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March 31, 2011


A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.

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March 31, 2011

Police Dispatchers And Corruption

The blogger explains why he has developed such a bad attitude toward City of Albany officials, why his attitude is very much justified, and why he may soon have to change his opinion

Several weeks ago, in the middle of a day in the middle of week, a couple of jerks tried to steal copper pipes out of an empty building in my neighborhood. The building is empty because the owner, an outfit located at the end of my street called Jake’s Towing, is subjecting the building to Demolition By Neglect. They want to demolish the building, petition to change the property’s zoning to industrial and park their trucks on this residential plot. But first, they have to let the building disintegrate.

Jake’s, of course, didn’t call the police. I've noticed that they carefully leave a few back windows open at 226 S. Swan Street so that no one will have trouble breaking in. This is standard procedure with Demo By Neglect. It was the neighbors living in the house located on the other side of 226 who called the cops. They are new to the neighborhood, you see. That’s why they called the police.

226 South. Swan Street Next To Jake's Towing:  Demolition By Neglect
226 South. Swan Street Next To Jake's Towing:
Demolition By Neglect

That’s when something astonishing happened. The City of Albany Police showed up fast. Seriously, they did. They hauled out the two thieves and arrested them. Me and another person watched the whole thing. A cop stood at the front door of the house restraining a german shepherd dog and called inside, “Come on out or the dog WILL bite you.” The guy came out.

Copper Thief Moore
Copper Thief
Charles Moore II

I’m sure the owner of Jake’s Towing was disappointed by the police response. But I was delighted and astonished. The police responded in a timely fashion and did their job! Could this be because of the new command down at police headquarters? Has Denial of Service ended?

At this point you may wonder why I am saying such awful things all the time, why I have such a skeptical bad attitude toward our City governmental officials, including the police. Particularly the police. I want you to know that I don’t develop such extreme attitudes suddenly or on a whim. It takes a lot to get me permanently pissed. So I’ll give you a little bit of an explanation why I have such a bad attitude toward our “leaders.”.

Albany Police Compound On Morton Avenue: Exactly Three Blocks From 216
Albany Police Compound On Morton Avenue:
Exactly Three Blocks From 216

On September 1st 1999, a little before seven in the evening, I discovered an elderly neighbor lying prone amid debris on her living room floor. She was 70 years old and had multiple health problems including diabetes. By all appearances she had had a debilitating stroke. When I found her she was conscious enough to tell me she had been lying there helpless since the morning.

This older lady was living in a second floor apartment in a building which I had purchased in 1994, located diagonally across the street from my own home. This was a monthly ritual we had established, I would be sure to visit her on the first and she would give me a rent check right on time. I was one of several people who dropped in on her regularly for one reason or another to make sure she was okay.

A stroke was way more than my slim medical skills could handle. So I quickly made her as comfortable as I could and called Albany City Emergency Services. That is, I talked to an Albany Police dispatcher. I will never forget this conversation which is burned into my memory:

DISPATCHER: What’s your emergency?

ME: I just found one of my neighbors lying on the floor of her apartment. She appears to have had a stroke. She’s been there since at least ten this morning. Can you send the EMS?

DIS: Where are you calling from? [They always ask this first.]

ME: I’m calling from my house across the street. She’s at 216 Morton Avenue, corner of South Swan.

DIS: [Pause, followed by a simpering chuckle.] Did YOU say ‘Morton Avenue?” [Loud and mocking.]

ME: Yes, 216 Morton Avenue. Two blocks downhill from Delaware Avenue.

DIS: [Long pause filled with more simpering.] All right. We’ll send somebody along. [Click off abruptly.]

I ran back to the elderly lady and assured her that help was on the way. In fact, I told her, she would hear the sirens momentarily. And I went downstairs to stand on the porch and wait for the emergency vehicles.

And I waited. And I waited.

I stood there for almost half an hour watching the light evening traffic go by on Morton Avenue while this elderly lay on the floor suffering. I saw several police cars pass, going lazily uphill from the police station three blocks away. One of the cops driving by gave me the usual menacing once over as he cruised past.

