Saturday, December 9, 2023

CSEA Calls on City of Newburgh Leaders to Listen to Police Dispatchers About Understaffing Problems

Leaders of CSEA, the union representing City of Newburgh employees, has called on Newburgh City Manager Todd Venning and members of the City Council to solicit feedback from city police dispatchers related to alleged understaffing issues.

The City Council recently discussed hiring more police dispatchers, but CSEA Southern Region President Anthony M. Adamo said the proposal does not go far enough. He said the City Council should make an “informed decision” before voting on the hiring proposal by hearing from current dispatchers about the current challenges they are facing. The proposal brought before council members last Thursday night would allocate two dispatchers for each of the three shifts per day, the CSEA reported.

“To guarantee the safety of residents and safety of officers on the street, even more needs to be done,” said Adamo. “We were encouraged to hear that City Council members agreed on a proposal to hire additional dispatchers, but there are many compelling reasons why the current proposal doesn’t go far enough. I implore members of the City Council to speak with the current civilian dispatchers and hear from the people who are actually doing this work.”

Adamo pointed out that having three dispatchers on duty was the norm when the City of Newburgh Police Department was accredited by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services in 2008. Also on the agenda at Thursday’s work session was a proposal from police leadership seeking council members’ support in pursuing accreditation.

“The last time the department was accredited, operations were much smoother due to better civilian dispatch staffing levels,” said Adamo. “If the intention is to again pursue accreditation, it only makes sense that this short staffing is rectified now. That’s why I’m encouraging conversations to take place with the current civilian police dispatchers, all of whom have vast experience and knowledge of department operations over the last two decades.”

While overtime due to short staffing is often attributed as a source of worker burnout, Adamo noted that the stress on the current civilian police dispatchers in the City of Newburgh stems largely from the impact of mass city layoffs that took place in 2009, at which time staffing in the City of Newburgh Police Department’s Records Division was gutted. That department now has only one full time civilian employee, according to the CSEA.

“Since then, dispatch has taken on a myriad of clerical tasks previously handled by Records,” said Adamo. “It’s been so long since 2009 that we’re concerned that city elected officials might be unfamiliar with the long-term impact those layoffs created. Is that added work and short-staffing impacting officer safety? Are emergency calls going unanswered? These are all questions that can be answered by hearing from the civilian police dispatchers currently doing this work.”

During the most recent City Council meeting on May 8, 2023, Harvey silenced a homeless woman as she criticized city leaders about staffing levels while speaking during the public comments section.

“I don’t like how all five departments, the police department and fire department, seems to be going on a shoestring budget. It’s a mess,” she stated. “We should not be here. We should be taking care of all departments as well as the police and fire departments because they put their lives on the line.”

She referred to Venning and continued, “He has to present your agenda, so I don’t blame him, but I really wish that he had residency in Newburgh. It’s a comment that I’m making. It’s my personal comment.”

Harvey interrupted her and insisted, “I’ve asked you multiple times, please don’t call people out. Give us your comment.”

She added, “This city is going down here. I don’t have no qualms in talking about my personal opinion, but when November comes, I will not waste my vote on neither one of you. We need new Council.”

This was not the first time Harvey has silenced citizens while speaking during the public comments portions of public meetings. Harvey also threatened to eject the same homeless woman from a council meeting on April 24, 2023 when she called the mayor “a bully” (story and video here).

During a council meeting last year, Harvey had an angry outburst and screamed at a City of Newburgh resident, who was also a member of the firefighters’ union, for scolding the Council about staffing levels following a fatal house fire. As Harvey continued screaming, he ordered police to remove the citizen from the public meeting. After the man was escorted out, Harvey continued screaming at the remainder of the public in attendance and warned them that they were not allowed to be “disrespectful” to City of Newburgh officials. See the video below.

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus recently announced that he is considering removing all county offices from the City of Newburgh due to what he called a “North Korea” style of government and violent crimes (story here).

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