News of Otsego County

George Floyd

Police review leaves behind serious debates

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.”

Public Must Be Included In Commission To Review Sheriff’s, D.A.’s Procedures

Public Must Be Included

In Commission To Review

Sheriff, D.A.’s Procedures

George Floyd Death, Protests Prompted
Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 203

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to


COOPERSTOWN – County board Chairman David Bliss will be appointing a committee of about a dozen people, including members of the public, to review “policies and procedures” at the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department and those governing the district attorney’s investigators.

Bliss and County Attorney Ellen Coccoma yesterday briefed the county board’s Administration Committee, carried on Zoom.  (Follow the link from the “Otsego County” Facebook page.)

Extremism Threatens George Floyd’s Legacy


Extremism Threatens

George Floyd’s Legacy

In our nation and county, we have a moment of opportunity.

George Floyd’s death – and, in particular, the graphic video, 8 minutes and 46 seconds of it – caused every American of good will, black, white, Hispanic, even, yes, Indians, to say, enough is enough.

The mechanisms of reform are starting to turn on the question of the moment: How do we retool our police departments so it, finally, once and for all, won’t happen again? How do we retreat from the militarization of local, state and national law enforcement set in motion on Sept. 11, 2001, after terrorists brought the Twin Towers to the ground before every American’s very eyes?

At the state level, Governor Cuomo has ordered every local government with one of the state’s
500 police forces to review records for the past 10 years and “reinvent and modernize police strategies and programs” – BY APRIL 1! This is what’s called, not a wish, not a study, not a forum, but an action plan.

Subjects to be studied include use of force, crowd management, community policing, addressing “implicit bias,” de-escalation training, community-based outreach, citizen-complaint
procedures, and more.

County Rep. Dan Wilber, who chairs the Public Safety & Legislative Affairs Committee, Oneonta Common Council, at Mayor Herzig’s initiative, and the Cooperstown Village Board are already moving to meet the governor’s deadline.

Potentially, this will be George Floyd’s legacy. Let’s not threaten it.

It isn’t guaranteed.

The biggest threat to accomplishing Cuomo’s mandate and George Floyd’s legacy – at base, to create a more perfect union – is extremism and its silly stepchild, overreach.

Extremism? How about Black Lives Matter’s Hawk Newsome, who said the other day: “If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down the system and replace it.” That’s
going to work out well.

Silly overreach? Last week’s action by the Cooperstown Village Board to remove the word “Indian”
from Historic Markers qualifies – and, presumably, eventually from such icons as the “Indian Hunter” in Lakefront Park.

It turns out, though, the word “Indian” is unobjectionable, even preferred, by many Indians themselves, local experts tell us. Some Indians specifically reject the alternative “Native Americans,” noting their ancestors crossed the Bering Strait – “Beringia” – from Asia 15,000 years before Amerigo Vespucci was born in 1454.

Let’s keep our eye on the ball.

The point is, there are “sensitive” experts out there – as compared to the “insensitive” rest of us, as characterized by Trustee MacGuire Benton – who would be contemptuous of the Village Board’s initiative, first raised by Benton and turned into a resolution by Trustee Richard Sternberg.

Thankfully, after knowledgeable instruction, Sternberg said he intends to at least revise his resolution to allow a period of study before approaching the state Education Department and asking for our local monuments to be defaced.

Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch now says that resolutions, like this one, shouldn’t be sprung on the Village Board at the 11th hour of a late-night meeting, as this one was. She’s considering asking that resolution be included in the packet trustees receive on the Friday before their Monday meetings, so they aren’t ambushed.

Look, folks, all of us have undergone severe personal challenges, going on four months now.

Some of us, or family and friends, have been stricken by coronavirus. Many of us have seen our livelihoods challenged. Most of us have been confined, for better or for worse. And all of us have been inconvenienced.

Then, just as things appeared to be improving – maybe, it turns out, in New York State; but in much of the rest of the nation, no – a match was thrown into a bucket of gasoline in Minneapolis, dramatizing a grievous flaw in OUR American society that can no longer go unaddressed.

