POUGHKEEPSIE – The City of Poughkeepsie PBA, which represents 87 city officers officially denounced Common Council Chairperson Sarah Salem with a vote of “no confidence” and are calling for her removal from office, based on what they say is Salem’s “anti-police” agenda.
Salem has been arrested three times, two of which were by City of Poughkeepsie police. The police feel that Salem is biased against police due in part to her criminal behavior including striking a police officer and two DWI arrests.
According to Detective Chris Libolt, PBA Vice-president, violent crime is on the rise in Poughkeepsie but “Salem and Councilmember Evan Menist have priorities that focus on defunding the police, passing the Right to Know Act and the formation of a Civilian Review Board” rather than address the alarming rise in crime. Since June 1 there have been 3 homicides, 6 shootings, 16 stabbings, 22 incidents of a person with a gun, 9 robberies, and 42 instances of gunshots fired. Libolt said Salem and Menist are carrying out their “anti-police” agenda “Without any dialog with the PBA or the Police Department command staff. Oversight of the police is more valuable to them than preserving the lives and well-being of those being victimized in the streets.”
The PBA said the officers are at the forefront of 21st century policing, wearing body-cameras, trained in crisis-intervention, Procedural Justice, and Implicit Bias “But sadly that is not enough for Salem and Menist.” Libolt added that “Oversight of the police is more valuable to them (Salem and Menist) than preserving the lives and well-being of those being victimized in the streets.”
In a statement released by the union, the members are calling for Governor Cuomo to remove Salem from office because of an apparent “strong vendetta” against the police department. “Due to the nature of her criminal case and the obvious conflict that it may cause, the PBA does not believe that Salem should have any involvement in police matters or be able to vote on any legislation until the criminal case is resolved. It is the belief of the PBA that Salem is unable to be neutral, fair, and unbiased in matters pertaining to the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department.”
In addition to calling for Salem’s removal, the PBA is critical of Menist. “Menist has also made it clear that his priorities do not lie in public safety or the well -being of those who live and work in Poughkeepsie,” said Libolt. The union spokesman says Menist has shown little interest in learning about the department or its members. According to union records, Menist has never attended any community functions where the PBA or PAL has been present since he took office. “He has never set foot in the police station nor has he ever participated in a ride-along with one of our officers. He has shown no interest in how our officers conduct themselves or interact with the community. Mr. Menist would rather base his opinions on the actions of police officers from elsewhere in the country rather than getting to know the officers in our city,” according to the union statement.
Menist commended the police for their work while also stressing the need for the review board. In promoting the upcoming legislation, the councilmember said “Civilian Review Boards have a long history dating back to the 1950s of enhancing public trust in police forces and fostering more open communications between police and the communities they serve, which in turn helps police increase public safety by having better and more direct communication with community members who trust the work being done by the police. The City of Poughkeepsie Police Department has done a commendable amount of work in fostering trust with our community, and a Civilian Review Board is the next step in further strengthening that trust in the name of public safety.”
Sarah Salem did not return a request for comment.