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Police review leaves behind serious debates

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to

Oneonta’s Common Council will likely meet its self-imposed June 1, deadline to review, and change or adopt, the city’s Community Advisory Board’s recommendations for the Oneonta Police Department, Mayor Gary Herzig said Tuesday, May 17.

Among the topics being discussed are the status of no-knock raids in Oneonta, making statistics of crime and arrests available to the public and a review board to examine the high number of arrests of people of color.

“The city’s process has been very good. We’ve had input from a large number of community members,” Herzig said. “The council is researching our ability to implement those plans … I’m happy with the fact that we took the governor’s order to heart and out of it came a very robust report.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed executive order 203 in June, calling on local communities to set up boards for which to examine and update as needed policing practices and policies.

The proposal by the CAB is that no-knock raids should no longer occur for cases of non-violent crimes.

District Attorney John Muehl called limiting no-knock raids “naive,” saying that drug dealers are often armed.

Interim Oneonta Police Chief Christopher Witzenberg echoed these sentiments in a conversation with Iron String Press.

“No-knock raids are not something we take lightly but there is a place for them,” Witzenberg said. “Often times non-violent crimes are committed by violent people.”

He also said that the document put out by CAB confused pretext stops, or a minor traffic violation but is then investigated for a more serious crime, with racially motivated stops.

Councilmember Luke Murphy, D-First Ward, who is on CAB, said he thinks Witzenberg has a point about no-knock raids but said, “It’s a concern of the community that (no-knock raids) are not abused.”

During discussion about appropriate use of force at the advisory board meeting Tuesday, May 18, Councilmember Mark Drnek, D-Eighth Ward, read a statement from Muehl.

“What do the members of common council or the committee know about police use of force that makes them qualified to review policies, make recommendations or examine the use of force incidents,” the statement read.

In 2014, Oneonta became the smallest city in New York to receive New York state accreditation for its police department



  1. “…and a review board to examine the high number of arrests of people of color”. Throughout it’s history, OPD has never displayed a racial bias and further has a history of making informed, fair, unbiased and legally proper arrests. Pure educated logic would therefore deduce that OPD is arresting a high number of people of color because a high number of people of color are committing a high number of crimes!! There is no racial bias or “systemic” racism in the OPD, there is just good and proper police work as proven by NYS Accreditation and years of effective policing in the Oneonta community. This “advisory board” need not look for something that does not exist in an effort to justify it’s existence.

  2. Too many opinions lacking actual substance. How were members of the “task force” selected? The “task force” was created because of the Executive Order of Mr. Cuomo, not because of any specific issue with the OPD. The only thing that can be done with the “task force” is to have the council “accept,” or “not accept” the “task force,” that must not interfere with the OPD collective bargaining agreement of conflict with the City Charter. This local process offers an excellent example of the problems with a Governor that reads focus group and poll results while lounging in South Hampton. Reality is that our frisky Governor should have used the correct process by consulting with DCJS first.

  3. OPD, we absolutely, definitely need you! There is a criminal element that now exists in Oneonta, that did not exist before. Keep the faith, OPD!!

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