Legalized pot, from the law enforcement side
MONTICELLO, NY — “We are confronting marijuana legalization,” county district attorney Meagan Galligan …
MONTICELLO, NY — “We are confronting marijuana legalization,” county district attorney Meagan Galligan said at the April 1 public safety committee meeting. “We knew it was inevitable. We’ve been preparing for it, but we want to send a very clear message, that it is still illegal to drive a motor vehicle while you are impaired by the use of marijuana. That is the main public safety concern for the legalization of marijuana: the safety of our roadways. We’ve seen it in other states; traffic deaths go up and we don’t want that to happen here.”
A breathalyzer test for marijuana has been discussed, but it’s impossible. “Marijuana does not affect the body in the same way that alcohol does. It doesn’t come out in your breath. However, we do believe that there is good science to develop a roadside saliva test that can detect marijuana. It won’t detect the level of impairment, but at least it will confirm an officer’s observations.”
“On the new marijuana law, I’m very skeptical,” said committee chair Nick Salomone, a retired law enforcement officer. “We’re going to have a lot of problems... If that technology doesn’t get advanced, where a cop can determine if a person is under the influence, we’re going to have problems.”
In other drug-related news, there were three opioid overdose deaths last month. Ten to 15 percent of deaths are related to the opioid crisis, reported coroner Albee Bockman.
Sullivan County State Police recorded an uptick in drug arrests, an uptick in police vehicle pursuits and a 33 percent increase in the number of drivers impaired by drugs or alcohol.
“[It’s been] another very busy month in the fire service,” John Hauschild reported for fire protection at the county’s public safety committee meeting on April 1.
There were six structure fires in less than 48 hours and some smoke at the courthouse. Hauschild praised public works commissioner Ed McAndrew and the staff. “They were exceptional with the fire service there that day, opening things up, helping us... We ended up finding a heater exhaust fan in one of the break rooms up in the ceiling, the motor burnt, [which] smoked the place up. I want to give all the staff there a ‘thank you.’”
Then there was a structure fire in Monticello that involved an apartment building; 14 adults and four children were affected. “The [Sullivan County] Red Cross was called in as well as the Department of Family Services (DFS). John Liddle and his staff did an excellent job. Within an hour, DFS had all the names and everybody was taken care of.”
Hauschild reported several small brush fires and reminded everyone about the state burn ban, in effect until Friday, May 14. “We have exceptional winds [that dry] the top vegetation out, and fires spread very rapidly.”
Alex Rau at 911/ EMS reported a busy month as well, with structure fires, EMS calls and law enforcement; There’s “lot of mental health-[related issues], lot of overdoses still happening,” he said.
April 11 to 17 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. During this time, Rau explained, “We get to thank our dispatchers around the county, around the state, around the nation. In my 25 years, it’s probably been the most challenging year for 911,” he said. There’s a lot of “physical, mental and emotional exhaustion on the dispatchers’ part. It is a stressful job to begin with, and couple that with not getting a lot of time off... It’s been a challenging year; I tip my hat to my staff.”
They’re gearing up for summer, and assuming people will largely vacation in-county this year like they did last year, he said. They expect the department to stay busy.
“Trials are resuming,” Galligan reported. “We’re pleased to be back in physical court with trials ongoing.”
Galligan announced that ADA Lee Wellington obtained a conviction and prison sentence at her first felony trial.
The Opioid Task Force is discussing an alcohol program, which isn’t available through the county court system, she said.
The New York State Police will open up its employee assistance program to “all police officers in Sullivan County” at no cost to the county, Galligan reported. “As we’ve said, and everyone agrees, we need to de-stigmatize the use of the program and mental health services for first responders, including our police, and the state police are certainly on board with us.”
This month, the New York State Police will begin using body cameras. A pilot program is starting in New York City, and they’ll eventually make it here, the state police reported.
Undersheriff Eric Chaboty reported that the state is accepting people sentenced to state prison; that hasn’t been the case for a while now. “We had five inmates go down on Monday to Ulster Correctional. We have 10 in quarantine, preparing to go to state, and our current population is 104, six females, 98 males.”
There have been a couple of retirements and three new deputies. Two recruits are in the academy now.
Evictions are on hold until July 1.