State Lawsuit Seeks Watchdog For Wallkill Pd

Attorney General Spitzer today filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Orange County Town of Wallkill for improper and illegal conduct by members of the town's police department.

The complaint alleges that certain police officers in the town repeatedly menaced, intimidated and sexually harassed citizens going back at least two years.

"Local police forces are the foundation of our criminal justice system," Spitzer said. "We count on law enforcement officers to protect and serve, and in almost all cases these individuals do an excellent job. In Wallkill, however, the actions of the local police force have undermined public confidence and simply cannot be ignored. We must act to halt this pattern of misconduct."

Spitzer said the action was filed against the Town of Wallkill because local officials ignored repeated appeals to address the problem. He said the goal of the lawsuit is to restore faith in the police department.

The lawsuit, filed today in Federal District Court, asks the court to compel a series of "best practice" reforms, including maintaining logs of police activity, proper training of officers and the creation of a disciplinary process.

The suit also asks the court to appoint an official monitor for the police department. This individual would work with town officials and the police to ensure that the department and its personnel adhere to the highest professional standards at all times.

Among the illegal actions alleged in the 54-page complaint are the following:

  • Police officers stopped female motorists - often at night and on lightly traveled roads - to solicit dates or sexual favors. At times the uniformed officers would make sexually suggestive comments or implied that falsified charges could be dropped if the women would agree to go out on dates with them.

  • Police officers harassed women at their places of employment and elsewhere. In one instance, a uniformed male police officer forced a woman to partially disrobe, and subsequently interrogated her about her sexual past, when there was no valid law enforcement reason for either action. In another instance, a uniformed officer repeatedly visited a local dining establishment where he grabbed several 16-year old waitresses around the waist and hips or putt his hand on their thighs. The officer also repeatedly made sexually suggestive comments, for example, asking what the waitresses would look like if they took their shirts off. Although parents complained to the Town about this officer, no disciplinary action was ever taken.

  • Police officers harassed Wallkill citizens who questioned or spoke out about police conduct.

  • Police officers ticketed Middletown Times Herald Record delivery trucks in a coordinated effort to retaliate against the newspaper for news articles critical of the department.

The Wallkill Police Department has about two dozen officers.

The complaint is the result of a five-month investigation by the Attorney General's office.

The Attorney General's office has set up a telephone hotline for persons with additional complaints. The number is: 1-845-485-3913.

The matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Mark Peters, Lisa Landau and Elisabeth Yap of the Civil Rights Bureau under the direction of Civil Right Bureau Chief Andrew Celli Jr., and Deputy Attorneys General Dieter Snell and Peter Pope..

Attachments:

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