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Could it be? Sheriff and chief in one?

Sunday, August 5, 2012
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It’s true, there is an idea afloat in Schenectady to make the county sheriff simultaneously the city police chief, and the person who put it afloat, he freely acknowledges, is Mayor Gary McCarthy, even though he hasn’t said anything publicly.

“The sheriff and I have had informal discussions,” McCarthy said. “I don’t have his quote blessing to pursue it, but he hasn’t ruled anything out.”

As for McCarthy’s own requirement that a new police chief live in the city, he said Dagostino, who lives in Rotterdam, “has been looking at property in the city.”

Dagostino confirmed that’s the case but said, “It has nothing to do with whether or not I was going to be considered as a potential law enforcement officer in the city of Schenectady.” He has just been looking for a bigger place for him and his six-member family.

As for becoming police chief, “I don’t think you’re going to see this. It’s completely unrealistic,” he said, noting that state law prohibits a sheriff from holding any other public office.

That might seem to be the end of the matter, but McCarthy says, “We talk about consolidation of services. We have an opportunity to look at something, so why shouldn’t we do that?” And besides, “There are other scenarios I’m exploring,” which he would not discuss.

Well, consolidation, fine, you might say, but giving the sheriff the additional job of police chief is a bit more than a consolidation of services. “It’s frankly a little unheard of,” said Wayne Bennett, Schenectady’s public safety commissioner, who, by the way, has not been party to these informal discussions.

Could a full-time sheriff also be a full-time police chief if state law, let’s say, were rewritten to allow it? Former Sheriff Harry Buffardi was doubtful, saying the job of sheriff is “full-time plus.”

McCarthy says some of the duties “can be delegated or assumed by other individuals,” so that one person could indeed do both jobs. “A lot of chiefs run forces bigger than the Schenectady Police Department and the sheriff’s office combined,” he said, which I didn’t think was a great comparison, though I am no expert in management.

The city is supposed to hire a new chief from the top three candidates on the current Civil Service list, those being Assistant Chiefs Patrick Leguire, Brian Kilcullen and Mike Seber, but McCarthy has ruled them all out because none of them live in the city, which is a requirement he imposed after the Civil Service test was given.

He made clear he was not happy that the test was given as “promotional” rather than “open competitive,” which meant it was limited to the assistant chiefs and no others needed apply. He has to sign off on every little personnel change in the city bureaucracy, he noted, but he did not get to sign off on the request to the Civil Service Commission for the chief’s test. That was submitted by Chief Mark Chaires, soon to retire.

Now, I am much more interested in the political implications of all this than I am in the purely administrative. Sheriff Dagostino is not just an elected official, he is a stalwart of the Conservative Party, which has long been controlled by the union of Schenectady police officers, the PBA.

The Democrats, including Mayor McCarthy, have been in on-again, off-again alliance with the Conservatives for a long time, and lately the alliance has been entirely “on,” to the extent that when the previous sheriff, Buffardi, resigned before the end of his term, the Democrats, in control of the county Legislature, left the job open for nearly a year to give Dagostino the opportunity to retire with 20 years of service from the Rotterdam Police Department, where he was a lieutenant, and become the candidate of both the Democratic and Conservative parties.

A widespread rumor at the time had it that if he got elected he would hire his Conservative Party comrade, Bob Hamilton, past president of the PBA, to be his undersheriff. He vigorously denied it and assured me no such thing would happen.

Technically, he was true to his word. When he got elected he hired Hamilton not as undersheriff but as first deputy. And thus was the marriage between the Democrats and Conservatives consummated, much like a marriage between two old aristocratic families in feudal England.

So you have to keep all that in mind when you hear that Mayor McCarthy, Democratic field commander, is now proposing that Sheriff Dagostino assume the office of Schenectady police chief.

Santa Maria! That would put the Conservative Party, which is practically synonymous with the PBA, in the catbird seat. The PBA would be running the show from top to bottom, just like in the bad old days, when it used to be said that the department was run from the offices of Grasso and Grasso, which was the PBA’s law firm, around the corner from the police station.

I said, how about bring Bob Hamilton over and make him chief? Then you wouldn’t have to worry about any state prohibition on the sheriff holding two jobs.

Maybe you remember, it was Hamilton as PBA president (and Conservative Party chairman) who famously worked just five or six days a year at his police job while taking the rest of the time off for undocumented “union business,” and collected full pay in the bargain. There would be no more conflict. It would be all PBA.

