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Costs Exploding in Police Monitoring

By Frank Parlato

Despite insulting consent order, the honor of the Niagara Falls Police Department remains unbesmirched.
Mayor Paul Dyster, quickly capitulated and signed dishonorable consent order tarnishing the force as “racist”.

The Niagara Falls Reporter has learned that the cost for the Niagara Falls police monitoring agreement required in a consent order between the city and the NYS Attorney General’s Office is likely to cost much more than the figure originally estimated.

The order was signed in November, 2010, following an investigation by the Attorney General's Office of some 30 citizen complaints alleging that Niagara Falls police engaged in unacceptable behavior, or more blatantly, according to the attorney general, a pattern suggesting "excessive use of force primarily against African-American residents."

In a consent order, the accused party does not admit any wrongdoing but commits to reforms that will address the alleged violations.

This order required the city police force to rewrite its policies on use of force and discipline of officers, document its internal affairs investigations, and create a written policy on community initiatives.

From the start, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster expressed a "willingness to cooperate," as he said, "to reform the (police to) prevent and remedy excessive force and race discrimination."

To aid the city in achieving this goal, they hired, at the recommendation of the Attorney General’s Office, Warshaw & Associates, headed by Robert Warshaw, a former chief of police in Rochester , N.Y. , who was appointed by President William Clinton to serve as associate director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Mayor Dyster sponsored, and the 2011 city council approved, a resolution to enter into a contract with Warshaw paying the firm upwards of $200 per hour -- plus meals, hotels and other expenses.

Dyster said at the time it would cost the city about $57,000 for the three months believed to be necessary to complete the consent order-required revisions.

Since most police forces in the nation already have these policies, it was not considered difficult to revise them to meet the more progressive sensibilities of so-called race-neutral policing.

By August of 2011, Warshaw began “monitoring” the Niagara Falls Police Department. The first task was to approve a revision of the department’s use of force policy.

Next would be the discipline policy. Both were to be done in 60 days, according to the consent order.

According to a response to a Freedom of Information Law request, the city controllers’ office reports the cost of Warshaw to date is $165,962.

Monthly bills range from $6,000 to over $20,000.

Warshaw stopped work last August after exhausting the allotted budget for 2012, billing for close to 750 hours of work. However they only accomplished the first task, approving the use of force policy.

Back in 2011, when the Reporter first heard that Dyster said it would cost $57,000, we suggested it might cost much more.
We published, on August 2, 2011: “(B)illing may wind up closer to $600,000 by the time the contract is concluded.” And “$600,000 of your tax dollars (would be spent) in bureaucratic babysitting.”

There is no doubt that use of force policies must be in writing, for there are some police officers in this country who would trample the rights of not only blacks, but anyone out of sheer disrespect of the 1st, 4th, 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution.

But in this case, what took a year probably could have been done in a month, like the consent order said. However, according to police sources, Warshaw required dozens of revisions on phrases and sentences and required $200 per-hour personal meetings between their associates and police, on the public dime.

They required the police and law departments of this city to revise, then revise again, only to require more changes and more visits, with the billing clock running.

As part of the new use of force policy, a “use of force continuum” was required. A force continuum provides law enforcement officials with guidelines as to how much force should be used against a resisting subject in a given situation. You can Google and get any number of models. It seems obvious that it should not take eight revisions and 20 hours of review.

An example of a Use-of-Force Continuum is published by the National Institute of Justice and offers the steps from “No force” through “Empty-Hand Control,” to “Less-Lethal Methods (baton, pepper spray, Taser, beanbag rounds, Mace etc.),”to “Lethal Force.”

It is all contained in one page.

The simple requirement that a “supervisor must review a use of force report” also required multiple revisions to get Warshaw’s blessings.

The use of force policy before Warshaw came to town, although less wordy, is not much different than the new $165,000 policy the city just paid Warshaw to approve.

Guns are still used the same way and in the same instances. So are police batons, handcuffs, etc.
The biggest change was that, instead of one use of force policy, the city now has six. They are: 1. General use of force policy; 2. Deadly force policy; 3. Baton policy; 4. Taser policy; 5. Pepper spray policy; 6. Use of force reporting policy.
To (re)write a nearly identical use of force policy from one 25-page policy, to six 10-page policies should not cost $165,000 to review even if it is government at its wasteful worst.

Mayor Dyster, in his “disaster” budget, proposed giving Warshaw another $150,000 for 2013. The three-member council majority – Sam Fruscione, Glenn Choolokian and Robert Anderson, in their “avert disaster” budget, smelled something was wrong and cut it down to $75,000.

It could be a coincidence but last year when Warshaw had been paid the entire $165,000 allotment by August, Warshaw finally approved part one.

The money was gone and so was Warshaw.

Now the money is ready to flow for 2013.

Although the next step, a discipline policy, should cost at most $10,000 to revise, and not more than a month to do, we predict it will wind up costing the entire $75,000 allotment and will not be approved until the money is exhausted.

The fact of the infrequency of the use of deadly force, the lack of fatalities, the absence of wrongful deaths, the rarity of declared wrongful serious injuries in spite of the high incidence of crime in Niagara Falls, is perhaps the best evidence I could submit to anyone that this is a good police force.

But there is money at stake.

After the discipline policy, Warshaw will review use of force incidents, until the department reaches a consistent 94-percent compliance with the use of force policy Warshaw approves.

And, unless we miss our guess, Warshaw will appear again, ready to perform the next round of billing.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Jan 29 , 2013