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That there is a serious morale problem in the Niagara Falls Police Department is inarguable. On the heels of former patrolman Ryan Warme's guilty plea to charges of drug dealing, witness intimidation and sex crimes, no fewer than three city police officers have been charged with domestic violence counts over the past 10 months.

NFPD Lt. Dave Kinney, eldest son of Department of Public Works Director Dave Kinney, last week joined Mark Feldhausen and Henry Walerowicz on the list of city police officers arrested.

Parallels with the DPW, where workers have been charged with drug dealing, hiring prostitutes on city time, hate crimes and theft of public property, are inevitable. What the heck is going on?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there are no adults in charge of city government here. A fish rots from the head down, and the current brand of "leadership" as practiced by the Dyster administration and the City Council is as rotten as it gets.

Council Chairman Sam Fruscione approves Mayor Paul Dyster's tax increases, and Dyster throws him a bone in the form of a make-work job for Fruscione's buddy Randy Ubriaco.

A thousand little crooked deals, ignored or covered up by the public relations specialists at the city's two daily newspapers, result in nothing but unemployment, increased welfare dependency, spiraling crime rates and city workers behaving as criminals themselves.

Police Chief John Chella told reporters he knew "very little" about the Kinney case. He must be the only one then, because the streets have been buzzing with the story since the end of July. It's an ugly story, and perhaps the ugliest part of it is the special treatment Kinney received because his father is a top appointee of the Dyster administration.

Why has it taken more than two months to bring charges? Can you say "primary election"? If Dyster would have had it his way, no charges would have been brought until after the general election, but Niagara County District Attorney Mike Violante is better than that.

The real question, the one that nobody's asking, is what ails our city police. Could it be the phony, cooked-up crime statistics that show crime decreasing, when in fact it's on the rise? Could it be that the department is so woefully undermanned that officers are unavailable to respond to complaints when another crime has been committed a few minutes earlier?

Or could it be the obvious: the fact that the mayor of this city doesn't like cops, regularly sides against them when "excessive force" complaints are lodged and turns a deaf ear to repeated requests for more manpower?

The answer is, all of the above, and unfortunately nothing seems like it's going to change for the better any time soon.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Oct. 11, 2011