Police Chief John Tedesco on Monday scoffed at calls for his resignation - and rightly so.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know Mayor Lou Rosamilia gave day-to-day command of the TPD to Commissioner Anthony Magnetto about a year ago and since Tedesco has been left out of the loop.
I suppose Rev. Willie Bacote, who is leading the charge, could call for Magnetto’s resignation but he was one of the ones who wanted Magnetto appointed in the first place. Plus, those calls would be moot since Magnetto is headed back into retirement in about a week. Appearing on Talk1300, Tedesco said he thinks Bacote might be in "somebody's pocket."
Meanwhile, Tedesco is also calling for an independent investigation into the melee at Kokopellis that ended with six patrons arrested and six officers in the hospital. At issue is whether or not cops used excessive force, which a 44-second clip of the chaotic scene seems to indicate, or whether they used only force enough to get control of the situation.
Set aside all the fringe concerns and that’s really the only question that needs answering. The bar’s tumultuous history, the fact police were expecting problems by setting up the MobileCommand Center at 10 p.m. Friday and putting four extra patrols on duty in that zone, the inevitable, if unwarranted, racial component and the turmoil among the TPD hierarchy are all irrelevant.
I don’t know the answer to that central question. I don’t think anyone does at this point in time.
And the answer can’t be had by an internal investigation. I agree with Tedesco in that an outside agency should investigate for two reasons: If the officers are exonerated it dispels the already loud cries of a cover up, and if they are found to have used excessive force then the city would have no choice but to take the appropriate course of action.
If the officers did use excessive force, they should pay the penalty if they didn't they shouldn't. It's really as simple as that.
In other developments:
-The Record finally caught up with the story four days after the fact - The Gazette, based in Schenectady, which hasn’t covered a Rensselaer county story in who knows how long, even beat The Record. The Times Union, also late to the game, has a strong editorial in Tuesday’s edition calling for an external investigation. Channel 13 has, in my opinion, been leading the pack.
- Bacote, at a well-attended community forum, made four other demands of the city in addition to Tedesco’s resignation and a call for an independent investigation. One of them is placing the officers involved on unpaid suspension pending investigation’s outcome. I don’t think the city can do that, but it can place them on paid leave for a month, which is not a bad idea for their own safety and to help diffuse an explosive environment.
-Again, I don't know if officers used excessive force or not but if they did I really don't think race was the motivating factor. Two of the four recent, high profile cases of abuse or alleged involve white suspects. That's 50 percent for anyone who doesn't have a calculator handy.
-Rosamilia is standing by his guys and for that I give him credit. Nobody knows what happened and until we do the officers are, like anyone else, presumed innocent. I think he should have held the press conference initially slated for Monday but later cancelled. If I were him, though, I wouldn’t want to answer questions either but then again, I’m not the mayor and that’s what mayors are supposed to do.
-City Councilman Bob Doherty, D-District 4, and Council President Rodney Wiltshire have vowed to get to the bottom of what happened. If they were smart, though, they will stay out of it and wait for an investigation, be it internal or external, and not fan the flames by trying to score political points.
-I hope both sides, the police and the black community, show some restraint in the coming days. Police were ready for a fight – evidenced by setting up the Mobile Command Center hours before the melee and putting on extra patrols – and six ended up in the hospital. I don’t think cops have short memories. Some in the black community, judging by a slew of derogatory and threatening comments on social media directed at the police, also need to sit back and let the process play out. I’m sure there will be civil suits filed regardless of if there is an investigation or not and more violence will only make matters worse.