Watching The Cars Cruise By On Morton Avenue
Watching The Cars Cruise By On Morton Avenue

At this point I was ready to lose it. Finally I did something I normally would not have dared to do because it was too personally risky, I ran out into the street and flagged down one of the lazy cruisers. The cop looked surprised and of course annoyed, but reluctantly exited his vehicle and followed me upstairs.

The emergency medical call had not been put in by the police dispatcher. The dispatcher, like every single one of the Albany Police dispatchers that I’ve ever dealt with, was a liar. The passing cop that I had flagged down looked at my neighbor on the floor, sighed, and almost angrily put in a call for help on his shoulder radio. By the clock on the wall the EMS personnel entered the woman’s apartment exactly 89 seconds after the officer’s call terminated. (The EMS people, as usual, were rude and nasty.)

This incident shattered all my remaining illusions about our Albany City government and forced me to examine reality. By this point I had become well acquainted with Albany Police Denial Of Service, years before my neighbors had figured it out. That’s because my small business requires more contact with the police than has the average person.

But up to that point I never, never imagined that the Albany Police would deny medical aid to an elderly stroke victim for no other reason than because she lived in my neighborhood.

John Nielsen, Albany Chief Of Police In 1999
John Nielsen, Albany Chief Of Police In 1999

What kind of person, I asked myself at the time (1999) about that dispatcher, would consciously and deliberately make a helpless elderly person suffer unnecessarily and chuckle about it? Only a depraved psychotic who enjoys causing pain and distress. As a matter of fact, every single Albany Police dispatcher I’ve ever dealt with appears to enjoy causing suffering to the people of the City of Albany.

Oh yeah, by that time I’d already gotten to know this evil bastard dispatcher who denied the call to the stroke victim. I call him “The Drawler.” I’ve never seen his face, but oh I would recognize that voice instantly if I ever heard it. To this day I fantasize about stomping his simpering face into the pavement. That would be partial payback for all the unnecessary pain and suffering he has caused for so many good people over the years.

That led me to the next question. What kind of police department would cheerfully place psychotic bastards like The Drawler as it’s public face and prime representative? What kind of irresponsible scumbags enjoy casually making people suffer like that? After all, The Drawler’s attitude and behavior was the norm among the police dispatchers.

Robert Wolfgang, Assistant Chief Of Poloice In 1999, Making Excuses Before The Albany Common Council
Robert Wolfgang, Assistant Chief Of Police In 1999, Making Excuses Before The Albany Common Council

For the vast majority of people the only important contact that they ever have with the police is when they ask the dispatchers for help. The dispatcher is like triage at the hospital, he or she is supposed to instantly determine the importance of a call for help and just as instantly call for an appropriate response. Certainly a fair part of any dispatcher’s job is to handle and deflect non-emergency calls.

But in the City of Albany the police dispatcher often acts as judge jury and executioner, denying emergency calls based on the address of the caller. However, if a person is assaulted and robbed, and the Albany Police dispatcher refuses to send help, what can a person do? Call their congressman? Write a letter to the paper? Call the police?

Traditionally, if we taxpayers wanted police protection, the only alternative acceptable to the Albany Police and to our elected City “leaders” has been for us to move out of the City and go die in the suburbs. And that, you see, is the main idea behind more than two decades of varying degrees of Denial Of Service in Albany. They want us to abandon our properties and leave town.

As strange and irrational as it sounds, that’s what our City government wants for us. Why that is so is a whole other story involving hopeless corruption and Mayor Jerry Jennings, which I won’t go into.

For a while I had swallowed the notion, which individual Albany police officers repeatedly encouraged, that I and my neighbors were somehow at fault for being victims of crime. But this disgusting Denial Of Emergency Medical Service in 1999 was hardly an isolated incident. But it opened my eyes to the truth. This incident proved to me that the Albany Police and the City Administration were consciously and actively working to destroy the City of Albany and chase away the taxpayers.

