Chris Schmidt hasn’t been shy about calling for action against Shawn Glans, the veteran Saratoga County sheriff’s deputy who quit after a video of him allegedly calling for the illegal search of a vehicle went viral in November.
The Glens Falls man founded a Facebook page dedicated to arresting Glans about a day after the video was initially posted on the sheriff’s website by Colin Fitch and Adam Roberts, the two men stopped by deputies in a Halfmoon parking lot Nov. 7. Then, after Glans was charged with misdemeanor official misconduct and a violation count of harassment, Schmidt circulated an online petition calling for prosecutors to up the charges, specifically for allegedly slapping Fitch prior to the search.
“The video evidence is pretty clear how the situation went down,” he said, citing the 86-second video secretly recorded on Roberts’ cellphone.
Now Schmidt has moved his online campaign to the special prosecutor’s office. On Tuesday, he brought a 69-page petition that had garnered roughly 2,150 online signatures to the office of Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan, who was appointed special prosecutor shortly after Glans was brought up on charges.
Schmidt oversees the Facebook community “Arrest Saratoga Sheriff Sgt. Shawn Glans.” The page has led to the creation of a website — www.policereform.webs.com — that advocates for, among other things, police to wear body cameras to help reduce incidents like the one involving Glans.
“It was just a coercive way to make a search,” he said of Glans’ alleged actions. “It was a violation of the Constitution, and I think we should be very vigilant about these things.”
The misconduct charge against Glans alleges he committed “unauthorized physical acts” in seeking to expedite the search of a vehicle in the Wal-Mart Supercenter parking lot on Route 9. The count of harassment alleges Glans struck Fitch in the back of the head with an open hand while in the parking lot — a slap that is clearly audible on the video.
Schmidt’s petition also calls on Jordan and Saratoga County officials to reveal the name of the other deputy present during the search. The video shows Glans, then a sergeant, wresting Fitch’s car keys away and tossing them to another deputy, presumably to search the vehicle.
Sheriff Michael Zurlo has acknowledged two other deputies were present during the incident, but declined to identify them publicly. On Tuesday, he said an internal probe of the incident continues, but deferred all comment to Jordan.
Jordan, who was out of the office when Schmidt dropped off the petition, said he continues to review the case and is open to any new information that suggests Glans should face additional or more severe charges. But he believes the charges filed by Karen Heggen, the Saratoga County prosecutor who recused herself on Nov. 19, fit what he’s reviewed in the case to date.
“Everything is worth at least reviewing,” he said. “But based on what we’ve seen so far, the conduct as shown on the video and the charges that were filed before we were appointed appear appropriate.”
Jordan also said he doesn’t feel comfortable releasing the names of the deputies at the scene, since they are witnesses to a crime. He said the deputies will be named if it becomes relevant in resolving the case, which remains pending in Halfmoon Town Court.
“Our authority is limited to the purpose of prosecuting Glans,” he said. “There’s nothing we’ve seen at this point that suggests expanding this.”
Glans is due back in court Jan. 27. Jordan said the case is still in its early stages, but he hopes to make some progress during the next court appearance.
“We’re not very far along, but it’s also early,” he said.