The current police commissioner, Tony Magnetto, is expected to step aside early next year and while the city is under no obligation to hire another, it appears they are leaning towards that end. Another name considered, according to sources, is former Asst. Chief Ralph Iler.
Magnetto’s appointment, and subsequent control of day-to-day operations, caused a ruckus because it was driven, in part, by Chief John Tedesco’s attempts shake up the department and make it run more efficiently which upset the Police Benevolent Association.
The chief didn’t appreciate being sidelined, however, and is now threatening a lawsuit against the city challenging the legality of appointing a police commissioner without first having a public safety commissioner in place as the city charter requires. He retained attorney Brian Premo who, as is his MO, wrote a series of letters peeling back the onion, so to speak, of all that is wrong with the appointment, the PBA, the Council and the administration. In turn – or was it first – the PBA requested and was granted an Internal Affairs investigation into Tedesco’s decision to release a letter to Cohoes resident Frank Fogarty affirming his claim that Officer Kyle Jones used excessive force during an arrest last year. As a kicker, the FBI interviewed some of the department brass and took a number of files. Where that investigation goes is anyone’s guess.
Either way, Magnetto’s appointment riled up the troops on both sides and while there are some simple, clear cut ways to defuse the situation, appointing another police commissioner is not one of them.
Nothing against Riegert, mind you. In my dealings with him he seemed like a decent sort and a straight shooter. After he retired, he went to head up security at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – which is ironic because that is where Magnetto is expected to land – and then in 2010 took a job with Albany County as head of its crime analysis center.
It’s unclear if he would even accept the position if it were offered, but what is clear is that if Tedesco (pictured left)doesn’t get his old job back – and that means the job’s responsibilities instead of just the title – he will proceed with his lawsuit.
I don’t get why the administration is even considering another commissioner. As I wrote, the mayor has the authority to tell the chief how he wants the department run. True he’s a college professor by trade and not a cop, but winning the election gives him that right.
Furthermore, the three driving forces behind getting Magnetto appointed won’t be around much longer. Councilwoman Nina Nichols and Councilman Kevin McGrath opted not to run again and published reports indicate PBA President Bob Fitzgerald (pictured right) is going to retire sometime next year. All three pressured the administration into hiring what is, given the above graph, a $30,000 a year buffer.
And, given the new dynamic on the Council that may not see eye-to-eye with the administration, there is no guarantee it would even approve the commissioner’s salary so I don’t understand the logic behind wasting political clout on something that will only cause more angst in the long run.