“I don’t see a scenario where that would happen,” McCarthy said dryly.

He denied, of course, that there were any political considerations in his proposal. “It’s not part of my thought process,” he said, to my vast amusement. “I’m trying to do something that provides structural change that’s independent of participants who are there now. You try to do something that will be positive, and people look at it in a negative way. It’s the Schenectady way.”

Carl Strock is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper's. Reach him at carlstrock@dailygazette.com.

 
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August 5, 2012
7:42 a.m.
+0 votes
manjoe says...

The only way to accomplish this is to do as Mayor J. suggested several years ago: abolish the city of Schenectady (as well as the towns) and have one county-wide government entity.

August 5, 2012
1:42 p.m.
+0 votes
robbump says...

Were it not for how Metro-Tax has mutated from its origins, I would also favor a solely-county government, and school district as well. I supported Metro-Plex but it has become a bed for political cronyism, rather than an organization run by business leaders.

It's still worth looking at consolidation of the law enforcement agencies. You never read of sheriffs throwing eggs at taxpayers.

August 5, 2012
8:28 p.m.
+0 votes
wmarincic says...

Hey Strock, you had no problem calling those police when you had an armed nutcase in your lobby.... I'm so sick of you and the other idiots at your newspaper bashing the Schenectady Police. They risk their lives every day and the Gazette only makes their job harder and the city less desireable for people and businesses to move to. The Gazette has single handedly caused more business and people to stay away from Schenectady than any other factor.

You make it sound like being Conservatived and supporting law and order was a bad thing, but to you liberals I guess it is. BTW I will bet you $50 to go to a charity of your choice that they get rid of the commisioner position and Wayne Bennett becomes the chief. Wanna bet,

You should go back to writing about your beloved sport of animal torture and bullfighting and leave the city of Schenectady alone, they have enough problems with King McCarthy and his merry band of liberal stooges on the City Council.

August 6, 2012
5:30 p.m.
+0 votes
Will1960 says...

@Wmarincic,

Bashing? When the police misbehave they shook be held to a higher standard since they are given tremendous power over the common person. The Schdy police department has had more than it's share of rogue cops and I'm thankful that we have Carl Strock to call them out when they break the law.

Strock was the only reporter to question the Schdy police use of their SWAT force to break down the door of an innocent citizen, shoot their pregnant dog dead, tramatize their young chidlren and point guns in their faces, all because her son had sold an ounce of pot to an informant. As it turned out the cop leading this SWAT team, Jeffrey Curtis was stealing crack from the evidence locker at police headquarters. Don't you want these bad apples rooted out? Just becasue they put on a uniform and badge shouldn't give them immunity for this kind of reckless behavior. Schenectady would be a better place if all it's reporters had the moxy Strock possesses.

August 7, 2012
7:39 a.m.
+0 votes
wmarincic says...

will1960,

Only two police officers should have been fired, Curtis and Lewis. There is a reason that police have such a high rate of not only alcoholism but suicide as well.

What did the above article have to do with anything other than to continue to call into question the reputation of Bobby Hamilton who was never charged or even accused of any wrongdoing.

Bobby Hamilton was PBA President during the Schenectady witch hunt that came about after the Curtis and Lewis charges. In both cases the SPD removed the bad apples but unfortunately some good apples got thrown out also like Mike Brown for one.

Hindsight is always 20/20 but the SPD did what it needed to do in spite of having an anti-police Mayor in Brian Stratton who was not qualified to be a dog catcher.

What this city needs is another republican Mayor like Jurczinski, at least Al found away to increase the population, remove some blight and add to the tax base.

August 7, 2012
8:05 a.m.
+0 votes
ronzo says...

The first comment makes the most sense, but the chances of that happening here are less than none, as long as the people here continue to want to live in the past. They wonder why businesses left here and people left with them? Cost of living driven by insane taxes needed to support the layers and layers of local government. People here want their little towns, cities and school districts, but complain about the cost. And these same people criticize the federal Government for being too big. The Feds are amateurs compared to New York State local governments and school districts.

August 7, 2012
1:45 p.m.
+0 votes
newyorker65 says...

Say what you want about the Schenectady police force, or the police force of any city anywhere in the USA... but when you need help, they are there! Case in point... a leading story online in this very paper entitled, "Woman rescued from burning home by Troy police officer." Bashing the police is nothing new and there are rotten apples in every bunch, but all in all, I would turn to a police officer when I'm in need and I know he'll help. Carl Strock only writes articles to get your ire up, don't you know that by now?

