Just like in the bad old days of the Schenectady Police Department, it’s taking altogether too long — 14 months and counting — to determine whether an off-duty cop suspended for possibly criminal behavior can be fired. And he’s essentially been on paid vacation for all but the first month.
The officer, John Hotaling, stands accused of a repugnant act of road rage — tailgating, then speeding past a young driver who wasn’t going fast enough for him in a no-passing zone in Glenville.
But what he was accused of doing next, after the teen’s grandfather apparently made an obscene gesture as he roared past, is worse: getting out of his truck at a traffic light and menacing them with a gun.
Schenectady police officials, properly outraged after Glenville police charged Hotaling, did some investigating. The fact that the complaint had been phoned in immediately, before anyone even knew Hotaling’s identity, and that there were witnesses, convinced Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett (as well as Glenville police) that this was no cock-and-bull story. And even though the criminal case has languished for over a year for a variety of technical reasons, Bennett wants to fire Hotaling. Now.
He should be canned, because cops can’t go around when they’re off duty, breaking the very laws they’re charged with upholding when they’re on duty.
It would undoubtedly be easier for police to convince an independent hearing officer to uphold Hotaling’s firing after a criminal conviction. And Schenectady police have, in the past, waited under similar circumstances for criminal proceedings to be played out before seeking a rogue cop’s dismissal. It’s reassuring that in this case, they didn’t wait, but undertook their own investigation and made their own determination.
Unfortunately, it’s still taking too long to get a hearing for Hotaling. And he’s being paid all the while.
Perhaps the city should seek to amend the part of the police contract that allows cops accused of wrong-doing to collect their full salary after 30 days while awaiting disciplinary hearings.
It’s one thing if they’re exonerated. They can be paid retroactively.
But if not, there’s no way they should be entitled to an extended free vacation.