In both crises – the pandemic and the protests – there has been extremism and overreach, and
they are eroding the consensus that will allow us to get anything out of this mess.

Again, let’s stay focused.

As we enter the Fourth of July weekend, let’s vow to stick to the business of being can-do Americans,
and get both crises behind us, to affirm our American system, that we don’t burn books, and
can read what we want. That we don’t deface monuments over ideology. That we remove statues by due process, not mob rule.

That we can burn flags if we want to – even our revered Stars & Stripes.
Except for very narrow exceptions – shouting fire in a crowded theater – we can say and write what we want. If we can stand the scolds, we can use whatever words we want. And certainly, we can think what we wish, as long as we don’t act on our felonious ruminations.

Let’s treasure these Constitutional guarantees. They’re called freedoms. And looking at most of the world, they’re American freedoms. Let’s cherish them. Let’s learn to appreciate them by practicing them – this Independence Day and going forward.

Unadilla Hosts Rally To Protest Floyd Death

Unadilla Hosts Rally

To Protest Floyd Death

Inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between The World and Me,” Carla Nordstrom, Franklin,
assembled a display of young black men killed by police for the “Rally for Justice” in Unadilla.  Below, Erin Insinga’s daughter, Arianna, relates challenges of being of mixed race in the local white world. (Jim Kevlin/

Otsego County’s third “Rally for Justice,” in memory of George Floyd, drew 125 people to the Unadilla Village Park Saturday, June 13.

Featured speakers included Rev. LaDana Clark and Human Rights Commission Chair Shannon McHugh, both of Oneonta, but also serious Taury Seward, Binghamton, a comedian by trade, Meer Singh, 13, an Oneonta student who listed five steps people can take to fight racism, and Dwight Mott, a Unadilla businessman, who adopted Rwandan refugees.

A fourth rally is 4-6 Friday in Richfield Springs.

Testaments Tell Us: We CAN Do Better


Testaments Tell Us:

We CAN Do Better

David Pearlman, center, the retired Cooperstown High School principal, and Adrian Kuzminski, left, of Sustainable Otsego County, listen to “Rally for Justice” speakers. (Jim Kevlin/

At first, the “Defund the Police” initiatives surfacing nationwide seem like a truly awful idea: a blunt instrument to dissect a complex challenge dramatized again by George Floyd’s May 25 death while being taken into custody in Minneapolis.

But drilling down, benefits surface.

It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that all organizations in Otsego County – local governments, non-profits, churches, businesses large and small, even newspapers – are rethinking operations in light of the coronavirus disorientation.

Bryce Wooden: My
parents could have
been killed.

If “Defund the Police” is a clean-sheet look at police department priorities, why shouldn’t law enforcement do what everybody else is doing right now?

It was hard to listen to personal testimonies of speakers at the Sunday, June 7, “Justice For George Floyd” rally in Cooperstown:

• Bryce Wooden of Oneonta, “a 25-year-old trying to be a good father to my future children,” recounted how in 2000, his white mother and black father – a teacher and a correctional officer – responded to a “bang, bang” on their door at 2 p.m. to find a gun pointed in their faces. They were grilled at gunpoint for a half-hour.

Shannon McHugh: “My daughter shouldn’t have
to be the wokest child.”

• Shannon McHugh, an Oneonta daycare operator who was in the 20 Under 40 class selected five years ago by Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal, reported 10 officers searching her car after a routine stop, and finding nothing. She asked all of us to be “second eyes” when we happen on police stops.

• The Rev. LaDana Clark, the “outreach hip-hop pastor” who has preached at Cooperstown’s Presbyterian Church, described a harrowing series of events ensuing after she gave a cheerful “hi” to troopers on leaving Oneonta’s Walmart. “For the first time in my life, an officer put cuffs on me in Laurens, N.Y. I’m 58 years old,” she recounted. “I was disgusted.”

