hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires


Editorial May 2022



For Spa City’s police, a breath of fresh air


For Saratoga Springs’ new public safety commissioner, a big part of the job so far involves clearing the air. And it turns out that a lot of bad air has built up over the past decade inside City Hall and the city police department in particular.

James Montagnino, a retired lawyer with more than 30 years of service in the state’s justice system, has said he opted to run for his seat on the City Council last year in part because of concerns about the city’s handling of the case of Darryl Mount Jr. The 21-year-old biracial man was mortally injured in a 2013 encounter with city police.

As our cover story this month details, one of Montagnino’s first projects after taking office in January was to produce a 38-page report laying out all of the publicly available records and information – from the police department and from a civil suit filed by Mount’s family – about the events surrounding the young man’s death.

At the same time, the new commissioner has been leading the process for creating a new civilian review board with the power to investigate allegations of police misconduct. The review board is a longtime goal of local reformers, but the previous City Council blocked it. The new council is expected to approve its formation this month.

The two projects are related, and both aim to start repairing the frayed relationship between the police department and a growing share of the city’s increasingly diverse population.

After Mount was found lying unconscious nine years ago at the foot of scaffold in an alley behind Broadway, police said they believed he was injured in a fall while trying to elude officers who were chasing him on foot. The details laid out in Montagnino’s report still seem to support some variation of that theory, and no evidence has emerged to indicate that any of the city’s officers were within sight of Mount when he was injured.

But Mount’s family, based on what they said was feedback from an emergency room doctor and other medical professionals, filed complaints alleging he was a victim of police brutality. Under department policy, Montagnino says, this should have triggered an internal review of the incident.
What happened next is what’s troubling. The police chief at the time, Gregory Veitch, told the public an internal investigation was under way. But he told his staff that he’d already determined that any claims of police brutality were false. Finally, in a sworn deposition several years later, he admitted there had been no internal investigation.

Against that backdrop of deception, is it any wonder why Mount’s family and supporters might still wonder whether there is more to be learned about his death?

As concerns about racial justice have increased nationally, the Mount case has become a rallying point for local Black Lives Matter protesters. And Saratoga Springs police have responded badly, targeting the protesters with particularly harsh treatment and arrest, with some being led to arraignment in shackles. The city’s assistant police chief lashed out at critics last summer, saying, “You’re either with us or you’re not, and if you’re not, then you’re part of the problem.”
It is past time for some transparency and accountability – time to clear the air, to let the sun shine in. Montagnino’s report on the Mount case offers a good first step. A review by the state attorney general’s office might help to resolve unanswered questions. And a civilian review board will help to keep the air clear in the future.


May 2022 Editorial Cartoon Mark Wilson


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