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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 5, 2006

Taser tussle: Murley, Trible differ on mall arrest

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — A shocking report of Taser abuse is being called "absolutely false" by the Guilderland Police Department. In an incident last month at Crossgates Mall, a 34-year-old Albany man was arrested and subdued by a Taser gun. These facts are agreed upon by all accounts, but most of the agreement ends there.

The arrest report written by Guilderland Police does not match an eye-witness account.

Two Guilderland police officers and a Crossgates Mall security officer apprehended Swahiti S. Bolden, also known as Chevron Bolden, on the afternoon of Dec. 26, around 1:30 p.m., near Houlihan’s Restaurant in Crossgates Mall, according to the arrest report. A Taser gun was used on Bolden by an arresting officer and the Guilderland Police have charged him with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Melanie Trimble, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, saw some of the arrest and does not agree with the police report on file. Trimble says that Bolden was not resisting arrest and was definitely handcuffed when a Taser gun was used on him.

A Taser gun, also called an electro-muscular disruption weapon, shocks a person with 26 watts of electricity or over 50,000 volts. It overrides the person’s motor and sensory systems, incapacitating him.

"When I came on the scene, he was handcuffed and was tased in the back and in between the legs," Trimble said. She told The Enterprise last Wednesday that an officer stuck the barrel of the gun in Bolden’s crotch.

Trimble says that, at one point during the tasing, she yelled out to the officers, "He’s not even resisting arrest; why are you continuing to taser him"" She says she overheard other onlookers speaking out, saying things like, "Hey, what are you doing"" and, "He’s already handcuffed."

Guilderland Police Chief James Murley says his officers acted appropriately in the Bolden arrest and claims no abuses occurred during the apprehension. Murley backed up the police report by saying Bolden was not handcuffed while he was tased. The Guilderland Police were called to the scene by mall security because Bolden was reported as being disorderly and shouting obscenities near the mall entrance, creating a scene, he said.

The report describes Bolden as a 34-year-old male with "medium brown skin" and large build — with a height of 6 feet, 1 inch, and weight of 225 pounds.

It lists his address as 404 First Street, second floor, in Albany, and under "occupation," it says "floor covering." The report also states Bolden is a Baptist who completed 10th grade in school.

According to the police report, Bolden refused several requests for identification and would not lower his voice after being asked to by Guilderland Police. When asked to place his hands behind his back, Bolden pulled away and would not comply. The report continues, saying Bolden was "advised numerous times to stop resisting and place his hands behind his back or he would be tased."

It was only after all of these warnings that, Murley says, officers were forced to subdue Bolden with a taser. The initial taser had no effect when it was deployed on his left thigh; because of clothing, no skin contact was made, Murley said. The officers then used a drive Taser, or wireless Taser, making contact to Bolden’s rear left groin, Murley said.

Bolden complied with officers after being drive tased but was still loud and did not freely walk to the police cruiser, Murley said. Once at the station, however, he says Bolden was calmed down and released on an appearance ticket.

Trimble recalls a very different situation, citing a more cooperative Bolden than the police report portrays and calling the use of Tasers that afternoon "totally unnecessary." According to Trimble, Bolden was unjustly arrested; she believes the Guilderland Police were wrong to use a Taser on what she maintains was a compliant and handcuffed man.

"It’s not an arrestable offense to not hand over identification...Tasers should only be used for a criminal offense," said Trimble. As the director at the NYCLU, Trimble is no stranger to the Taser debate. She has been outspoken on the issue and believes that Tasers can be dangerous and should only be used as a last resort in criminal offenses.

Bolden was with several family member during the incident who witnessed the arrest. He did not return a call for comment.

Trimble clashed with Murley this spring after a 15-year-old boy was stunned with a Taser and arrested at Crossgates Mall. The NYCLU demanded then that Guilderland Police stop using Tasers.

Murley in April said his department has strict rules regarding the use of Taser guns, employing them only when suspects are out of control and a danger to themselves or others. At that time, 25 suspects had been tased in the 28 months the department had been using Tasers, Murley said.

Tasers have been an effective tool for the Guilderland Police since 2003, Murley said, and have lowered the number of officer and suspect injuries.

