To The Editor:
I appreciate the feedback I have seen in The Altamont Enterprise, and personal stories I have been hearing in regards to my wife’s arrest and her charge with a misdemeanor in December (for a non-malicious, non-threatening violation).
Our objective with the letter that she read at the January Altamont Village Board meeting was to start a discussion (which it has), with regards to the value of having a village police department if it has no interest in upholding the partnership with the community mentioned in its mission statement.
Based on the Enterprise editorial on Jan. 31, 2013 the department averages fewer than three calls per day, and, based on my wife’s arrest on Dec. 12, 2012, when the police are given the chance, they operate to the fullest extent of the law instead of using better discretion and judgment.
I have spoken to family and friends who work for other police departments throughout the state, and they all say this arrest and charge with a misdemeanor was over the top. I have also spoken to many village residents who have been pulled over outside the village for this same violation and they all say they were given 24 to 48 hours to get this clerical error straightened out.
While Chief Todd Pucci was quoted in the Jan. 24 Altamont Enterprise as saying that the misdemeanor charge would be pleaded down, he clearly does not realize the stress this whole situation has added to our family. I have no problem with paying a traffic violation; however, the tow of the car 15 feet, and putting my wife in the back of the police car and “booking her” at the station in front of a 4-year-old are excessive and show poor judgment from the Altamont Police Department.
I am not saying they were acting outside of the letter of the law, but, after speaking with these friends and family who are officers, I know the officers could have used better discretion, and found a better solution.
To all that I have heard from regarding this, and knowing there is a better answer, I would like to let you know I will be attending the upcoming village budget workshops March 12 and March 20. While I have an interest in all village budget matters, I will be focused on these questions below regarding the Altamont Police Deparatment:
— Why is the village police department prosecuting violations more aggressively than other New York State police departments? Do they not have enough to do? — Is this a sign of a part-time police department trying to justify its existence?
— How does the Police Department impact the budget? Is it worth keeping?
— Are the other three departments that patrol the village equipped to handle these (less than) three calls per day?
— How could money saved from the police budget be better spent to preserve the Altamont community?
— How do the village eateries and shops feel the Altamont Police Department presence impacts their business? Does it deter people from visiting their businesses?
— How has consolidating police services impacted similar communities across the State of New York?
Lastly, the question that I have is that, if the Altamont Police Department is using this poor judgment when a non-threatening, stay-at-home mom, is 400 feet from her house, with a 4-year-old in the car, what happens if something serious happens in this community?
Editor’s note: The Enterprise reviewed the videotapes made of Jolene Kowalski’s Dec. 12, 2012 arrest — one video was made from the patrol car and the other inside the police station — and saw no signs of excessive force or inappropriate behavior. She was not “booked” in front of her son.
The New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law has no provision to allow 24 hours or 48 hours or any time at all for a motorist to provide proof of insurance. Officers are breaking the law if they knowingly let a motorist drive away in a car that they believe is uninsured.
“We can’t allow you to commit a misdemeanor in our presence,” said Altamont’s police chief, Todd Pucci, “especially with a 4-year-old in the car; the liability is on us.”
See related story on page 1.