ONEONTA — The Common Council held a public hearing for the long anticipated vote on the Community Advisory Board Review Committee report Tuesday, Sept. 21, created in response to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive that police departments create a document of “best practices” by local law enforcement with input from the community.
Only two people spoke at the public hearing, both of whom were supportive of the council passing the report.
Daniel Driver said the report gave him “confidence in how hard the OPD works with few resources, but also cause for concern” and urged the council to consider more social services for those with mental health issues and addiction. He said that police officers were being put in a “untenable position where they have to arrest or interact with folks” who have some of those issues.
“There is a lot more to be done,” Driver said.
Steve Ludner offered “personal gratitude and thanks” for those who worked on CABRC and suggested the council “modify some of the wording” to make “clear that the Community Police Board will have options for community engagement.”
ONEONTA — Members of the Community Advisory Board Review Council, which includes mayoral candidates Mark Drnek and Len Carson, discussed some of the language pertaining to the Community Advisory Board document on “best practices” for the Oneonta Police Department.
However, ultimately it was decided there would need to be another meeting in two weeks to further discuss what is being put in the final document.
The delay means the city will miss the self-imposed deadline for acting on the plan.
Most of the issues the CAB had with the document as it stands now were highly semantical including replacing the words “may” with “shall” when referring to certain practices.
The biggest issue discussed was the language about “use of force” procedures, which is a broad category that includes verbal commands as well as use of potentially deadly force.
ONEONTA — A committee including mayoral candidates Mark Drnek and Len Carson approved final changes to the Community Advisory Board police review document, which will sent back to the original CAB members followed by a public hearing.
The process should take about a month to complete, according to city officials.
The Community Advisory Board met Tuesday, July 13, at City Hall to follow up on the document, which was prepared in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order for police departments to recommend “best practices” that align with community values. That order and a review Herzig had ordered before Cuomo’s order, were in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020. A Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of Floyd’s murder in April.
COOPERSTOWN – An Oneonta man, whose violent altercation in Unadilla ended in a stabbing and the victim having to be taken by helicopter to a medical facility, appeared in Otsego County court Monday, May 24, to face charges of assault in the first and second degree.
Richard Gantt voluntarily agreed to be interviewed by state police, according to testimony.
“I was called because it was a serious case,” Jeremy Hicks, investigator for the New York State Police, said via video in the courtroom.
The confrontation which led to the stabbing occurred on Sunday, Oct, 18, 2020, at a Halloween party, with Logan Kabana of Oneonta.
Gantt, who is Black, claimed during the police interview that Kabana had made racial remarks, leading to the fight.
However, Kabana said during the proceedings, that he had been hanging out with Gantt and did a shot with him when he made a remark that somebody who was hanging out near the fire pit was a serial killer and was going to get Gantt. This allegedly caused Gantt to fly into a rage and resulted in Kabana being assaulted and stabbed.
The next day, Kabana picked out Gantt from a photo array and police sought out Gantt’s girlfriend, who works at Springbrook, and eventually got him to come down to the state police barracks in Oneonta, where he was read his Miranda rights.
Lambert at one point warned an observer in the courtroom, who was shaking their head demonstrably in reaction to an overruled objection, to no longer do that or they would be removed from the courtroom.
There was no return court appearance set, but Lambert predicted they would convene again in about a month.
Not only has a police shooting made history in Oneonta, it’s making statewide history, too.
A new department in the state Attorney General’s Office, the Office of Special Investigations, created by Executive Order 147 after George Floyd’s death last May 25, opened its door on April 1, according to Sofia Quintanar, the AG’s deputy press secretary.
The office is empowered to “investigate and, if warranted, prosecute … a police officer … concerning any incident in which the death of a person, whether in custody or not, is caused by an act or omission.”
Five days later, on Tuesday, April 6, Tyler Green, 23, (also identified as Tyler Johnson in early reports), was shot twice after pulling a knife in a domestic dispute at 48 River St., by Sgt. Ralph Pajerski, an 18-year veteran of the Oneonta Police Department.
