Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Last Night at the Police Committee Meeting

Toward the end of last night's Common Council Police Committee meeting, Alana Hauptmann, proprietor of the Red Dot, asked the question that was probably on everyone's mind throughout the hour-long ordeal: "Why is everything so contentious?"

The tetchy mood of the meeting started when Alderman Henry Haddad (Third Ward), who chairs the Police Committee, wondered out loud, with what seemed to be feigned incredulity, why so many people had turned out for the meeting. When he was told by Michael Chameides, chair of the Hudson City Democratic Committee, that people were there for the discussion of the "sanctuary city" resolution, which had been referred by the Legal Committee to the Police Committee, Haddad maintained that the Police Committee had not seen the resolution, no one had contacted the Police Committee about the resolution, and they would not be discussing it because they had not read it. (Interestingly, two aldermen--Priscilla Moore [Fifth Ward] and Abdus Miah [Second Ward]--sit on both the Legal and the Police committees.) Haddad blamed Alderman Michael O'Hara (First Ward), who chairs the Legal Committee, for not contacting him about the resolution. Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), who was in the audience, faulted Council president Claudia DeStefano, also in the audience, who had insisted in the Legal Committee meeting that the resolution be reviewed by the Police Committee, for not communicating with the Police Committee. 

Eventually, audience members prevailed upon Haddad and the other members of the Police Committee (Moore, Miah, Alexis Keith [Fourth Ward]) to read the resolution, which is a total of 637 words, right then and there, while the audience waited. When he'd finished reading the resolution, Haddad stated: "This sounds very like the unofficial policy already in effect." 

HPD Chief Ed Moore acknowledged the "need to codify what we do now" but expressed his concern about the legal ramifications--not of the proposed resolution but of the commissioner's order issued last week. He wanted to "make sure our officers are protected from violating federal law." Moore had written a memo to Haddad expressing his concerns about the order, in which he objects that the commission's order "assumes that all members [of the police department] are not only fully aware of all applicable New York State laws, rules and regulations, but Federal laws, rules and regulations as well." The memo goes on to say, "it is imperative that the Order be clarified so that members know if any part of the Order is inconsistent with Federal and State Law." City attorney Ken Dow suggested that he and Moore get together to discuss the issues involved in implementing the order. "It's a complicated issue," said Moore, "with a lot of different outcomes if we don't get it right." 

Alderman John Friedman, who was part of the audience, then declared that he was "taken aback" by the discussion because it seemed that no one had consulted the police department about either the commissioner's order or the Council resolution. "I support this," said Friedman. "My constituents support this. Why aren't people talking to each other? Why is this so complicated?" 

Although Friedman made his statements to no one in particular, Haddad wanted Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton to respond, and it was at this point that an underlying controversy between Haddad and the mayor surfaced. It seems that a meeting with the police union to negotiate a new contract, scheduled for February 24, had been cancelled. In an email to Hamilton, Haddad blamed the cancellation on the commissioner's order and accused the mayor and the commissioner of "conflating their personal politics with their duties of fiscal responsibility to the city." In her emailed response, Hamilton assured Haddad that another meeting with the union had already been scheduled. At the meeting, Haddad told Hamilton, "Financially, you are not driving the department very well," claiming that former police commissioner Gary Graziano had a new police contract almost in place before an ill-considered statement made by him in a press release last September forced his resignation

Returning to the issue of the commissioner's order and the resolution, Dow responded to Moore's concerns by saying, "The policy making was done appropriately, but the implementation requires some attention to ensure the policy is carried out properly." He then asserted, "We are not off track at all."

Eventually, after some urging by audience members to "get this thing done," Miah asked that the committee vote on whether or not it supported the proposed Council resolution. A voice vote was taken, and the members of the committee unanimously voted to move the resolution to the full Council. It is expected that the resolution will be introduced at the Council's informal meeting on Monday, March 13, and voted on at the regular meeting on Tuesday, March 21. 


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