Police say Mall violence is gang related

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Nearly six months after Crossgates Mall in Guilderland implemented a parental-escort policy, gang-related violence continues to take place at the popular teenage hangout, police say. A large fight erupted on Friday, Dec. 30, outside the Crossgates Mall bus stop, police say, after which a 16-year-old male was taken to Albany Medical Center to be treated for substantial facial lacerations.

Guilderland Police Chief James Murley believes the brawl was gang-related and says gang members wear identifying colors to mark a particular gang affiliation. Two knives, both of which were recovered by the Guilderland Police, were used during the fight, he said.

Kenneth Hicks, 24, of 30 Johnson Ave., Cohoes and a 14-year-old juvenile from Albany were both arrested by Guilderland Police. Hicks was charged with second-degree assault and criminal possession of a weapon. The 14-year-old juvenile was charged as an adult for first-degree assault on Tuesday and will appear in Guilderland Town Court on Thursday, according to Manny Shulman, an investigator with the Guilderland Police. Further charges may be pending.

The escort policy was put in place on July 15, 2005, to cut down on gang violence, loitering teens, and to create a safer environment for all of the mall’s customers, according to officials at the time. The policy requires those under 18 to be escorted by a parent after 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights unless they are at the movies or shopping at an anchor store that has an outside entrance. The Dec. 30 incident occurred on Friday at 9 p.m.

Murley said this past spring, after what he termed gang-related "riots" at Crossgates, that gang members have the right to be at the mall, like anybody else. The gang members have come from surrounding urban areas, he said. Police presence was increased at the mall and Murley said that gang members should know "Crossgates is not the arena for them to settle their differences. They should think again."

Police Post Lawlor town’s first deputy chief

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Guilderland has a new deputy in town, a new deputy police chief that is.

Lieutenant Carol Lawlor, who has been with the Guilderland police for 27 years, was appointed to the newly-created position of deputy police chief last Tuesday during the town’s annual reorganizational meeting.

To much applause, Lawlor was introduced by Guilderland Police Chief James Murley and sworn in by Anthony Cardona, presiding justice of the Appellate Division, Third Department.

Murley introduced Lawlor as a loyal and trusted friend and said her promotion was "well earned, well deserved and a job well done." When The Enterprise asked earlier about Lawlor’s new position, Murley called her a "very competent and confident administrator" and said she was highly qualified for all of the positions she has held with the Guilderland Police Department.

"It’s been long overdue; she’s been basically doing the job already," said Murley, referring to why he pushed the town board to create the position. When asked if Lawlor was being groomed for his job, Murley said that he has absolutely no plans for retirement. The police chief also said that he is not loosening his reigns so much as allowing someone else to take on more responsibility and help manage the department more efficiently.

"I know Carol won’t let the new position go to her head," Murley said during her introduction as he spoke of her dedication to the department.

After the warm introduction Lawlor walked to the center of the room but there was still one minor detail that remained before she could be sworn in; the town board had to vote on her appointment. After a unanimous decision was quickly handed down, Cardona administered the oath of office followed by a roar of applause.

Lawlor thanked Murley and her family, friends, and colleagues as well as the town board that appointed her.

The Meeting

The Guilderland Town Hall was filled with various town officials, members of the police department and their families as well as Guilderland residents. Also there to witness and show their support for the ceremonial swearing in procession were some well-known Albany County Democrats.

The Guilderland Democrats had made a clean sweep in the November elections — a first in the town’s two-century history. Those in attendance included Congressman Michael McNulty, former Green Island Mayor Jack McNulty, Assemblyman Jack McEnemy, Albany County Executive Michael Breslin, and Albany County District Attorney David Soares.

The village of Altamont showed its support as well with the presence of Altamont Mayor James Gaughan and Public Safety Commissioner Anthony Salerno.

Judge Cardona opened the meeting by saying he was proud to have had the honor of presiding over the ceremony since 1999. He extended his congratulations to all of the newly-elected officials and went on to describe the importance of tradition and ceremony to the entire community.

The town officers were the first to be sworn in, starting with Kenneth Runion as Town Supervisor. The other elected officers to be sworn in with their friends and families by their sides were council members Patricia Slavick, an incumbent; Paul Pastore, a newcomer; incumbent Town Clerk Rosemary Centi; incumbent Receiver of Taxes Jean Cataldo; and newcomer Denise Randall, town justice.