Diandra Sangetti-Daniels, Oneonta, a personal care assistant, related how she cried while writing down her experiences. Wesley Lippitt of Fly Creek, said only “a Guardian Angel” allowed him to speak at the rally: 10 years earlier, he had been chased out of Cooper Park and shot by a classmate.

Rev. LaDana Clark recounts being handcuffed for the first time in her life: At age 58 in Laurens.

This doesn’t catch the richness and drama of their convincing narratives. Even “Black Lives Matter” skeptics had to leave the Otsego County Courthouse lawn shaking their heads: Something’s wrong here.

So what is wrong here?

Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, Deputy Mayor David Rissberger and Police Chief Doug Brenner by week’s end plan to announce an initiative – perhaps a commission, a task force, an outside audit or a community survey – to ensure the OPD is following best practices.

That fits in with the emerging “Defund the Police” approaches: Today, police officers are being asked to do things they aren’t trained to do – social work, mental-health counseling, arbitrating domestic disputes, drug intervention.

Does it make sense to shift funding from police officers, SWAT teams and deadly weaponry to putting softer skills out in the field? We should ask that question in Otsego County.

Our county, with 60,000 people, has to be right up there in police per capita, with the OPD, the sheriff’s department, Cooperstown’s two officers, state police barracks at Oneonta, Sidney and Richfield Springs, town constables, DEC police, even armed security guards at Bassett Hospital.

This is all very expensive. Is our investment working?

Since George Floyd’s death, people are asking: Are police unions protecting their members from discipline or removals that might save lives? Officer Chauvin, charged in Floyd’s death, was in the top 8 percent of Minneapolis officers in terms of public complaints.

One study has found that the 5 percent of officers with the most complaints against them are responsible for 80 percent of civilian deaths.

That suggests a pretty easy way to eliminate 4/5th of cases like George Floyd’s.

Right now, we don’t know who those officers are, but that may change: Monday, the state Assembly passed the STAT Act (for Statistics & Transparency) that would make such data public and “help researchers and the public evaluate the effectiveness of criminal justice policies,” according to Speaker Carl Heastie. The state Senate should adjust it as prudent and pass it.

Going forward, the presupposition of black guilt, as attested to by the “Rally for Justice” speakers from personal experience, stands and must be addressed.

Let’s hope the City of Oneonta provides a model. The county Sheriff’s Department should move forward similarly, with Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr., in concert with what’s proving to be the county board’s able leadership, chairman Dave Bliss, vice chair Meg Kennedy, county Rep. Dan Wilber, R-Burlington, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, and other reps.

Bryce Wooden, Shannon McHugh, Pastor LaDana and the others were convincing: Racism – or at least ignorance and insensitivity – exist here, in the police and, regrettably, ourselves. In our police, we should require objectivity and evenhandedness.

All of us – we whites in particular, including this editorial’s writer, given we’re 94 percent
of Otsego Countians; but all of us, Hispanics, blacks, arrivals from the Pacific Rim and Indian – should conduct personal audits and strive, not to accuse, but to accept and support our fellow humans.

Families Like Floyd’s ‘Great Role Models’


Families Like Floyd’s

‘Great Role Models’

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Hazel Floyd helped raise Chip Northrup.

COOPERSTOWN – Chip Northrup knows a few things about protesting.

“There was a big billboard outside of Dallas that proclaimed ‘Welcome to the Home of the John Birch Society’,” he said. “So I got a gang together and we paint-bombed the billboard. I was Antifa before Antifa was cool!”

And when he heard about the death of Houston native George Floyd, Northrup recognized the name immediately.

DRUGOVICH: Hartwick United In Seeking Justice


Hartwick United

In Seeking Justice

Editor’s Note: Hartwick College President Margaret L. Drugovich issued this letter to the college community to address concerns in the wake of George Floyd’s death.


Simply occupying the office of the college presidency does not give me the right to presume that I know how every member of our community thinks or feels. We do not all agree on politics, culture or even the meaning of words. The very nature of an academic community begs us to question and debate every thought, every statement, and every idea that takes flight.

Margaret Drugovich has
served as Hartwick College’s
president since 2008.

