Five ADAs, 5,500 cases

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 9/7/21

MONTICELLO, NY — “Not much good news this month,” said Sullivan County District Attorney Meagan Galligan at the September 2 legislative public safety committee meeting.

Violent …

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Five ADAs, 5,500 cases

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MONTICELLO, NY — “Not much good news this month,” said Sullivan County District Attorney Meagan Galligan at the September 2 legislative public safety committee meeting.

Violent crime, she reported, was up in the first quarter of 2021, according to statistics from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Felony arrests are up 35 percent.

“And we have manpower issues. Crime is up and manpower is down,” she said.

The situation translates into five assistant district attorneys handling a COVID-19-related backlog of 5,500 cases.

The pile-up of cases occurred because the office normally handles three thousand cases a year. That didn’t stop in the pandemic, but the DA’s office itself was paused for eight months, she said, so the 5,500 figure makes sense.

Those five ADAs are also covering over 30 night court appearances per month. “I’m doing those as well,” Galligan said, “but that’s an untenable situation. We need to have more ADAs.”

Additionally, the use of body cameras by police is now required as part of police reform laws passed in the Cuomo administration. In Sullivan County, body cameras are being used now by State Police Troop F, adding to the DA office workload. “The ADAs have to review all the footage within 20 days of an arrest for a person who is incarcerated,” Galligan said, “and [within] 35 days if they’re not incarcerated.”

This adds a great deal of extra work, she said, especially if multiple body cameras are involved. Troop F captain Reva Navarro added later that when several officers are at an incident, all body cameras activate automatically. All that footage has to be reviewed by the DA’s office.

“That’s going to be a tremendous time investment,” Galligan said. “I do think it’s a good idea... this [Troop F’s use of body cameras] will be a good test or pilot project.”

State police are being trained in body camera use, so, as Navarro said later, people may still see officers without body cameras for a time.

Chairman Rob Doherty asked if the uptick in felony arrests was compared with the previous year; Galligan said it was.

“Some surrounding counties have seen a downtick,” she added. “Violent crime is in pockets in the county, not widespread.

“We’ve had conversations with police chiefs throughout the Hudson Valley and that’s what they’re seeing as well. If you can root out that group of individuals we can probably see a downtick.”

During his report, Undersheriff Eric Chaboty noted that the county “dodged a bullet” during the previous night’s storm. The vestiges of Hurricane Ida were supposed to pour rain on Sullivan, but the bulk of the storm hit south of the county. Chaboty said there were only a couple of areas of flooding.

His office is seeing staffing shortages, too. While a few deputies are in training now, more are needed. “We’re hiring provisionally,” he said. “There’s no maximum age.”

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