If anyone has any doubts about who should head up the Troy Police Department after Commissioner Tony Magnetto steps down on Friday, they should just watch Chief John Tedesco’s speech at Wednesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting.
He wasn't at the one-sided, dog-and-pony show Magnetto and Mayor Lou Rosamilia had on Tuesday where no new real light was shed on anything, but a day later he addressed the Kokopellis incident with a strength and common sense not seen by either side of the Jan. 25 incident that has spiked racial tensions.
Tedesco defended his officers, as he should, but did not comment on their guilt or innocence because, he said, all the facts are not yet reviewed. He did, however, recognize problems police have within certain communities and proposed structural changes including the need for stronger community policing and changes in how the department disciplines officers who screw up.
He said community police positions should come out of the contractually mandated bidding process so officers can stay on the detail for longer than a year without the threat of being bumped because someone simply has more seniority. That way, he said, stronger relationships can develop between the community and the officers.
Disciplining an officer who does screw up – and they are human so they do screw up – should be a swift, fair and consistent process to benefit the victims if they suffered harm and the officer should the claim be unfounded.
He did take exception to some comments made by “Mr. Willie Bacote.” No, he did not call him “pastor.” Some, like Tina Urzan, the long time, well respected proprietor of Olde Judge Mansion in North Central, bypassed the “mister” and just called him “Willie.”
Bacote was not at Christ Church for Wednesday’s meeting, though he led a march through the streets of Troy prior to last week’s meeting.
“Here we have a man who for the past 18 months has repeatedly alleged that people of color, many of whom are in his congregation, have been mistreated at the hands of Troy police officers,” Tedesco said. “Last week, Mr. Bacote stated that he is ‘tired of mothers brining their children to him beaten by Troy police officers.’ He then went on to proclaim he would ‘no longer tolerate such abuse and hold city officials accountable.’ Mr. Bacote, I would ask if you were here, did you notify city officials? Besides the media did you notify anyone? I am publically challenging Mr. Bacote, when he hears of my remarks, to produce these victims so their claims can be properly investigated.”
The chief did tip his hat to Alice Green, of the Center of Law and Justice. Last week she agreed with Tedesco’s stance all along that an independent investigation is the only way to satisfactorily answer the question of whether or not police used excessive force.
“Your call for an independent investigation by the Unite Stated Department of Justice is welcomed not feared,” Tedesco said. “On behalf of the officers involved in the Kokopellis riot, we know an independent investigation is the only mechanism that will provide them relief for the stigma attached so unfairly attached to their actions that night.”
After Bacote, Tedesco laid into Barry Glick, one of the owners of Kokopellis, who last week compared Troy police officers to the Klu Klux Klan.
“Let me express my profound sense of repulsion at your analogy of Troy police officers acting in a manner akin to the Klu Klux Klan,” Tedesco said to a round of applause. “How dare you exploit one of the darkest periods in our nation’s history in attempting to deflect the blame from yourself for the outrageous conduct you permitted to take place in your establishment on Jan. 25.”
While last week Glick said Roshwan Donley, the man who got hit with a nightstick, was working two jobs and was looking for a third so he could we his fiancé, but Tedesco pointed out that Glick omitted the fact Donley has an outstanding weapons charge and is currently being prosecuted for failing to pay child support.
Police Benevolent Association President Bob Fitzgerald, who is rarely on Tedesco’s side of anything, also bashed Bacote and called on him to resign from the Troy African American Pastoral Alliance. Peggy Kownack said “just because you call yourself a minister doesn’t mean you’re one.”
“Bob is speaking for the PBA and himself and not representing the administration,” Public Safety Committee Chairman Bob Doherty said while introducing Fitzgerald, which is odd since I can’t figure out why the president of the PBA union would represent the administration in anything. Fitzgerald then in turn bashed Doherty for showing up at the New York State Liquor Authority on behalf of the owners of Kokopellis.
“I don’t care if it’s your right, your constituent or your friend,” Fitzgerald said as Doherty tried to cut him off. “How can you make any objective decision on this case when you are walking hand in hand with this guy to the Liquor Authority? The members of the Troy PBA are demanding an explanation and an apology. And the chief of police and his staff deserves an explanation and an apology.”
He also criticized Glick for his KKK comments and the way he and his son Joseph operate the bar.
There were other speakers, but Tedesco did steal the show. It’s going to be interesting to see if Rosamilia tries to put someone else over the chief’s head. Then again, at this point in time, who would want if for $30,000.