Mayor Stephanie Miner should be congratulated for her attempts to change the culture of the Syracuse Police Department. Past administrations have let conditions fester to the point where a jury, returning punitive damages in an abuse case, stated that retaliations by Syracuse police officers seems to have become official policy.
The problem with the police department is vividly displayed by the recent statements made by Police Benevolent Association president Jeff Piedmonte. Describing the police’s anger at the Mayor’s refusal to sign off on an award for valor because the officer was convicted of abusive behavior, Piedmonte stated:
Our concern is, if that happens here, is she going to take the side of the police, or is she going to take the side of the liberal community saying this is horrible.
No wonder the Syracuse Police Department continues to rack up jury awards for abuse of both it’s own dissenters and the public at large. The police union leadership view the world through an “us v. them” prism. They are no better than a gang flying its own colors–you’re with us or you’re against us.
It will be interesting to see if the cops mount a public response to this perceived injustice. Nothing could possibly be worse than the pictures of a few years ago when then-NAACP president Donna Reese escorted an African-American family through a gauntlet of uniformed police officers outside the courtroom where an officer was being tried for clubbing an innocent 12 year old girl in the face. But you never know with these PBA idiots.
The city is committed to reforming both the police department’s procedures, it’s internal affairs department and the supposedly independent Citizen Review Board. It’s going to be a long, hard slog–but the people are in place to see it through: a tough Mayor in Miner, an ally in the Council in Bill Ryan (head of the public safety committee) and the new Chief of Police Frank Fowler.
In my organizing job, our members work with all of the aforementioned officials. In addition, we work with scores of police officers. Most of them are helpful and go out of their way to try to help residents. they come to meetings, they give us information and they propose alternative ideas for crime reduction These officers are ill served by their union leadership and the cadre of rogue officers, stirring up hatred within the department and sowing an attitude of distrust about the community.
It’s time for heads to roll.