Monday, February 15, 2010

Commissioning Failure: "Regionalization" in New Hartford

Today's OD article, How Code 31 transformed New Hartford policing, gives the history behind the creation of the New Hartford Police Commission.
Thirty years ago, a scandal over a list of town officials and prominent Republicans who police were told not to ticket led to the indictment of the town’s then-supervisor, the ouster of its police chief and the dissolution of the town police department.

It also resulted in the creation of the Police Commission, which was abolished Wednesday by the Town Board.

. . . It was formed to bring professionalism to the force, to keep politics out of policing and to restore public trust . . .

. . . In the old town department, officers were not required to go to academy, civil service laws were not followed . . . .
Abuse of governmental authority, the lack of training and professionalism, and the failure to follow civil service laws are all the result of having the wrong people in charge. Simply, the Town of New Hartford's government had become corrupt. However, the people of New Hartford fixed the situation in the election that followed. There was no need for a commission to address the "Code 31" situation.
At the time the commission was created, the village also allowed the town to take over its own police department.

“Under our law, it states it will be run by a police commission,” Ryan said, referring to the police department. The village had a representative on the Police Commission.
According to the OD Article, the Village was the entity that had the professionally run police department. In contrast, the Town's police were using their personal vehicles while on duty. In a way, that situation should have been expected. Since the Village had a denser population, it could afford a higher quality police force. But the Town wanted what the Village had -- and it convinced the Village to meld into a Town police force by promising the Village a seat on an appointed Police Commission that would be focused on police matters (believing that a commission would make the police more professional).

The "regionalization" of the NH Police could have resulted in Village residents subsidizing Town policing or experiencing a decline in the quality of police service. It did not, probably because the Town was able to expand its tax base fast enough to afford professionalizing its police. However, similar to the "regionalized" water board with unelected members, creation of the Police Commission resulted in governance focused on one task, insulated from the people paying the bills, and without the ability or responsibility to prioritize its functioning among competing needs that had to be addressed by local government.

The Police Commission, dependent on the Police Department for information, over time could be expected to become an "alter ego" of the Police Department. Some would call it an "old boys club." Now it's understandable why the police felt they could make private deals with private businesses, why they constantly demanded newer cars and equipment, why they demanded a courthouse "reflecting the town's affluence," why their budget became bloated, and why there was an over-abundance of speed traps on state and county highways where the State Police or the Sheriff could have patrolled those roads. The Police Commission allowed the Police Department to place the Department's needs and desires above the needs of the tax paying public.

The Commission has outlived its usefulness. It is time for the taxpayers to have control.

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Cathy at NH Online has an in-depth review of the Code 31 situation that is well worth reading.

PS Cath -- The yellow roses and diamonds (virtual of course) are on their way. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Like the old lady says on the TV commercial for a hearing enhancement device ... BINGO!