University at Albany Police policies and procedures have resulted in a union no-confidence vote against the police chief and his deputy chief.
On July 11th, the Police Benevolent Association of New York State, which represents 36 members of the UAlbany force, held a no-confidence vote, unanimously passing a motion against University at Albany Police Chief J. Frank Wiley, Deputy Chief Aran Mull and the university administration, claiming the department is jeopardizing the public’s safety.
In the crosshairs: Chief Wiley's "community policing" approach, which Wiley told the Times Union has been a campus standard since 1996.
According to the paper, "The policies have created tensions on the small force and raised questions internally about whether the restrictions represent an effort to keep down the school's arrest numbers, which are publicly posted under federal regulations."
Complaints include officers being told to ignore vehicle and traffic violations. PBA Executive Director and Counsel Daniel De Federicis calls the "community policing" reference… "...the University's spin on it. Our view is its mismanagement, mistreatment of our members as police officers. And we think that this demoralization over really what's been years, but certainly acute in the past several months is having an ill effect on the safety of the campus because our officers are restricted from doing a lot of things."
De Federicis argues "community policing" does not mean "no policing.” "For instance, when our police officers are directed to ignore a cell phone violation, which for years we've been hearing how dangerous that is; when they're told to ignore a wrong-way driver up a one-way street, which, in a head-on collision could be terribly dangerous, we think that is endangering not just the campus community, but the public at large. We support community policing, but it still has an enforcement element to it, and the University seems to have taken that discretion away from our officers."
UAlbany spokesman Michael Parker rejected a recorded phone interview, opting to respond to a request for comment by emailing this statement: "The safety of our students, faculty and staff has been and will continue to be the top priority for the University Police Department. The university values the hard work and dedication of our officers, and we will continue to meet with them to discuss their concerns.”
De Federicis admits things are getting better since last week's vote: university officials are now engaging with the union. "And we are working forward with them in a communications venue, in meetings, to try to improve the situation. We want our officers to be treated fairly. We want the campus community to be adequately protected. And we're working with the University on that. They were late to come to the meetings, but that has begun so that is one positive sign out of all of this."
The PBA is, at this point, NOT calling for the ouster of Chief Wiley. Earlier this year, the union demanded a leadership change at the SUNY New Paltz Police Department. One official called Police Chief David Dugatkin “dysfunctional” and said he had to go. Dugatkin remains at the Hudson Valley college. College Spokesperson Chrissie Williams responded to a request for comment by email, quote: "SUNY New Paltz is proud of the achievements of its UPD leadership and officers in contributing to a strong record of campus safety that allows our students to pursue their primary educational goals. "
Again, Daniel De Federicis: "The one key thing SUNY New Paltz did, and I'm going to encourage the University at Albany to do this as well, is they brought in an outside consultant. A company called Dolores Stafford that are considered experts and are very well regarded in campus policing, university policing, and they brought them in and things have greatly improved there and it's not an issue like it once was."
De Federicis insists the vote of no-confidence is not a labor dispute. He says it is simply one of officers wanting to serve the community without having their individual discretions taken away.