Rotterdam

Rotterdam Police Department sex offender registry policy failure leads to audit

File

File

A Rotterdam police officer was reprimanded after failing to properly register a sex offender in town, a mistake that set off a $25,000 audit of the town Police Department and resulted in the sex offender getting charged for failing to properly register.

According to a press release from the town supervisor, an officer was disciplined after a Level 1 sex offender emailed an updated photo to the Police Department for the registry, even though department policy and state law require the person show up for their photo. The emailed photo was not properly uploaded to the registry and the offender was subsequently charged for the officer’s mistake. A Level 1 sex offender has a low risk of a repeat offense, Level 2 has a moderate risk and Level 3 has a high risk.

This week, Town Supervisor Steven Tommasone’s office said the Rotterdam Police Department lacks written procedures on the management of the state sex offender registry.

To address the problem, the town hired the Albany law firm of Barclay Damon in July 2020 to audit the policies and procedures of the Police Department.

Chief G. William Manikas rebutted the supervisor’s claims. Manikas and several Town Board members have not seen an audit of the department and questioned the accuracy of the information released by the supervisor’s office.

According to the release from the supervisor’s office, “While the department’s practices are meaningful and effective, they are not memorialized in any written standard operating procedure, presenting a risk of inconsistent application, particularly in the event a new officer is singularly assigned responsibility for department-wide compliance with SORA (Sex Offender Registry Act) under the existing departmental order.”

The release from the supervisor’s office said the auditors discovered the department changed its policy on management of the system and eliminated the following procedure: “The Chief of Police or his designee will be responsible for maintaining the Registry and will ensure that only authorized information on level 2 & 3 registrants is available for review.”

Manikas said the release “is inaccurate in saying there are no written policies.”

Town Board member Stephen Signore said the audit came about in order to respond to a Freedom of Information Law request from a company, which sent out FOIL requests to police agencies across New York state. He could not remember the name of the company.

“I look forward to discussing this further with my fellow board members at the Town Board’s February 24th meeting,” Tommasone said in the release. “I will not comment further until that time.”

The Police Department has been accredited with the state Division of Criminal Justice since 2001, Manikas said. Because the department is accredited, he said it must have written policies, including one on the management of the sex offender registry. The policy for the town’s registry became effective October 2002, according to the emailed documents provided Thursday by Deputy Chief Michael Brown. The policy was last reviewed in October 2018 and updated in 2011 and 2018 to meet new state standards.

Manikas also said that Investigator Connor Lee oversees the registry and took training on the management of the registry in 2018 through the state Division of Criminal Justice.

Town Board member Joe Guidarelli said he has asked for the audit, with no success.

“We don’t have a final audit,” he said. He also said Barclay Damon sent the town a bill of about $25,000 for the audit.

Manikas said he hasn’t seen the audit either.

“I can’t even speak to that because I haven’t seen it,” Manikas said.

 The board and the police chief have not met with the supervisor to discuss the results of the audit.

Guidarelli said Town Board had no input on the news release. “I would not have been in favor of releasing it,” he said.

Now, some of the board members are trying to find the best way to respond to the content of in their own news release. Guidarelli said he has spoken to both Deputy Supervisor Evan Christou and board member Stephen Signore about how to proceed.

“The other board members don’t want to rush anything,” Guidarelli said.

Signore said he expects any inaccuracies will be reconciled before or on Feb. 24.

But Guidarelli questioned how they could put out a release without the final audit in hand. He notified the law firm that getting the audit promptly was important.

Tommasone Thursday declined to elaborate on the audit and its findings because “we have had attorney client privilege conversations” regarding the audit. He said he could not give a specific date for when the audit will be released but “we will have it soon.”

“My duty and responsibility is to protect our families, our children and our grandchildren,” the Tommasone said.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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