But there are some ideas that stand clearly apart from all others. When it comes to human decency, justice, and fairness, there is no room for equivocation.

And so I write to every member of our Hartwick Community to say to all who will listen that we condemn the murder of George Floyd. There is no room for bias-fueled hatred at Hartwick. At Hartwick, we stand with all who seek justice for Mr. Floyd’s death.

It is our responsibility to eliminate the social, health and economic inequities that allow bias-fueled hate to continue. We must stare into the truth that these inequities result in pain for both individuals and our society as a whole. There is no benefit to any one of us if others are treated with less respect, care, compassion, or opportunity and more prejudice, mistrust, anger and cruelty. It is easy to say the words “Black Lives Matter.”

Each of us must act in a way that makes it clear that Black lives do matter. Each of us must act in a way that makes it clear that every life matters.

In my video message on May 31 I spoke to our students about how important it is to get an education that will open doors to spaces of influence so that we can make the change that is so overdue. I hope that my message planted the seed of hope that this madness does not need to continue. Education certainly is not the full answer, nor is it the only answer, but it is one path to a more just future.

I am a white woman who has worked hard to move to a place of relative privilege, but I have also been allowed the opportunity to do so. I cannot claim to fully appreciate the depth of rage and anguish of a woman of color who has been deprived of this same opportunity. I cannot know what it is like to be a black man who fears for his life when he leaves his home.

But I do understand the fear that comes with the inability to breath. If you are angry, hurt, frustrated and afraid, please know that you are not alone. We do care about you. And we will defend and protect your right to live without fear.

We will soon organize a forum for our community to discuss what we have learned from this tragedy and how we can turn that learning into meaningful action. I hope that you will participate.

Hartwick College’s President: Education Helps Ensure Justice


Hartwick College’s

President: Education

Helps Ensure Justice

On May 31, six days after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Hartwick College President Margaret L. Drugovich told students about how, through education, they are preparing to ensure justice in the world. She also shared Hartwick’s reopening plans for the fall and asserts, “When given permission, we will be ready.” And she again thanks those who are keeping us safe during this COVID-19 crisis.

Herzig, Rissberger Initiating Review Of OPD Practices

Herzig, Rissberger

Initiating Review

Of OPD Practices

Chief Brenner Denounces ‘Practices

That Hurt, Demean, Destroy Trust’

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to


ONEONTA – The mayor and a senior Council member have already opened conversations with Police Chief Doug Brenner on how to review departmental operations in the wake of nationwide unrest following the May 25 death of George Floyd while being taking into custody in Minneapolis.

“First of all, I have confidence in our police chief and police department,” Mayor Gary Herzig said a few minutes ago.  “However, this is a time for all of us to do a little introspection and self-awareness and take a look at our operating procedures and our policies to make sure they are designed to do everything that we can to guard against any type of inequality in how we treat the public.”

He expects to be able to announce the form of the review – whether a commission, audit of OPD procedures, through Common Council or some other means – by the end of this week.

Police, Racism Decried At 3rd Rally In Region

Police, Racism

Decried At 3rd

Rally In Region

Estimated 800 Fill Courthouse Lawn

Some 800 people filled the courthouse lawn for two and a half hours this afternoon to rally for justice after the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.  Throughout, the crowd cheered, chanted and waved signs. (Jim Kevin/

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

“I am only here today because I had a Guardian Angel,” Wes Lippitt of Fly Creek told today’s gathering.

COOPERSTOWN – Ten years after he was chased by an armed classmate from Cooperstown Park on a sunny Good Friday and shot, Wesley Lippitt recounted the events this afternoon on the lawn of the Otsego County Courthouse:

“Racism is here,” he testified to an almost completely white crowd that organizers estimated at about 800 people, gathered to rally for justice after George Floyd’s death on being taking into police custody May 25 in Minneapolis. “It’s a thing.  It is time for all of us to open our eyes.”

Lippitt, then 16, was wounded when Anthony Pacherille, 15, later imprisoned for eight years, cornered him in the police station in the basement of Village Hall and fired.

