The Niskayuna Police Benevolent Association is standing behind an officer who recently announced his resignation from the town department after stating the department lacked training and staffing.
“Officer Kuhlmeier has honorably served the Town of Niskayuna for over 10 years, as both a dispatcher and a police officer,” reads a letter addressed to town residents on March 25 and provided by PBA President Anthony Comanzo. “Officer Kuhlmeier has been instrumental in our training programs as a certified firearms instructor, and has served the PBA in multiple capacities on the executive board. Officer Kuhlmeier also served the Niskayuna Police Department as an Officer in Charge for many years on our overnight A-line shift. The Niskayuna PBA would like to publicly say thank you to Officer Carlton Kuhlmeier for his many years of dedicated service, and we wish him well in all his future endeavors.”
During a special Police and Public Safety Committee meeting March 17 the board was made aware of officer Kuhlmeier’s resignation.
In the letter addressed to Chief Fran Wall, Kuhlmeier said he is leaving the police department because of ongoing stress and an unhealthy work environment at the department, which includes a “lack of support from previous administrations and the town and the lack of funding from the town to get necessary equipment and training.
Comanzo said in a phone conversation it was unfair that Kuhlmeier was labeled as a disgruntled employee while his resignation letter and concerns he raised in the letter were discussed during a March 17 Police and Public Safety Committee meeting.
Deputy Chief Michael Stevens said Wednesday he did not call Kuhlmeier a disgruntled employee during the March 17 meeting, but rather, said that when an officer leaves they typically say it was because of low morale or lack of training.
“I think it’s a safe assumption officer Kuhlmeier wasn’t happy here, if that’s why he’s leaving,” Stevens said at the March meeting. “Does that make him disgruntled? I don’t know. To me it kind of would, if I’m leaving where I’ve been, where I have a retirement, but that’s my opinion.”
Stevens also said he has not seen the letter from the PBA, so he would not comment further on it.
Kuhlmeier raised concerns the association has agreed with and tried to work on for years, Comanzo said.
“We do feel that we need more training,” Comanzo said. “We do feel that we need more support.”
The training issue was brought up to past police and town administrations, he said.
“What it comes down to is money,” he said.
The union has been fighting to have certain training requirements added to police contracts, he said. Those negotiations are still underway.
“We’re kind of at the point where we don’t know what to do,” he said.
In its letter, the PBA urged residents to read the Center for Justice Research and Innovation’s report on racial bias, which the PBA said notes a number of recommendations related to the concerns officer Kuhlmeier wrote about in his letter. Specifically, the PBA’s letter noted recommendations 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 and 32. Those recommendations are as follows:
- The department should continue using PoliceOne Academy, but expand on the topics available to personnel and explore cost-effective in-person training, options for cost-sharing with other municipalities or fine training opportunities funded by the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance and Office of Community Oriented Policing.
- Ensuring officers receive training for topics like firearms training, use of force or exposure/infection. That officers also get annual training on the police and techniques of the baton and biannual refresher courses on the usage of Naloxone. It also suggested the inclusion of more in-service training topics.
- The department needs to create training for upper-level management.
- Officers should receive active shooter and bomb threat training within the next year and officers should continue to be sent for the training on an as-needed basis based on the officers familiarity of the training.
- The department should review general orders during shift debriefs and in-service training.
- Training courses should be evaluated yearly to determine whether changes are needed.
Kuhlmeier could not be reached.
Bill McPartlon, a town board member and chairman of the Police and Public Safety Committee, said he had not seen the letter from the PBA. He also said employee matters weren’t normally discussed during a public meeting nor would he be comfortable commenting on whether Kuhlmeier’s concerns about the department would be discussed at the next committee meeting.