Several New Paltz campus police officers were disciplined earlier this year after the state investigated complaints that the officers fell asleep on the job and falsified time sheets, according to a news report and investigative documents that were made public this week for the first time.
The reported incidents of misconduct by university police officers have been met with silence from campus and police administration since they were made public earlier this week in a report by The Alt, a weekly newspaper out of Albany. SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian and University Police Chief David Dugatkin declined to comment. Campus administrators also refused to provide the names of the officers who were disciplined, the nature of the discipline that was handed down or further details about their misconduct.
The news was unearthed through documents obtained from the New York State Office of the Inspector General, which investigates cases of illegal activity by state employees. In April, the inspector general received a complaint that several police officers were caught sleeping on the job after a student complained to the college about an “excessive police presence in Deyo Hall.” The police were allegedly caught snoozing on a hidden camera that the complainant said was installed by campus administration, the documents said. The complaint also alleged that some officers were “stealing time and filing false time sheets.”
The state inspector general turned these allegations over to SUNY’s central administration in Albany for investigation. In July, Michael Abbott, the university system’s auditor, wrote to the inspector general that the campus “investigated the allegations and took ‘certain disciplinary actions.’” The documents did not specify what discipline was handed down, how many officers were disciplined, or whether their punishments were for sleeping on duty, falsifying time sheets or some other findings.
The unnamed complaintant also accused three former employees of the University Police Department (UPD) of creating a hostile work environment by “retaliating and sending false emails or post-cards to the chief at his private residence, as well as posting false claims about current state employees on social media and in the press,” the documents said.
Abbott, answered these accusations in the July letter by noting that the college “indicated that it does not have jurisdiction over the employees and has no grounds to act on this allegation.” The letter indicated that the officers were no longer employed at UPD, but it did not say if they had been fired or left on their own for jobs elsewhere. The names of the police officers were redacted from the documents.
Documents from the state comptroller, also published by The Alt, revealed that SUNY New Paltz hired D. Stafford & Associates, a consultant that focuses on campus policing issues, in late March. The campus paid up to $24,999 for the firm’s assistance with police issues. The contract was due to expire this past June.
The complaint was filed, and the consultant was hired, about the same time as an aggressive “informational campaign” by the New York State Police Benevolent Association (PBA), the union that represents the campus officers. In March, the union arranged for a van covered in misleading crime statistics about New Paltz to drive through campus – an aggressive tactic that garnered public attention and was aimed at questioning the leadership of Dugatkin, the police chief.
At the time, Scott Marciszewski, the PBA’s director of university police lieutenants, told The Oracle that the union’s campaign aimed to address low morale, micromanagement and other personnel matters.
Following the campaign, The Oracle reported that the interim Vice President of Student Affairs at the time, Wayne Brumfield, and Christian co-signed an email about the controversy. The email decried the PBA’s move as a “misinformation campaign” that relied on “scare tactics” to spread “false claims” about UPD. The letter also stated their abiding support for Dugatkin.
Christian would not comment Wednesday, during a pre-scheduled interview with The Oracle, about the new allegations of police sleeping while on duty or falsifying time sheets. He did, however, reiterate the administration’s commitment to public safety on campus.
“The statistics that our campus submits to federal government, in complying with federal law, show that we are a really safe campus,” Christian said. “The conversations I have with students in the residence halls reinforce that sense of personal safety. The data we have and the impressions of these students reinforce that we always have a police presence on campus, with police ready to respond 24/7.”