“This is the first in the state for our new department,” said Quintanar.
Both officers remain on the job, with Sergeant Pajerski on desk duty while the investigation is in progress, and his partner in responding to the 48 River situation, Officer Kristen Lapointe, resuming her regular duties, said OPD Chief Chris Witzenburg.
With officials and officers who have viewed Pajerski’s body cam saying it shows he acted as he had to, Witzenburg said, “The frustration for me is that it’s taking as long as it’s going to take – 6-8 weeks. But I understand they have an investigative procedure they’ve adopted, and I’m just going to have to trust it.”
In an era when everyone rushes to judgment about everything, it’s reassuring to see the sensible, restrained comments on www.AllOTSEGO.com to last week’s police shooting of Tyler Johnson, 23, of 48 River St., during a domestic dispute.
“I’m not saying the cop was wrong,” said one commentator. “The guy had a knife and was grabbing for the woman, then the kid. He even stabbed her in the leg. It’s a sad situation, but I believe the officer did his job.”
“After the guy slashed the woman’s leg, he turned to the male cop and tried to stab him in the leg, too,” wrote another.
“Cop danced back and avoided it. Happened fast.”
“Officer was absolutely correct to do what he did,” said another.
ONEONTA – After Common Council approval Tuesday evening, the Oneonta Police Department’s new class of six men and one woman – a record seven – will be sworn by Mayor Gary Herzig at 10 a.m. next Monday, the 22nd, in an open-air ceremony in Neahwa Park, City Hall confirmed this morning.
The new officers are Michael Angellotti, Christian Cooper, Bryce Kohout, Michael Pedulla, Carson Pochkar, Thomas Steinberg and Karolina Stypulkowski.
Each will be paid $40,000, the starting salary under the Police Benevolent Association’s contract with City Hall, and will undergo six months of training at the Broome County Police Academy.
ONEONTA – The Oneonta Police Department is warning residents of “numerous phone scams” reported locally.
• A caller purportedly from the Social Security Office advises you your Social Security number has been compromised. You are then asked for personal information, including bank information, and – eventually – to send money.
Editor’s Note: Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig delivered his sixth annual “State of the City” speech to Common Council Tuesday, Jan. 19. This is the text.
Good evening, Oneonta – We have been tested these past 10 months; however, I can tell you that the state of the City of Oneonta is one of Strength, Resilience, and Caring 2020 was a year that Oneonta will always remember – not only for the unprecedented challenges it brought – but also for the way we came together to overcome them. From the shutdown of the spring, to the SUNY outbreak of the Fall, and now the second wave of the Winter, we have stuck together and we are getting to the other side.
I know that Oneontans are independent-minded folks – never shy about letting you know when they disagree with you – but we come together as one when times are tough. I could not be more proud of your doing so this past year.
Editor’s Note: In this July 19 letter, Oneonta Police Chief Douglas W. Brenner expressed his concern about the“Say Their Names” photo display at the Westcott Lot. Nonetheless, Common Council unanimously approved the display Tuesday, July 21, and it was installed this past Sunday.
The Oneonta Police Department has always placed the needs and concerns of the residents and visitors to the City of Oneonta as its first priority.
While not insensitive to the issues facing the nation and the world, the efforts of the members of the department are best focused on what we can do for our neighbors to make Oneonta a better place for everyone.
On the agenda for the regular meeting of the Oneonta Common Council for July 21, Item 9 is listed as a topic for discussion and pertains to a photographic display supporting Black Lives Matter to be placed on the fence at the head of the Westcott lot on Main Street.
I would be remiss not to express my concerns with a photographic display that could show members of law enforcement locally in a negative context.
The city is blessed to have residents and visitors who can freely express themselves in a respectable and constructive manner, which has been seen on at least two occasions in the recent past.
