:
So yet another long preamble before you get to that first question:
“Do you have any concerns about how the Sheriff’s office maintains compliance with model policies promulgated by the MPTC?* “
If you have not been a rigorous participant and learned what the MPTC is, it’s time to go back and read the fine print (so to speak).
Also, note the red asterisk. This indicates that you are required to answer the question. Your options are: Yes No Maybe.
If there is anything that causes me to give up doing a survey it is being asked to select answers that I do not consider valid. The only thing I know about the MPTC is the short description the survey provides so I don’t really know if I have concerns or not. To me “Maybe” isn’t an accurate answer either. I am not about to do research on the organization and replying “I do not have enough information to answer this question” or even “I don’t know” are not options.
Following this question is an entry with the heading “questions/comments.” As this is an anonymous survey, what is the value of asking a question as there is no way for the promulgators of this survey to get back to you with an answer.
At this point I would normally quit responding but as a service to the readers of this blog, I continued.
Here is the second page/question:
Ok. So this question has an even longer required background piece to read before answering than the first one. At this point I gave up taking the survey seriously and just started going through the survey arbitrarily putting in answers because pretty much everything required you to provide an answer to move to the next page. What I found was that almost every question or set of questions required you to read a lengthy introduction.
The Condensed Version
There are now two surveys on the county’s website.
One is a link titled: Survey: Community Discussions on Reform and Reinvention of Policing in Saratoga County > (This is the survey I have been describing)
The other is a link titled:Survey: Policing in Saratoga County – Condensed Survey >
As noted earlier, there is no explanation on the site as to why there are two surveys nor any indication whether you are supposed to fill out one or both.
The “condensed” version is an improvement in that it provides a wider range of possible answers to some of the questions. For instance:
“Prefer not to say”
“Not applicable”Possible answers on Condensed Survey
The “condensed” version has only nine questions and, in contrast to the longer version, none of them have to be answered in order to move on to the next. I assume that very, very few people filled out the long version so they came up with this one.
Unfortunately, it has questions like:
“Based on your interaction, if any, with members of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office, do you believe that those members treat whites better than non-whites?”
Here your choices are:
“Not applicable (no interaction with Sheriff’s Department personnel)”
My few interactions with the sheriff’s department did not give me any insights into whether the officers I dealt with treat whites better than nonwhites so none of these answers work for me. At least in this survey version I could skip answering.
More Poor Management
The poverty of the two surveys are yet another example of the county’s management problems. These surveys may be reflective of the county’s lack of interest in or commitment to police reform. Unfortunately, the continued revelations of mismanagement throughout Saratoga County government are so pervasive that one cannot totally write off the possibility that this is simply another example of their general ineptness.
Sadly in our county there is no such thing as accountability. No one ever seems to ask, “who was responsible for this?”