August 7, 2012
2:13 p.m.
+0 votes
ThePhilistine says...

First of all this Sheriff/Chief deal is ALL TALK

Second, "Higher Standard" for police is a nonsense talking point. There is one set of laws and the same punishment for anyone who breaks them regardless of their employment. The higher standard comes in when the police do a job that most people could never handle.

August 7, 2012
3:16 p.m.
+0 votes
Will1960 says...

I would be content if the law apply to everyone equally, but when the police are involved, equal justice doesn't exist in Schdy. Case in point when Judge Drago sentenced former Schdy police chief Greg Kazmierzak to 2 years for his role in a cocaine ring while his civilian partner in crime got 12 years from Judge Drago. Just one example of unequal justice in Schdy.

August 7, 2012
4:41 p.m.
ThePhilistine says...
(This comment was removed by the site staff.)
August 8, 2012
5:50 a.m.
+0 votes
wmarincic says...

will1960

How do you blame the police for something a judge did? I can yell you that most police are not happy with the job that most judges do.

August 9, 2012
9:12 p.m.
+0 votes
pnotto says...

As a retired Sch'dy cop speaking for my fellow co-workers both past, present and future we thank you for the support. The folks who criticize us like those who worship at the alter of nit wits like Carl Strock maybe you would like to don the badge, the uniform, the service weapon, patrol the streets of Sch'dy and face the difficulties we have to perform which is a glamorously thankless job that needs to be done. In Law Enforcement we always have many people who want to be cops but only a select few are chosen and make it through a 20 yr career. I can guarantee you if Carl Strock had to respond to a dom tbl call that turned out to be a stabbing where the victim dies in your arms where you have no back up while trying to communicate with family members who don't speak English who are yelling at you simultaneously, then its your job of trying to secure the crime scene, find out what happened and you have to attempt to prevent the perpetrator(s) from fleeing the scene and secure the murder weapon, if Mr. Strock had to do all this he would drop a load in his pants and fall apart. I was fully aware of what was expected of me when I took this job and I wouldn't change a thing I have experienced that resulted in many sleepless nights and health concerns. I thank Jesus Christ for getting me through it all. Now that I am retired and don't have to keep my mouth shut any longer due to rules and regulations requiring my silence I can say the men and women of the SPD are the finest group of officers there are who are unfortunately constrained from doing a proper job due to incompetent management both in the Chief's Office, City Hall and from so called social do-gooders.

August 9, 2012
9:31 p.m.
+0 votes
pnotto says...

Continuing on: The issue with us having bad seeds is true. This you can blame on past police chief's, politicians and former union officials for these people being hired over the objections of other officers like myself due to seeing that political nepotism and patronage is carried out. In a perfect world undesirable employees are weeded out through the competitive nature that Law Enforcement is requiring us to get the best and brightest needed to fill the rolls with quality candidates but politics nullifies this ideology. On my job there are two groups the "A" and the "B" teams. If you are on the "A" team you are the brown nose's and incompetent personnel who are protected by the powers to be because they are the golden children and must be protected at all costs. The "B" team on the other hand are personnel like myself who go to work do our jobs by putting in our 8 hours and go home after our shifts are over. To the misguided vision of the powers to be in the SPD the "B" team members are the ones who are not to be trusted, we are viewed as the trouble makers, we are the ones that need constant supervision from incompetent brown nose supervisors loyal to the powers to be, we are the ones viewed to have attitude problems because we do the right thing both on the job and in our own lives. The "A" team members are the screw ups who slip through the cracks of the hiring process. This is the current philosophy of the management of the SPD brass. So in summation I support Comm. Bennett's attempts to clean up the SPD and I would suggest to him and Mayor McCarthy to seriously consider hiring from outside the SPD and outside the political structure of Sch'dy County when looking for a new chief because the current candidates are not worthy of that honor they desire to hold. To them the power they desire to hold is everything to these incompetent boobs and nothing else matters to them! To be blunt, the current management rank is like watching the 3 Stooges and the Marx Bros. run the SPD and until the powers to be change their vision(s) and their philosophy the SPD will continue to falter. Consider this fact that under Brian Stratton we lost 1/2 of the cops who were hired under him (eliminating the personnel who were terminated) because of his incompetent leadership by promoting the wrong candidates to positions of authority these quality hire's either left the job or went to other LEA's where others will sadly follow due to an unsuitable work environment in the SPD caused by the city management because of their incompetence. So as Paul Harvey stated so eloquently; "Now you know the rest of the story."

