EDITORIAL: First step toward trust in Saratoga Springs: Stop the lies

Saratoga Springs City Hall. Credit: ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER 

Saratoga Springs City Hall. Credit: ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER 

They say the first step in getting yourself out of a hole is to stop digging.

That also applies to trust.

If you want people to start to trust you, your first step should be to stop lying.

There are plenty of good reasons why Black Lives Matter protesters in Saratoga Springs mistrust police, from overzealous arrests and prosecution of protesters, to allegations of racial bias in late-night incidents in the city’s entertainment district, to claims by police that the protesters were perpetuating violence themselves through their criticism of police.

All of those are legitimate concerns that must be addressed by police and the elected representatives in the city.

But one common thread in the growing level of mistrust is that police continually fail to tell the public the truth, whether it be about an investigation into a Black man’s death connected to a police foot chase or about who stopped protesters from attending a public court proceeding the other day.

For there to be any resolution to the racial issues plaguing this city, one of the first steps police are going to have to take is to stop lying to the people they serve.

And the only way the public can be assured that they’re getting the truth is for independent authorities to thoroughly investigate the incidents in question and give the public an honest and fair accounting — separate from the politics and policies of the Police Department.

Let’s start with an issue that has long festered among the Black community, the 2014 death of Darryl Mount.

Mount died nine months after a police foot chase early on the morning of Aug. 31, 2013, following a domestic incident on Caroline Street. Mount fled through a construction site on Broadway and was later found unconscious with severe head injuries at the foot of some construction scaffolding.

Police allege he fell from the scaffolding, while Mount’s family suspects he died at the hands of a beating by police.

Police Chief Gregory Veitch defended his officers and said there was no evidence to support Mount’s family’s claims that officers had caused his death.

In a lawsuit deposition several years after Mount’s death, Veitch admitted he lied to a Saratogian reporter by saying that he had ordered an internal investigation into Mount’s death, when in fact, he later admitted, he had not.

If he was lying about even conducting an internal investigation, what else was he lying about? And how could anyone — Mount’s family, BLM protesters or other citizens — trust anything he said?

Despite many calls over the years for independent investigations into Mount’s death, none have been undertaken.

At this point, the public won’t trust any investigation conducted by the city, the county or anyone other than the state Attorney General’s Office.

Not only should Attorney General Letitia James investigate Mount’s death, she also should investigate Veitch’s failure to conduct an internal investigation into the death and his decision and rationale for lying about it.

Who else knew he failed to conduct an investigation, and who supported his decision to cover up that failure after his statements were made public in the newspaper? That investigation should include anyone on the police force at the time, as well as Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, who was in office at the time of the police chase and Mount’s death.

The other incident in which police have been caught lying involves a situation in which some BLM protesters were prevented by police from attending court proceedings last week. Several protesters appeared in court on misdemeanor charges in connection with the arrests of activists outside City Court on Sept. 7, and some supporters attempted to join them, but were barred from the courtroom by city police.

For two days, city police tried to blame court officials, including the judge, for prohibiting the protesters from attending.

But court officials vehemently denied the allegations, saying courtrooms are rarely closed to the public unless there’s a specific reason associated with a particular case.

That prompted police to finally walk back their lies.

Herein is cause for another investigation, both into why police made the decision to bar these particular citizens from the courtroom and who was behind the decision to fabricate and perpetuate a denial.

On Friday, city Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton, an independent candidate for mayor in November, promised to conduct a “thorough investigation” into any police involvement in the closure. Why it took her three days to announce this is beyond us, but at least the commissioner is on the record as saying the city plans to look into it.

But given the city’s track record with the truth, it’s hard to know whether to believe her or not until we see the results of an actual investigation.

There are many issues to resolve in helping reduce tensions between police and citizens, particularly Black citizens, in the city of Saratoga Springs. And both sides should consider their approach to determine if there’s something they can do to improve relations.

City officials should look into the validity of those charges that were filed against protesters and reconsider their arrest policy if necessary. They should look more deeply into the true causes of late-night incidents in the city’s entertainment corridor. They should stop interfering with the legitimate rights of citizens to protest and access government buildings.

But first and foremost, they need to stop lying and support truly independent investigations — into Darryl Mount’s death, the courtroom ban and anything else they might be lying about.