We enjoy good neighbors, friendships and any display that disrupts the community feeling and positive energy of the community serves no purpose but to divide, especially when the content of the display is in relation to incidents that did not occur locally and show all law enforcement, including members of Oneonta Police Department, negatively.
Any display that could have ramifications that are potentially divisive to the City of Oneonta, its residents and its businesses, is not an image that should be promoted.
In addition, as the chief of police, one of my top concerns is for the wellbeing of the members of the Oneonta Police Department.
Police officers throughout the nation are under attack for the disturbing and unlawful actions of a few other law enforcement officials from other agencies who they have no contact with, no allegiance to, any sympathy for, and no tolerance for such actions.
This has caused a national shortage of those who wish to serve their community. Oneonta is no exception to this shortage. The department currently has two unfilled patrol officer positions and two members who are eligible for retirement. The current civil service list is almost exhausted and there is no entrance exam scheduled for this year by the state.
Many other departments throughout the state are accepting lateral transfers, as are we, but are able to offer more advantageous working conditions.
If my officers sense that the City of Oneonta is not supporting their hard work, their dedication to community, their professionalism, their unwavering dedication to fairness by allowing a divisive display, the probability of losing more officers increases.
We at the Oneonta Police Department enjoy a positive relationship with our friends and neighbors in the city, and work very hard to promote good relationships with all members of the community in which we protect and serve. A display that intentionally shows all members of law enforcement in a negative light based on the actions of a few from well outside our area would be devastating to the morale of the finest officers I have ever had the pleasure to work with and lead.
As the chief of police and a lifelong community member, I would hope that all factors are taken into consideration before any display is permitted in the City of Oneonta. Our strength comes from ourselves, and the residents in the City of Oneonta are compassionate, respectful,
have concern and empathy for our neighbors, and love of community.
Any display that does not emphasize the positivity only serves as a catalyst to create division and polarization of this community.
ONEONTA – Oneonta Police arrested a man after he allegedly spray-painted “demonic” symbols on a church and other Main Street businesses, according to Police Chief Doug Brenner.
Thomas R. Miller, 26, Oneonta, was arrested after a tip into graffiti that appeared on Main Street businesses and two churches between November 2019 and Feb. 22. “We were able to match the symbols with ones he posted on social media,” said Brenner.
ONEONTA – Within hours of Saturday morning’s fire that claimed the life of former Oneonta firefighter John D. Heller, the leads began to pour in.
“We had more than 70 leads,” said Police Chief Doug Brenner an hour ago at a press conference held jointly with Fire Chief Pat Pidgeon. “And the investigation is continuing.”
The men reported Terrence Truitt, 34, Oneonta, was arrested and charged with first-degree arson, which investigators believe started on the second floor of 5 Walling Ave.
Heller and his fiancee, Amber Roe, lived on the top floor, and had their four nephews staying with them that night. Heller and Roe helped the children escape, but then was unable to get out of the building.
ONEONTA – Oneonta police served three no-knock search warrants at three apartments just before sunup today, arresting two men after a six-month interagency investigation of heroin and crack-cocaine sales in the City of the Hills.
At 6 a.m., 30 officers and K9s from the OPD, a Joint Otsego/Delaware Special Operations Bureau, and state police surprised occupants of Apartment B, 38 West St., and Apartments 207 and 306, 9 Lewis Ave.
ONEONTA – With a score of 75 on the police examination in March, Acting Police Chief Doug Brenner will be one of three people interviewed for the vacant Oneonta police chief position. “I guess all that studying paid off!” he joked.
Five candidates from across the state took the civil service exam, including Oneonta Detective Sgt. Christopher J. Witzenburg. A 70 on the exam is considered passing, and the three top-scoring candidates are eligible for interviews by the city. Witzenburg placed fourth in the rankings, but did pass the exam.
The top three candidates were asked to return a letter stating that they were interested in the position. “I’m absolutely interested,” said Brenner. “I’m taking my letter to City Hall this afternoon.”