Friday has come and gone, Police Commissioner Anthony Magnetto is now back in retirement and almost by default Police Chief John Tedesco is again in control of the day-to-day operation of the Police Department.
Since there wasn’t a bombshell Friday to dispute the Times Union story that was online Thursday evening with the headline “Troy police chief resumes command,” Rosamilia really had no choice in the matter. He was looking for another commissioner – Retired Capt. John Riegert and Deputy Chief Buddy McCavoy were mentioned - but it can’t be easy to find someone to take the job for $30,000 when the department is under so much internal turmoil and public fire?
That’s what I meant by default. And Tedesco and Premo must think it could be a tenuous position too because they issued a statement with some pretty strong language.
“Time will soon tell whether the mayor will truly cast aside his political ties to the PBA and abandon his agenda of placing its president in control of department department’s policies, command and discipline,” Premo said in the statement. “It is hoped that the abject failure of the PBA president’s effective control of the policies and discipline of the police department in direct countermand of the chief’s established “best practices,” have taught them all what was apparent from the start: an accredited police department must not be controlled by politics or a PBA president.”
Tedesco had questioned the validity of Magnetto’s appointment to police commissioner because the city charter clearly states there must be a public safety commissioner in place first to oversee both the fire and police departments. The chief had threatened litigation and the statement makes it apparent that he will proceed should the mayor opt to appoint another police commissioner.
“The mayor essentially admitted he previously usurped Chief Tedesco’s authority and duties through the unlawful appointment of Mr. Magnetto, who now leaves when the Troy Police Department faces the public turmoil of recent events that are directly related to the ineffective policies he instituted at the behest of the PBA president which have resulted in a lack of proper command, control and discipline, according to the statement.
Tedesco was appointed by then Mayor Harry Tutunjian to implement some changes in the police department including restructuring some programs near and dear to the PBA’s heart like SOS and the ERT. Fitzgerald worked hard behind the scenes to first convince Rosamilia to appoint Magnetto, and then convince the Council to approve it. He succeeded and Magnetto has been running the department since.
It has been by and large a disaster, in retrospect, but things came to a head on Jan. 25 with the Kokopellis riot. Nobody can directly blame Magnetto for the melee that left eight officers injured, six requiring hospital care, five patrons under arrest and racial tensions in the city stretched to the breaking point.
It was an explosive situation, and despite many already drawing conclusions – and the police releasing bits and pieces of information attempting to justify the officers’ actions while many in the minority community have already indicted them – nobody really knows if police used excessive force or not. The videos seem to indicate it but even they are open to interpretation and there is no shortage of those bouncing around the Collar City.
Tedesco proved the voice of reason, however. He welcomes an independent investigation by the U.S. Justice Department to satisfy the community and the cops and offered up some structural changes in the department – namely a return to community policing and more defined disciplinary procedures. With the first, cops would get to know the residents and the second know if a cops screws up he will pay for it.
Again, it didn’t matter who was in charge on Jan. 25, but Premo is right in saying that the PBA had way to much influence on the day-to-day operation of the TPD under Magnetto. It doesn't work, you need a strong chief.