August 10, 2012
7:22 a.m.
+0 votes
wmarincic says...

pnotto,

Thank you, I have been calling for the firing of the Chiefs and Asst. Chiefs for years because of their incompetence. We have people on here like cfield that will disparage the actuall men and women that do the job you did, Thanks for your service,

August 10, 2012
11:43 a.m.
pnotto says...
(This comment was removed by the site staff.)
August 10, 2012
12:26 p.m.
+0 votes
cfield says...

wmarincic

Once again - telling lies. I disparaged no officer - point out where I did.

You laud pnotto and have no idea what kind of officer he was - good or bad, but you embrace his comments because they suit your need to be seen as a rabid police supporter.

pnotto - if you want to bash management - that is your right. But to call out people by name is a bit cowardly to do so when they cannot respond in kind. In other words - it's easy to sound noble when you only tell your side of things

August 10, 2012
9:46 p.m.
+0 votes
pnotto says...

Mr.wmarincic, I again thank you for your support for the officers including myself in the SPD. Since I am now retired, I can no longer sit by and watch the hard working officers of the SPD be trampled upon. So, I can be a mouth piece for the frustrated officers in the SPD who must remain silent and operate under the radar screen because they cannot speak up for fear of retribution from vengeful incompetent supervisors and administrative staff who are on as I mentioned the SPD "A" team. Unfortunately, I can't really tell you my true feelings about the incompetent management of the SPD in proper street language and terms that will be eventually pulled from this blog site by the staff who monitor its postings for decency. So I must keep it clean and I apologize to the staff for any unprofessional writings from me. I am entitled to make public my comments in these postings for I have earned that right to do so for surviving a 20 yr career in the SPD and my postings are from actual experience and observations that I have made from my career and what the new Commissioner and Mayor must do to turn the SPD around in the right direction. I must EMPHASIZE that I exclude Commissioner Bennett from this lot because he is not part of this group of incompetence because he was brought in by Brian Stratton out of an act of desperation to clean up the SPD and he has been a God send to the SPD. My comments are not based in a "sour grapes" mentality but as I stated are actual fact. I know for a fact that if an officer is right, Comm. Bennett will back him/her going to the cross for them, but if your wrong you'll have to take your lumps. He is an honorable man that will still protect an officer when they are wrong and the mistake was done with no malice intended. In my job this will happen because we too are human and make mistakes, you just try and minimize the damage. But when an officer acts out of stupidity he/she will be dealt with accordingly as we have seen in the numerous terminations that have occurred over the past few years. As stated previously, in the past out of control officers were always protected by the chief's office, politicians and former union leaders as long as they were christened as a golden child and belonged to the "A" team. So with the entrance of Comm. Bennett onto the public stage of this city the feeling is that this will hopefully change these problems under his leadership. With that out of the way, lets concentrate on the morons who make comments and postings on this site who do not obviously do any investigating or research of their own before they demonstrate their ignorance and stupidity. If I was to perform my employment duties like this I would have been booted off of the force a long time ago because I was not on the "A" team.

August 10, 2012
9:52 p.m.
+0 votes
pnotto says...

Continuing on: Mr. wmarincic you were right about dim wits like Mr. cfield who write comments on this site who are strikers of Mr. Strock who worship at his alter of distributing misinformation and distorted facts. Mr. Strock has for a long time been an enemy of any Sch'dy public worker(s) no matter who they are and what department they work in. All these people do is show up for work, do their jobs and go home. Maybe its because Mr. Strock could never cut the mustard as a civil employee and actually had to avoid real work for a living so he took a job as a two bit journalist who writes an adversarial type column demonstrating an unprofessional writing style that is unfortunately read by a wide spectrum of subscribers to this newspaper. Mr. Strock like other unprofessional instigators use this writing style because they need to gin up emotions to get eye balls to read their columns so they can sell papers. His editors may love this but it causes his editor's bosses some anxiously nervous moments, why else would they place a disclaimer on Mr. Strock's column that the opinions are his own and do not reflect the newspaper he writes for. The encouraging fact is that many people who read this ragged unprofessional opinion piece are intelligent enough to dismiss this rubbish information as just unintelligible drivel. On the flip side to this, a number of people in this area take the trash that Mr, Strock writes for gospel which include ignoramuses like Mr. cfield. Its easy for Mr. Strock to sit behind a desk in a small cubical of a newspaper company that worries about anytime his columns are published for fear about what could happen as a result of Mr. Strock's inflammatory words. While at the same time people who are not bright enough to put a series of coherent words together to construct an intelligible and proper sentence write these unintelligent postings further demonstrating their blatant ignorance and are plain knuckle heads. Yes, I am directing my comments at you Mr. cfield. You claim I am a cowardly name dropper, but if you could read the English language you would see that my comments are directed at Mr. Strock and the incompetent leadership in the SPD and previous politicians which excludes Comm. Bennett. You, Mr. cfield like the rest of the idiots that write moronic postings on this site that you try and pass off as an intelligent thought live in a fantasy world of your own because you were not properly educated on how to defend any ridiculous position you and your dim witted friends take.

