Late last week, the New York State Police Benevolent Association (PBA) launched a two-day informational campaign regarding the SUNY New Paltz University Police Department (UPD), specifically critiquing the leadership of Chief David Dugatkin.
During the day on both Friday, March 10 and Saturday, March 11, a truck drove around campus to publicly question the enforcement policy of UPD as well as its leadership under Dugatkin. The sign on the truck asked, “Is SUNY New Paltz safe? That’s a good question!” It also listed charges about UPD in bullet-form on the side of the truck:
- Rapes increased 50 percent from 2014-15
- Led the nation in drug arrests [in 2014]
- Drug arrests more than doubled from 2014-15
- Dysfunctional department leadership
Scott Marciszewski, PBA Director of University Police Lieutenants, said that the action was prompted by failed communications with the administration last summer, including meetings with campus human resources as well as both Interim Vice President of Student Affairs, Wayne Brumfield, and Dugatkin.
Marciszewski said that both meetings dealt with UPD labor management and were ultimately unsuccessful, leaving PBA with “no other choice” than to conduct an informational campaign. Marciszewski would not say how PBA intended to campaign going forward but said that it had previously used a similar tactic at SUNY Brockport.
“We want a safe campus. That’s why we got involved,” Marciszewski said. “A few things need to change.”
Marciszewski said that a PBA delegate from UPD first brought issues to his attention, including “low morale,” “micromanagement” and “personnel matters.” He said that when the issues were raised to the administration and Dugatkin, they “disregarded concerns.” According to Marciszewski, a follow up meeting with SUNY New Paltz President Donald P. Christian was requested by a PBA representative and subsequently denied.
In regards to “personnel matters,” Marciszewski said that UPD has experienced issues with working conditions, including disciplinary measures taken by Dugatkin. He referenced an incident where a lieutenant approached Dugatkin about an issue regarding a subordinate, only to later be “reprimanded” by Dugatkin. Marciszewski referred to this as an issue with UPD’s chain of command and said that Dugatkin was “fully aware” of these concerns.
Dugatkin did not respond to a request for comment.
During the afternoon of Friday, March 10, Melissa Kaczmarek, SUNY New Paltz’s Media Relations Manager, released a statement in response to the actions taken by PBA while also refuting their accusations about UPD.
While the PBA certainly has a right to express its opinion, they have misrepresented the facts. Our drug arrests actually have dropped 25 percent since 2013 and our reports of rape have been four to six a year for the past three years. You can check these crime statistics, which all universities report annually to the federal government, here. It’s unfortunate that the PBA union chooses to use fear-mongering rather than dialogue in working with the College. Fear-mongering is not a way for the PBA membership — our University Police Officers — to build confidence in the people they serve — our employees and students.
On Monday, March 13, Brumfield and Christian co-signed an email addressing the ongoing controversy. In it, they asserted that PBA was conducting a “misinformation campaign” that relied on “scare tactics” to spread “false claims” about UPD. In addition, they stated that the administration supports Dugatkin “wholeheartedly.”
“SUNY New Paltz is proud of the achievements of its UPD leadership and officers in contributing to a strong record of campus safety that allows our students to pursue their primary educational goals,” the email read. “Campus administration met with the statewide PBA last summer to discuss our shared goals, and we look forward to the day when we can collaborate effectively to achieve the goals that are so important to New York and the generations of students we educate.”
Managing Editor Melanie Zerah contributed reporting.