The board went on to make appointments and re-appointments for various town offices as well as making several authorizations and designations — all of which were unanimously passed. Among them, the Altamont Enterprise and the Guilderland Spotlight were again designated to be the town’s official newspapers.

Ending the meeting, Runion once again offered the Board’s congratulations to all of Guilderland’s officials, calling them the "backbone of the community." Before adjourning the meeting, Runion gave a final special congratulations and a full endorsement of his support for the new deputy police chief, Carol Lawlor.

Guilderland Appointments

Other appointments, authorizations, designations and approvals made by the Guilderland Town Board on Jan. 3 include:

— Richard Sherwood as town attorney;

— Stephen Feeney as chair of the planning board for 2006;

— Linda Clark as assistant town attorney and counsel to the planning board;

— Lindsay Childs as a planning board member (to fill the unexpired term of Linda Clark);

— Thomas Robert as a planning board member;

— Bryan Clenehan as an assistant town attorney and counsel to the town court;

— Peter Barber as a zoning board of appeals member (to fill the unexpired term of Bryan Clenehan);

— Sharon Cupoli as a zoning board of appeals member;

— James Sumner as a zoning board of appeals member;

— Janet Thayer as an assistant town attorney and counsel to the zoning board of appeals;

— John Wemple Jr. as a member and chair of the environmental conservation advisory council member for the year;

— Herber Hennings, Stuart Reese, Stephen D. Wixted, Kim Jones, Lillie McNulty, as Environmental Advisory Council members;

— Gene Theriault as chair of the ethics board for the year 2006;

— James Shahda as chair of the Guilderland Industrial Development Agency;

— William Young, James Lozano, and James Runko as Guilderland Industrial Development Agency members and the firm of Hodgkin & Fuss, Joseph Scott of counsel as attorney to the IDA;

— Donald Csaposs as chair of the Economic Advisory Council;

— John Decatur, Peter Sparano, James Schanz, Henry Klein, and Gary Robinson as Economic Advisory Council members and remaining members of council to consist of the chair of planning board, zoning board, conservation council and the IDA;

— Thomas Remmert as zoning board alternate and liason to emergency services;

— Dr. Don Doynow as medical director, for emergency medical services;

— Alice Begley as historian;

— Jean Cataldo as registrar of vital statistics and Cindy Wadach as deputy;

— Joseph Muia as special counsel on Water and Sewer matters;

— Dennis Feeney as assistant town attorney for litigation and labor matters;

— John M. Wemple, Mark McNulty, Abe Palma and Bruce O’ Connor as part-time court attendants;

— First National Bank of Scotia, First Niagara Bank, Citizens Bank, J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, and M & T Bank as official depositories;

— Boswell Engineering, Delaware Engineering, Barton and Loguidice, Clough Harbour, and Spectra Engineering to serve as town designated engineers;

— Kenneth Runion as affirmative action officer and emergency response officer.

Abele says cop harasses him

By Matt Cook

ALTAMONT—A convenience-store employee in Altamont says he is leaving his job to escape what he calls intimidation and harassment by an Altamont Police officer.

Colin Abele, of Berne, a clerk at Ketchum’s Service Store, wrote a letter to the Enterprise editor this week, accusing Officer Joshua M. Davenport of harassing him at Ketchum’s.

Altamont Public Safety Commissioner Anthony Salerno said he is aware of Abele’s complaints.

"An investigation will be conducted," Salerno said. The department investigates all complaints, he said.

Salerno would not comment further or allow The Enterprise to speak to Davenport, whose phone number is unlisted.

"Officer Davenport has repeatedly and consistently used foul, abrasive, and threatening language when approaching me at my place of employment," Abele wrote. "This includes, but was never limited to, calling me such names as ‘f***ing moron,’ a ‘jack**,’ or ‘s***-for-brains,’...On every occasion, he chose to completely ignore my constant pleas that he let me be so I could do my job."

Davenport also threatened to give him traffic tickets for things he didn’t do, Abele claims.

"He informed me the reason he had lied about this was to ‘remind’ me who held the ‘upper hand’ in the village because I had been ‘runnin‘ my mouth about the cops,’" Abele wrote.

Abele told The Enterprise that Davenport has waited for him to leave work and then pulled in front of him.