August 10, 2012
9:54 p.m.
+0 votes
pnotto says...

Continuing on: As far as my lambasting the administration in the SPD, and others associated with the SPD these are my well deserved comments that I have earned to make which I have stated earlier. But you seem to have a short term memory which is not uncommon for idiots like yourself. When a person is in public office they surrender their right to be free from the protection of public criticism whether they do good or woe. I would expect you to know the difference but being that you can't intellectually process this info I will have to leave it at that because it explains everything to the readers of these postings. As a retired police officer, you are right that is my right to bash the administration because they need to be bashed because they are driving the SPD off of a cliff. The administrators know who they are but are to ashamed to speak up because they know what their sins are and don't want them made public. Since having survived a long career in Law Enforcement and being a tax payer in this city, it is my responsibility to stand up for my brother and sister officers who can't and don't have a voice against numb skulls like yourself who have no idea what it is to strap on a gun and badge to patrol these city streets and put up with the abuse we have to deal with from not only enemies within our own department but those people who are outside of our department like yourself. Furthermore, if you are to incompetent to do your own investigating or research as to who I am and the kind of career I had it is not my responsibility to divulge that information to incompetent numb skulls like yourself.

August 11, 2012
10:47 a.m.
+0 votes
cfield says...

For someone who is quick to critique the way people express themselves - you have a curious habit of childish name calling.

Strock is pretty bright guy, although I could in no way be accurately described as a fan of his, certainly not a Strock worshipper. But he might like being worshipped. He criticizes a lot of religions so maybe that is part of a larger scheme - knock down the competition a bit, then create your own religion - of which he is the supreme being. Strockism.....probably not.

You have no idea what my background is, so you might not want to fuel your tirades with assumptions about my education or experience re: law enforcement.

I also know quite a few SPD officers, active and retired. They are doing well. They work hard and do a respectable job faced with enormous challenges and limited resources. Similar to other human beings, they are imperfect - but all in all, for the most part I think their hearts are in the right place.

And, I don't want to be insulting but if you are the former officer I think you are - I think the your SPD brothers and sisters do not need you to speak for them.

August 11, 2012
3:20 p.m.
+0 votes
pnotto says...

Well lets see, in dealing with someone like you Mr. cfield name calling and lowering myself to reach your level requires childish name calling to equal and communicate with someone of your intelligence quotient. Therefore, I don't care about your background because your idiocy explains enough for me to render an opinion that I need to direct my postings to you. Furthermore, your assertion that you think Mr. Strock is a "pretty bright guy" is enough information to get me to the point that I know your just another brain dead moron who does worship at his alter at the same time idolizing his unprofessional type journalism style. Lastly, you stated that you have friends in the SPD. I now realize your friends are on the so called "A" team in the SPD which from my experience is that no one cares to deal or bother with these people because they are the undesirable and untrustworthy so you can't depend upon them which explains enough about your shallowness as a person. One of the many positions I held was being a zone operator which requires many talents, experiences and comes with many responsibilities that require split second decisions that may result in lethal consequences. All of these I had to perform this job requirement. I worked with many fine partners who are and were good cops, but the ones I did work with who were your type quality of person and are probably your so called friends in the SPD, I would have had to drop them off at the station and direct the Desk Sargent to reassign this person who was also known as the rider because I could not depend upon them because they were going to either get me hurt or killed or cause the same to another officer because of their incompetence. These people are also on the so called "A" team. Which once again reminds me of someone of your type quality personage which I would not want to speak for anyway because they don't deserve to be on this job. So they are not worthy of wasting my breath on.

 

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