Former top trooper: Close G’town PD

GERMANTOWN—Harry Corbitt, a retired superintendent of the NY State Police, submitted his Germantown Police Assessment report dated June 26, 2018 and it is posted on the town website .

Parts of the six-page report are redacted, so that personal and personnel information is not released to the public, but Mr. Corbitt’s conclusions are published in full: “The Germantown Police Department has not demonstrated engagement in performing a full array of law enforcement services during the past three years,” he writes, “[and] has not functioned in a similar manner as their counterparts for the last three years if not longer.”

The three-year mark is stressed presumably because an earlier assessment report was submitted by Peter Volkmann, the Village of Chatham police chief, dated March 23, 2015. The Town Board had hired Chief Volkmann as a consultant to review the Germantown PD, as Mr. Corbitt was hired earlier this year. Mr. Corbitt concurred with the findings of Chief Volkmann.

“Frankly, the Town Board knew that the police department was problematic based on [that] 2015 assessment and failed to take any action to rectify the issues stated therein,” Mr. Corbitt writes in a section of his report titled “Vulnerabilities.”

“The Town Board has now received a second report identifying additional problems regarding deficiencies that are so profound, the only recommendation that can be offered objectively is to ensure that the department refrain [from] engaging in any police services,” Mr. Corbitt writes.

The text under the headings “Supervision” and “judgment” is redacted in full, along with parts of “Training.” Regarding training, Mr. Corbitt notes, “There are no records indicating certification in first aid/CPR, use of force, de-escalation or firearms training for the officer-in-charge. …Training records of other recent police department employees are also inadequate.

“Significantly,” he writes, “it appears the police department is not and has not been complying for several years regarding the submission of mandated annual filings to DCJS [state Division of Criminal Justice Services].

Reported in full is “Headquarters,” in which Chief Volkmann’s assessment is again referred to by way of “recommendations to purge old memos and information posted on wall had not been accomplished. Also recommended was the acquisition of a booking bench to accommodate securement of prisoners. The booking bench although ordered was on the floor in an unopened box.”

The police scanner was on, noted Mr. Corbitt, but neither of the part-time officers was “present to monitor” it. Trash “was on top of the desk and overflowing in the waste basket.” In general Mr. Corbitt found the office “unkempt with binders and equipment haphazardly piled on shelves.

“The office has the potential to be an adequate space to conduct police business,” he wrote, “however the randomly scattered papers and outdated material observed posted on a bulletin board did not breed confidence….”

The public parts of the Corbitt report do not mention the two Bushmaster Patrol Rifles, described as “AR-15 style” rifles, that the town purchased for the Police Department in the spring of 2013.

At the time the town had five part-time officers. They carried two shotguns when on patrol, locked in the trunk of the patrol car, in addition to pistols on their persons. They had been asking for an upgrade “for years,” then-Supervisor Roy Brown told The Columbia Paper.

Brian DuBois was officer-in-charge in 2013 and remained in the post until he was placed on paid administrative leave this year. He earns $17 per hour.

The force had been down to one part-time officer, Damon Fili, who had his appointment rescinded in June because “he didn’t take the oath of office,” said current Supervisor Robert Beaury. Mr. Fili earned $15 per hour.

Mr. Corbitt reported that he did not interview Mr. DuBois.

At the July 10 Town Board meeting, Mr. Beaury shared observations made in Mr. Corbitt’s report, that “there is no difference between what is expected of a full-time police officer or a part-time police officer. The officer will have the same training and the organization will be professional, will withstand scrutiny. Police departments are under tremendous scrutiny in 2018.”

Mr. Beaury reported that “in 2017 the Police Department spent less than $140 on gas—not a lot of time on the road.” He urged the two-dozen residents at the meeting to read the report. The board then set a meeting for Wednesday, July 18 at 5:30 p.m., at which time public comment would be heard and the board would set the next steps for the police department.

Abolishing the department will require a local law, and that will require a public hearing, said Corinne Smith, a partner at Whitbeck, Benedict & Smith, LLP in Hudson.

Ms. Smith was appointed town attorney at a special Town Board meeting July 2, after the resignation of Tal Rappleyea. The Whitbeck Benedict & Smith firm was formerly Rapport Meyers.

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