Without that, there can never be any progress toward trust.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

One Comment

AngrySoccerMom

As a former Saratoga Springs resident, I know the history you are referring to all too well. I have seen the militarization of police in this city. I have seen the unequal treatment afforded by police to those with more active melanin in their bodies. Yes, I know about the Darryl Mount case. I have seen a number of very peaceful protests turn dangerous with police instigating the unrest. I’ve seen police act inhumanely toward people, just because they know they can get away with it. I have known teens and young adults who have been arrested for doing absolutely nothing wrong. I did not feel safe in Saratoga Springs.
Police in the United States have historically been the gatekeepers of systemic racism in our country with their origin dating back to slave patrols in the south, enforcing Jim Crow segregation, Black Codes, and murder and abuse with almost total impunity, etc.
I appreciate this editorial because it is honest. Transparency and trust matter, especially in a post-truth era where cutting edge science and factual history are no longer valued.
It is nearly impossible to comprehend the current problems this nation has with regard to systemic racism unless we know our real racial history. I’m not talking about whitewashed history written by the “winner” like that in most school history texts. I’m talking about the truth.
Most white folks in the USA do not know our own racial history, but we suffer from the Dunning-Kruger Effect and we believe we know even more about racism than the actual people discriminated against every day. Nothing stops us from having a strong opinion about something which we know little about.
If you are a “white” person and you do not know the following racial history, then you do not know your own racial history. Your opinion is uniformed and ahistorical. It will take effort, but you can learn our real racial history. But you must do the work. Unless you are lucky and have parents that taught you, there is no other comprehensive mechanism for learning the truth.
Will you make mistakes? Of course, you will. But by learning you will be able to have an informed opinion. You can become confident and find your voice. It is our responsibility to teach other white people the truth about our own racial history.
If you are truly sincere about helping to support a fair and just culture in the USA, please learn our real racial history. You can do so by doing some investigating into the following topics: race as a human construct, the invention of “whiteness”, the origins of police in America, Black Wall Street, the Ebenezer Creek Massacre, the Slocum Massacre in Texas, the Colfax Massacre, the Bloody Monday anti-immigrant massacre, the Los Angeles Chinatown Massacre, the Colfax Massacre, the NYC Race Massacre, the Opelousas Massacre, the Polk County Massacre, Black Union Soldiers Massacred at Fort Pillow, Red Summer in Chicago, the White League Attacks Black Voters, the Camilla Massacre, Elaine Massacre, Memphis Massacre, the St. Bernard Parish Massacre, the Ebenezer Creek Massacre, the Sand Creek Massacre, the Pequot Massacre, the Hamburg Massacre, the Devil’s Punchbowl, redlining in housing, business, contracts, banking, etc. Jim Crow, separate but equal policies, sundown towns, the disclaimer in the 13th amendment, the Compromise of 1877, the Ku Klux Klan, police corruption, the blue wall/line, voter oppression of Black and brown people, the Central Park Five, Black Codes, medical racism, environmental racism, institutionalized racism, the school to prison pipeline, for profit prisons, mass incarceration, white privileged and it’s real definition, how economic privilege works with racism, the unequal ability for black people to accumulate wealth, the role of “resource officers” at schools, today’s housing segregation, the origins of Central Park in NYC, race norming, school tax funding formulas, white washed history in school text books, implicit bias training, cultural competency training, etc.
You see a lot of us white folks get our information off of social media. Unfortunately, up until very recently, they were allowed to spread bold faced lies with no consequences. Anything read on social media must be researched independently. I’m guessing most of the white folks responding to this comment will be defensive and … let me guess, will tell me I’m being divisive by talking about it. My response would be NO. I am making you uncomfortable by talking about something you either don’t want to discuss and/or know very little about, but have an extremely strong opinion on anyway. Some will tell me I’m stupid and not a good writer. Some will tell me I’m crazy. But few white people will be honest and talk about the actual subject matter: systemic racism. America has a white person problem and this town helps to perpetuate it. Do you have any idea how it feels to be non-white in a former sundown town? I don’t because I’m white. If you are so inclined, please go to my YouTube channel where I have thousands of videos that teach about systemic racism, bigotry, inequality, and corruption in the USA. If you want to learn the truth, you will. It will be life changing.

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