Abele admitted that he has said negative things about Davenport, but not to his face. Also, he said, he was arrested in 2004 for unlawful possession of marijuana, but that’s not enough to warrant constant attention from a police officer, he said.

Abele said he has decided to leave his job rather than deal with any more harassment. He’s spoken to the commissioner about it and is filing an official complaint, Abele said, but is not confident it will change the situation.

"As of this writing, Officer Davenport’s actions remain unaccounted for, and this can only lead me to believe that this is not the United States of America I was taught about as I was growing up," Abele writes, "nor is this village of Altamont the nice, friendly place it seemed when I began working within it."

A Ketchum’s employee who answered the phone when The Enterprise called on Tuesday said he had heard stories about the harassment, but never witnessed it. He declined to give his name.

Owner Sally Ketchum said that, once, she came into the store from outside and saw Abele talking to a police officer. Abele was doing all the talking, she said.

"The only thing I heard the police officer say was, ‘You don’t have to yell,’" Ketchum said. If she had seen the officer harassing her employee, she would probably have asked him to stop, Ketchum said.

Ketchum said she did, over a year ago, ask the officer not to speak to Abele when he comes in the store, because, she said, "[Abele] can get worked up."

Village proceeds with master plan

By Matt Cook

ALTAMONT — The village took a step closer to creating a comprehensive land-use plan this week by hiring a planner.

At the first village board meeting of the year, Tuesday, the village voted unanimously to give the job to Nan Stolzenburg and her firm, Community Planning & Environmental Associates, of Berne.

Stolzenburg’s firm will receive a base contract of $26,327 but, upon board approval, could receive up to $34,000.

"There are some options that were included in the proposal that intrigued the committee and we might want to go forward with some of those options," said Trustee Dean Whalen, chairman of the Comprehensive Planning Committee.

Whalen, an architect, said his committee unanimously recommended Community Planning. The committee solicited 10 firms for applications, he said, and only received two. But, Whalen said, it was the two the committee wanted the most: Community Planning, and Barton and Loguidice, P.C., of Albany.

"The candidates were pretty equal in our minds," Whalen said.

After interviews and checking references, the committee finally settled on Stolzenburg, Whalen said.

Barton and Loguidice is overseeing Altamont’s project to add new wells to its strapped water system. Stolzenburg is also the planner for the town of Berne. She recently helped Berne on a controversial rezoning project for the hamlet of Berne.

Both proposals, Whalen said, allow the Comprehensive Planning Committee to do a lot of the legwork, saving the village money, Whalen said. Stolzenburg won’t be available to lead workshops until the middle of February, he said, but, "We’ll be able to get our marching orders next week," and start collecting information, Whalen said.

Part of Stolzenburg’s fee, $6,000, will come out of the village’s 2005 budget, while the rest will come out of this year’s budget.

Altamont’s zoning ordinance was created in the 1970’s, and hasn’t been changed since then. In September, the board of trustees unanimously adopted a moratorium on subdivisions within the village.

Whalen told The Enterprise in November that, within 10 months, the village hopes to have created a master plan.

Other business:

In other business at the Jan. 3 meeting, the Altamont Village Board:

—Recognized local children for their work on Links of Love, an effort to raise money for Habitat for Humanity to build homes for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. So far, the group has raised $10,000.

Mayor James Gaughan presented each child with a certificate;

—Heard a report on the Maple Avenue Park from steering committee member Keith Lee. The committee is considering whether or not to bar pets from the park and working with a local pre-school to build a playground, Lee said.

The pocket park, located between Victorian homes, used to have a tennis court, which was torn up during the recent road reconstruction project.

National Grid, formerly Niagara Mohawk, will provide electricity to the park for the first time, Lee said, and a local resident, Carl Schilling, is designing a structure for the park. The 16-foot by 26-foot structure will look like the village’s old train station, Lee said. Schilling will soon provide a parts list and approximate cost, Lee said;

—Passed a resolution to hold a public hearing on Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. to consider a transfer from the fire equipment reserve account to purchase a new truck for the Altamont Fire Department.

Chief Daniel Madison said a 1985 truck needs to be replaced. The department would like to buy a mini-pumper truck from VRS Sales for $140,872, Madison said. The truck has a 300-gallon tank and can seat four firefighters, he said.

"When I say mini-pumper, it’s not that small," Madison said; and

—Went into executive session to discuss litigation and personnel issues.

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