Won’t things ever change at the Schenectady Police Department?
Stories like the one in Wednesday’s Gazette about the department’s glacial-paced response to a burglary complaint, followed by a series of surly excuses for the indefensibly long delay, indicate that however much progress has been made weeding out bad cops and improving service in recent years, the department still has serious accountability problems — both performing basic duties and treating customers with respect.
It’s bad enough that a woman who called at 4:05 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon to report a break-in at her house had to wait more than 24 hours for someone to investigate — and only then after she’d gone to the police station to complain in person. Even worse was the attitude she encountered from an unidentified desk officer, who purportedly advised her to take her complaint to the City Council and mayor; as well as the one of the patrol officer who finally showed up at her house and blamed the department’s inexcusably slow response time on old patrol cars, all of which “have over 100,000 miles on them.” Even if that were true (and unless many of its cars have been to the moon and back this year, it’s not) the excuse would be a lame one.
As the Gazette story indicated, the cops had trouble fielding a full team that day (because too many of them called in sick or took vacation or comp time). Then they got slammed when an extraordinary number of calls came in, and had to prioritize their responses. OK, maybe, but don’t insult taxpayers’ intelligence by politicizing things.
And, frankly, it’s not OK that police get so much time off, and can take it whenever they want, that they can leave the city inadequately protected when they all decide to take it at once. Doesn’t management have some obligation to ensure appropriate staffing?
Workers in both the public and private sectors have had to suck it up and work harder to compensate for all the downsizing that’s gone on since the Great Recession. Why should Schenectady police be any different? We’d further be surprised if the odometer on the car of the average Schenectady taxpayer (who has to pay for his own repairs) didn’t exceed 100,000.
Police brass and Mayor Gary McCarthy have expressed appropriate outrage at this latest episode, apologizing to the woman and promising to “fix this” so it doesn’t happen again. That’s a more enlightened public response than we’re accustomed to from them, and while we certainly wish them well in their endeavor, we can’t help but point out that it’s more or less the same problem they’ve been grappling with for years. Better make that decades.