Mayor Jerry Jennings Of The City Of Albany
Mayor Jerry Jennings Of The City Of Albany

After September 1st 1999 I understood that I was not the problem, and that my neighbors were not at fault. I realized that the problem is that we are saddled with an astonishingly corrupt and dysfunctional City government and police department mostly staffed by corrupt Old Boys from the suburbs who hate themselves even more than they hate our community. And I most reluctantly came to the conclusion that the Albany Police were the front line foot soldiers in Mayor Jerry Jennings’ war against the people and against the neighborhoods of Albany.

After this Medical Denial of Service incident it became evident that if I wanted to continue to run a small business in my own neighborhood and not choke myself with suppressed righteous anger then I would have to learn to stand up to and confront these corrupt and lazy “authorities.” My first acts of defiance were to speak about the problem at a few public hearings. This led to years of steady retaliation against me personally and against my neighborhood by both City Hall and by the members of the Albany Police. But that too is another story.

Have things changed now for the better with the new independent police administration, are the Albany Police doing their job these days and responding to calls? Well, things are better, I’ll say that much. I’m very hopeful... but naturally I remain skeptical.

Let me briefly tell you two more stories, both in the past year or so. This was the first year after the new police administration took over in September 2009, while the first reforms were being implemented. Both tales also took place at the same building that I own at 216 Morton, the same one with the stroke victim who was denied help. I’ll try to avoid tedious detail.

Side Door Of 216 Morton, Torn Off It's Hinges
Side Door Of 216 Morton, Torn Off It's Hinges

Two Decembers back, a bit more than a year ago, the telephone forced me out of bed shortly past midnight. One of my tenants across the street was calling to tell me “the guy downstairs underneath me is going crazy, yelling and breaking things.” Indeed, while I was standing there in my house, I realized that I could hear the guy screaming inside his apartment across the street despite all the windows being closed for cold weather.

The guy going crazy was an Iraqi vet, an ex-Marine. He’d moved into the basement apartment a year or so earlier not long after his discharge. Up to this point he’d been a good tenant, no problems, although I could see when he moved in that he had unresolved issues. The pointless War Against Iraq had left him damaged. Consider damaged veterans of the endless corporate wars a big social issue for our time.

Irritated, I said to the upstairs tenant who had gotten me out of bed, “Did you call the police?” I hate it when tenants call me instead of emergency services. “Yes, I called them twice. They haven’t come yet. That’s why I called you.” Oh. Same old crap from the police dispatchers.

My tenant neighbor was a steady responsible guy, I knew he wouldn’t call me for help unless he had to. Later I found that another tenant in the building, also steady and responsible, had also called the police. And the next door neighbor, a retired homeowner, had also called. That’s a total of four calls by three different responsible people that had been casually blown off by the police dispatcher.

Albany NY Police Dispatcher At Work In 2009
Albany NY Police Dispatcher At Work In 2009

So my call to the police dispatcher was number five. To make a long story short, I could hear the Police Dispatcher scrolling down what I call The Police Response List. This is a list that Albany Police dispatchers use to decide whether or not to respond to a call. The list dates back to the Corning administration, I was put on the list in 2007 partly because I am a neighborhood association president and partly because of this blog, that is, as a attempt to shut me up.

It’s an act of appeasement by the authorities, you see. The idea is to fool the people on the list into thinking there is no Denial Of Service. Neighborhood activists are generally politically influential in their own neighborhoods, so they are the right sort of people to fool.

I’ve observed that most neighborhood activists are easily fooled by such things. It worked on me for a while. I always wondered why my neighbors gave me funny looks and said nothing whenever I said to them, “Denial Of Service has ended.”

Finally after five calls to the dispatcher our neighborhood got a police response. The car pulled up lazily. To this first cop it was apparently inconceivable that a white man would live across the street from his own rental property in the South End of Albany.

