Town struggles with accusations against police, fears of retaliation
The Associated Press
( WALKILL, N.Y.) -- The town police force could become the first in New York state to be placed under a federal monitor.
The truck driver at the Forum Diner knew all about the scandal involving the town police department.
He knew that officers had been accused of arresting women on bogus charges and offering to drop the cases in return for dates. And he had heard talk about officers stopping women drivers and shining flashlights on their breasts.
But the trucker was hesitant to say anything bad about the police department. And he wouldn't give his name.
"They'll mess with you," he said. "I've gotten stopped for absolutely nothing. They've let their badges go to their heads."
If a federal judge approves, Wallkill could become the first police department in New York state to be placed under a federal monitor.
The town board grudgingly agreed to such a measure three weeks ago after New York's attorney general filed a suit. Attorney General Eliot Spitzer called the 24-member police department a rogue police force. Spitzer accused the department of committing a litany of abuses and retaliating against those who complained. He also accused town board members of tolerating the misconduct and covering it up.
The board has denied any wrongdoing but relented over the issue of a monitor in return for the dropping of the suit.
Acting Police Chief John Beairsto said: "It's not as bad as perceived. There are only a few people causing the problems." Beairsto was appointed Jan. 25, one week after Spitzer sued. Beairsto said that one officer had been suspended and several others were undergoing disciplinary hearings.
The once-agricultural community of 24,500 is now home to the suburban sprawl of New York City, which is 50 miles to the southeast.
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