[JK: I received this comment from Chris Mathiesen who was elected as the city’s Public Safety Commissioner for three terms beginning in 2011.]
I did not see the press conference on Monday but I have read a number of news accounts about it, including the story that appeared in the Times Union on Tuesday, June 29 which quoted candidates for City government offices and a local activist. I have also read the Times Union editorial in the Friday, July 2 edition which called for the resignations of both Asst. Chief Catone and Commissioner Dalton.
I am a fan of both Commissioner Dalton and Asst. Chief Catone. Both were trying to be transparent about the recent acts of violence in our City when they held the press briefing on Monday. Asst. Chief Catone’s frustrations should be understood and shared by the community as a whole. The success that our City has achieved over the past 40 years can easily be undermined if our citizens and our visitors don’t feel safe and secure in Saratoga Springs.
The criticism of John Catone by some of the candidates for office as quoted in the June 29 Times Union story was unfair. Gang activity in our nightclub district has always been a concern. The violence and drug peddling associated with these groups can negatively impact our City in many ways. The SSPD has monitored this threat continuously for reasons that should be very obvious to all given what happened last weekend. This has nothing to do with race or ‘dog whistles’. This is reality.
Another issue raised was the increased violence among youth in our City. Again, it is important to bring up these very real problems so that our community can start to deal with them. I don’t have first-hand knowledge of these incidents but I was stunned to learn that my sister witnessed a knife fight that took place in front of the Casino in Congress Park. For the sake of the teens as well as the community as a whole, we have to deal with drugs and violence as they relate to this age group.
One of the activists quoted in the Times Union described John Catone’s comments as ‘insane’. This is the same activist who continually states that the police ‘murdered Daryl Mount’. For the record, the police did not murder Daryl Mount. To continually state otherwise is very irresponsible. It also can have a detrimental effect on respect for authority.
One of the candidates was quoted as saying that he heard too much ‘blaming going on’. He said that ‘you are not going to solve a problem by pointing fingers’ and that ‘you are going to do it by calmly sitting down with the businesses in the Caroline Street area and working out better security plans’. I couldn’t agree more. Asst. Chief Catone has been doing exactly that for years.
Another candidate stated that the police ‘are blaming people who just want to be treated fairly’. I am not sure what that means. The police are blaming gangs for gang activity and irresponsible rhetoric for undermining authority. Saratoga Springs is not a City of racists. Neither is the SSPD a department of racists. Individuals of all races and cultures are welcome in our City as long as they act responsibly and with respect for others. It is the goal of Asst. Chief Catone, Commissioner Dalton and the community as a whole that everyone be treated fairly at all times.
The July 2 Times Union editorial was unfair. Somehow, it is OK for the TU that Albany Mayor Sheehan to talk about the up-town and down-town gangs in Albany but not for John Catone or Robin Dalton to speak about gang activities in Saratoga Springs. The editorial accused Asst. Chief Catone of ‘delivering a rant filled with racist dog whistles, punctuated by what came off as a threat to summon the collective forces of the City’s historically white power establishment’ to put an end to “a narrative of lies and misinformation”. Strong words! The terms ‘racist dog whistles’ and ‘the City’s historically white power establishment’ make me wonder whether the writer was looking a little too hard for evidence of prejudice in Saratoga Springs. In my opinion, the narrative of lies and misinformation is most definitely a problem in our City and needs to be dealt with directly. Anyone making irresponsible or unfounded statements needs to be corrected; otherwise such falsehoods take on a life of their own and become accepted by some to the detriment of all.
For the Times Union to call for the resignation of Commissioner Dalton and Asst. Chief Catone because of what the editorial writer apparently inferred from their comments on Monday morning is illogical and disturbing. While I agree with that person’s statement that ‘it is not the job of law enforcement to shut down speech they don’t like’, it is the job of government to correct those statements that are not factual and that undermine the public safety of a community.