For the first part of this emergency call this suburban ass oh so carefully peeled off his fancy kid gloves and attempted to degrade me. Meanwhile, the ex-vet continued to scream and smash things. Fortunately at that moment an Albany Police officer who knows me pulled up and took the situation seriously, which ended the first guy’s kiddie games. They had to drag my tenant out and cuff him while he lay shirtless and babbling on the frozen ground. He didn’t seem to notice the cold. Afterwards I thanked them. The cop with the gloves looked embarrassed as I shook his hand.

Back Door Of 216 As Seen By The Neighbor
Back Door Of 216 As Seen By The Neighbor

Fast forward to this past summer, same building diagonally across the street from my house. (Remember summer?) It was August and I happened to be away on a vacation. Just before I returned home I got a call at the place where I was vacationing that there had been an apparent attempted break-in at that same house, the one where the elderly stroke victim was denied help because of her Morton Avenue address. Here’s the story that I pieced together second hand.

Two teenage boys were visiting some house at the end of the street. Unsupervised, they wandered into the yard of my building and started throwing things around and hollering. Eventually they climbed up on the porch of my building and started messing with the back door, which happens to be mainly the entrance to one apartment.

The retired neighbor next door had already called the police. When he heard the sound of breaking glass he yelled out his window at the kids. They jumped off the porch and dashed out of the yard to the street, where they hovered and hollered. The neighbor called the police again.

Eventually the kids drifted up the street laughing and disappeared into the house they were visiting. The neighbor called the police a third time while he watched the kids stroll away. “I told them my son in law is a member of the force but they weren’t impressed.” That is, the police dispatcher did not consider that reason enough to break the Denial of Service imposed on my neighborhood.

About forty minutes later a cruiser showed up. My neighbor pointed out the house into which the kids disappeared. The cop at the wheel shrugged and said, “Nothing we can do.” They never even got out of the damn car.

Well, the tenant came home from work around 9:30 PM, saw the damage to the door and freaked. She called the cops and the dispatcher testily told her a patrol car might drop by tomorrow. “But I’m at work all day,” she said. Oh well, said the dispatcher. They never told her that the next door neighbor had called during the incident and that a patrol car had reluctantly responded. They never inform. As a matter of policy they keep power over us by always keeping us guessing.

Carefully Neglected Sidewalk On Morton Avenue Across From The Albany Police Compound
Carefully Neglected Sidewalk On Morton Avenue Across From The Albany Police Compound

Look around the South End of Albany, at the empty buildings, the neglected streets and sidewalks, the parts that look like the aftermath of a air missile attack. This was not caused by “The Invisible Hand Of The Marketplace” or by any other strange god. This is the result of many decades of successful government policy designed to loot and destroy the South End.

As for why our elected officials have pursued this bizarre policy, well, that involves loony anti-urban ideology which in turn has acted as a justification for the usual self-serving petty corruption by our local elected officials. But that too is another story.

Police Denial of Service has been an important central part of this ongoing effort to destroy the South End. It’s not merely about making people feel unsafe and abandoned, thus forcing them to move out of Albany. It’s also about destroying our urban buildings. Note, for example, how all three stories in this article involve damage to buildings.

Few things short of fire destroys the value of a building more effectively than when some jerk tears into the walls and rips out the copper pipes. If the Albany Police don’t respond to reports of vandalism and destruction then the buildings will be destroyed. We citizens are not allowed to organize to defend our own neighborhoods, therefore if the police refuse to respond to calls then we are rendered helpless.

And yes, if we neighbors decided to start our own neighborhood defense committee, the Albany Police would show up in force to suppress our efforts. Guaranteed. You can’t have Police Denial of Service unless the police are willing to enforce their denial policies by raw force against the taxpayers. Denial of Service is not passive, it has to be enforced by applying fear and intimidation.

Current Signs On 216 Morton: Easy Building To Find
Current Signs On 216 Morton: Easy Building To Find

Have things changed? Are the Albany Police starting to work for the taxpayers who pay for their benefits? Can we begin to rely on them to respond to our emergency calls? Can we now trust these suburbanites?

