Every time it seems as though the Schenectady Police Department has put its troubles with law-breaking cops behind it, a story surfaces like the one last week, in which an off-duty cop was arrested after a disturbing road rage incident.
We’d love to believe that the most serious part of the allegation — that Det. John Hotaling pointed a gun at and threatened to kill some people he got frustrated with because they weren’t driving fast enough for him — didn’t really occur. Indeed, it will be up to a court of law to determine the validity of the charges about what took place in Glenville April 7, but some circumstantial evidence doesn’t seem to bode well for Hotaling: 1) Glenville police only charged him after a week-long investigation; 2) he reportedly admitted to them that a confrontation took place (though he denies a gun was involved); and 3) tapes of the 911 call made to them as the incident unfolded indicate a gun was indeed involved.
Even if the gun part was made up of whole cloth, the other parts of the story raise doubt on whether Hotaling should be allowed to continue working as a police officer: It’s bad enough that he’s been accused of going 60 mph in a 40 mph zone, and passing on a double-yellow line. But stopping at the next traffic light, getting out of his truck and confronting the motorists who’d honked at him as he’d whizzed past, then practically running them down as he sped off, would be unacceptable conduct for a police officer.
And it doesn’t matter one iota that the driver of the car, a newly licensed 17-year-old accompanied by his father and grandfather, wasn’t doing the 40 mph speed limit. What was the off-duty Hotaling’s hurry that would justify breaking the vehicle and traffic law, then compounding the offense by bullying the family that had the temerity to call him on it?
The Schenectady Police Department has, over the last decade, weeded out a good many bad apples — cops who’ve variously stolen, sold or taken illegal drugs; cops who’ve driven drunk then persuaded fellow officers to let them go home instead of arresting them; cops who’ve beaten their girlfriends or those in their custody; cops who’ve slept on the job while billing for overtime pay, etc. But for all the progress that’s been made, there are still stories like these, of cops who persist in thumbing their nose at the law they’re charged with upholding. And as long as that continues to happen even occasionally, the department is going to find it close to impossible to change the way people think about it.
Irrespective of the criminal case against Hotaling, officials need to ascertain what happened here and act quickly to get Hotaling off the payroll permanently if the allegations are even remotely true.