700 Protesters Decry Racism’s Endurance At Delhi Courthouse


700 Protesters Decry

Racism’s Endurance

At Delhi Courthouse

In a rally on Delhi’s Courthouse Square today, Christina Hunt Wood, an organizer, urged 700+ attendee to do the “uncomfortable work of looking racism straight in the eye.” (Ivy Yin photos)
Markers with the names of 30 blacks who died at the hands of police were placed in front of the Delaware County seat’s Civil War monument.

DELHI – Organizers said more than 700 people filled Delhi’s Courthouse Square today and lined the town’s Main Street for a protest and “living memorial” to honor black lives.

The number topped an estimated 500 last Sunday in Oneonta’s Muller Plaza.  A third local protest, one of hundreds nationwide, is planning at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Sunday) in front of the Otsego County Courthouse in Cooperstown.

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: Cooperstown To Protest Racism, Police Brutality 06-07-20

Cooperstown To Protest

Racism, Police Brutality


PROTEST – 1 – 5 p.m. Come for a peaceful protest against the police violence that led to the death of George Floyd, raise money to support NAACP & ACLU. Be prepared to socially distance, wear your masks. Bring your friends, loved ones, and signs. All are welcome. Otsego County Courthouse, Cooperstown.

Letter From Oneonta NAACP: Outraged? Yes! We Exclaim, ‘Not Again’

Outraged? Yes!

We Exclaim, ‘Not Again’

When we saw the heinous act of another black man, George Floyd, intentionally being held down by four relaxed policemen and George not resisting arrest, but resisting suffocation and pleading “I can’t breathe, please let me stand,” it makes us return to the actions during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It was difficult to watch one policeman putting his knee with increased pressure on Mr. Floyd’s neck and three policemen watching until another black man’s life was painfully lost.

We could go back to Emmett Till in Mississippi, Ronna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., Eric Garner in New York City, Trayvon Martin and just a few weeks ago, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, shot dead running through a predominately white neighborhood, along with many others too numerous to list or mention.

We are not surprised, we are angry. Yes, again we are shocked when most of these killings we have
witnessed, through new technology – except Emmett Till – result usually without immediate arrest. When these incidents happen they continually make your blood pressure spike for weeks, but we are not surprised of the bad police action throughout our nation and time and time again our justice system not resolving cases.

Shocked? No. Surprised? No. Outraged? Yes! And we exclaim, “Not again!” When is enough going to be enough? A national communication process will certainly not even start with this person presently living in the “wrong house” for three years.

Thursday evening, May 28, Joanne and I participated, along with 1,200 others, in a webinar presented by Derrick Johnson, CEO & president of our National NAACP, and panelist including presidents of the Minneapolis, Georgia, Louisville, New York Branches, each explaining the situations happening in their communities, what they are doing to resolve their immediate problems but also what they are doing with actions moving ahead.

President Derrick Johnson strongly emphasized that if change is to be made, people must use positive energy to complete the Census, get to the polls on Nov. 4, and make a concerted effort to know your legislators and community leaders.

As our vice president, Michelle Osterhoudt, stated in her memo to each of you – “Talk about it, denounce social injustice, raise awareness and most importantly, join your local NAACP.” These are the way that you can make your communities stronger.



Lee Fisher is president of the

NAACP, Oneonta chapter.

In Appreciation: George Floyd


George Floyd, 46,

From Fellow Texan

By CHIP NORTHRUP • Special to

George Floyd

George Floyd was a big, happy-go-lucky Texan.

He had a daughter named Gianna and was a member of a Bible study class. I grew up in Texas with good hard working men like George, including members of his extended family.

Otis Floyd, Sr. was our handyman. His sons Otis, Jr., Michael and Clifford were our moving men. His wife, Hazel Gay Floyd helped raise our four children. Daughter Esther was our babysitter.

I spoke at Hazel’s funeral and thanked her for raising our children. Otis Jr. joked that she spent more time with our kids than with her own. She certainly spent more time with them than I did.

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