More than a year ago I reported that Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings looked surprisingly unhappy for a guy who had handily won a tough reelection. I erroneously concluded that His sad public visage had been caused by Kathy Sheehan’s landslide election as Treasurer, which meant that the Mayor had lost control of the City’s financial database.

I was mighty wrong about that. His Majesty had no fear of the new Treasurer, He probably figured He could handle her. No, He had a more serious problem that caused His woeful countenance.

Days before the September 2009 election a cabal of young police administrators led by then 39 year old Chief Steven Krokoff seized control of the Albany Police department. Jennings, deeply shaken by suddenly losing control of the police, desperately tried to regain control by undermining the young cabal. Nine months later He finally admitted failure by reluctantly confirming Mr. Krokoff as Chief of Police.

Assistant Chief Brendan Cox And Chief Stephen Krokoff In The Common Council Chambers
Assistant Chief Brendan Cox And Chief Stephen Krokoff In The Common Council Chambers

As soon as the Albany Police achieved independence from the mayor, the new police administration began a series of reforms aimed at solving the worst and most debilitating problems that have made the department ineffective and destructive. Getting rid of all the bad lazy old baby boomer cops was the first and biggest step to improvement. But that was easy compared to dealing with the deep and mostly silent public resentment that Chief Krokoff’s predecessors worked so hard to create.

I’m here to report that it looks like the reforms are taking effect. I understand that all Albany Police personnel have gone through mandatory public relations training, the classes are supposed to be finished this month. And after a few months worth of delays a permanent force of neighborhood beat officers has already hit the streets in time for spring. Along with this new and unprecedented engagement with the taxpayers we are seeing a new administrative structure being implemented that supports a newly effective police force.

Make no mistake about it, this is no coincidence. The Albany Police are working hard to solve their problems precisely because Jerry Jennings is losing control of Albany. The Mayor’s focus has always been to line His own pocket by promoting the steady destruction of the City He hates so much. As His power wanes His destructive influence retreats, and responsible people are beginning to take over from His minions.

The dispatchers are the gatekeepers, the public face of the police. I say that all the reforms are in vain if the police dispatchers still conduct their business like they are still working for Jerry. I also say that the Police Respond List, which, like the bullet stickers for cars, officially does not exist, is discriminatory and should be discarded immediately. It is time to abandon all persons involved with Denial of Service, including the dispatchers.

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Posted by:Roger Green
Posted on:04/03/2011
If you're right, I'll be happy.
The DOS seemed shortsighted. When the cops want sdomething from the community (e.g., help in a murder investigation), it just adds to the cycle of the cops are crooked/the neighborhood is unworthy cycle.

Posted by:Ad
Posted on:05/22/2015
I enjoy reading your blog, I am an Albany police dispatcher and that is my picture you have up. I'd appreciate you taking the picture down as I am not one of the dispatchers that you describe, ive been doing my job for 11yrs now and help as many people as I can. I can see this picture confusing me with someone who does not care about this job. Thanks

Posted by:Dan Van Riper
Posted on:12/25/2015
Ad: You've been a City of Albany dispatcher for 11 years? That puts you right in the era of denial of service. Before 2011 I did not encounter one single dispatcher who would willingly dispatch an emergency vehicle to my neighborhood, nor did I encounter one who did not treat me with open contempt because I live in the South End.

I will say that in recent years things have changed for the better, obviously the training that you have received has taught you to be professional and not deny emergency service because of location. Today, December 2015, I am still angry at what you people used to do to the citizens of this City. And BTW, I grabbed that picture from the Hearst Times Union.

Posted by:I don't live in that state but I was googling for some help with what to do when dispatch and cops don't do there job.I have been through similar.I have reported my mother getting hit and her takeing off sleeping in the cold because she is in fear .dispatch told me she talked to my mother and they never did .I called numerous of times to tell them to do there job and yelled at them then a few hours later they. Called her and the messed up part is they put a warrant out for my arrest because dispatch said I was harrassing them
Posted on:01/12/2016
Sorry posted in wrong area

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