Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Just in case you missed it

Sheriff Jim Bowen is fixing to give away more money. For the second time in three years and the third in seven it appears as though the state’s crustiest regulator and his gang of keystone kops are ready to make another area resident rich.

This year’s sweepstakes appears to be a lock for Diane Scarlotta, the latest victim of a personal injury accident directly attributed to the actions of on-duty deputies. Though the Granville resident didn’t fare nearly as bad as the last victim –deceased Skidmore student Phil Eckstein –she certainly has one hell of a case against Bowen’s boys, should she choose to file a claim.

Scarlotta was arrested for petit larceny on Nov. 30 and was apparently getting a lift from Deputy D.A. Harder when he slammed into the back of a vehicle on Carr Road in Wilton. The force with which he struck the car was enough to smash it into a third vehicle, according to an un-bylined article published in the Saratogian last week.

From the glib description of Scarlotta’s injuries, it appears as though she wasn’t properly restrained in Harder’s vehicle. She suffered a bruised forehead, cut nose, and a tooth knocked out of her mouth. While these aren’t life threatening issues, they’re surely not the type of injuries one expects to suffer on the way to booking.

On a side note, the crash-happy ambulance chasers of television news never bothered to report the accident; neither did the daily newspapers. True, no one died and the accident itself only injured the Harder’s sticky-fingered prisoner. But one would have thought such an incident would be worth a brief in the cop’s logs.

Harder was ticketed for following too close, a traffic violation, which by itself doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. But after factoring in Scarlotta’s injuries and the probability he never properly restrained her in his cruiser, the accident sounds like a lawsuit, which is a big deal.

This is especially given the accident that claimed Eckstein’s life as he crossed Route 50 in October 2005. And then consider the deputy involved in a boat crash on Saratoga Lake in 2000, which seriously injured a teenage rower. Suddenly, a pattern starts to take shape: on-duty sheriffs getting into careless accidents that injure people and open the county up to serious liability.

In the case of the seriously injured rower, a 13-year-old girl that suffered a potentially life-altering pelvis injury, the county was required to pay out $1.25 million. The jury initially deliberating in the case initially awarded her $3 million, an amount that was later lowered by the state appellate court. Though a grand jury headed by County District Attorney James Murphy found no criminal wrong doing in Eckstein’s death, the student’s family filed suit last year in state Supreme Court. Naturally, the sheriff’s department is among the litigants listed.

So perhaps instead of stumping for more deputies for the county’s roads and waterways, Bowen should seek more training for the ones he already has. After all, the public might start to see the writing on the wall if his cops continue to double as law suit magnets.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well maybe if Saratoga gets NASCAR the deputies will have a place to let out their Bowen frustrations.

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

isn't it the county thats getting sued, not bowen?

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One easy way to solve the rash of lawsuites: double up on the tasers. Can't get enough tasers.

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those that grew up Saratogian, in the seventies, there was a Big Jim action figure and a Big Jim County Sheriff. The Mattel figure was a Karate guy without all the weaponry that could subdue his opponents with a kick and a muscular arm extension. The protective services during that post Vietnam time trained most of their guys with combat training and a dependence on firepower and numbers. The self defense and offense training was left for the movies. Most police will agree that they rely on their numbers in any situation to overpower or overwhelm a suspect. Our president recently coined nothing more than a “Shock and Awe” offensive that actually describes the cost over the effectiveness for such a strategy.

As the line of law enforcement works its way down from the State to the County to the City, there is a greater chance that those on the lower rungs see themselves as traffic cops and those at the top see themselves as those action figures with more dangerous work. While that’s not true, the training of law enforcement personnel is always suspect when we have local incidents like the one recently at Four Winds, the tragedy at the East Side field 12 years ago and the one you remind us of involving a trained County Officer whose speed may have contributed along with low light and road surface conditions complicating the pedestrian misjudgment on Route 50. You have to question how this officer with all of his defensive drive training fell short, under those conditions like the slicing in half of a rowing shell on the Lake by a distracted deputy.

The State is now quietly making improvements to that section of roadway that should have been completed had the monies not been diverted to Malta for their traffic circles. All these years and several pedestrians killed crossing pedestrian streets finally the road gets attention. I can’t help but wonder why it took thirty years (maybe more) since Logan English, a professor walking home across the arterial was killed in traffic and nothing till now was done. Our planners pour over plans all the time, yet this section of roadway bisecting residential streets was always ignored. Responsibility by some that was deferred to other agencies resulted in little ever getting done, till finally a student crossing a poorly lit section of roadway in the rain is run over by a County Deputy.

Is it Big Jim’s fault? Maybe the territory and concern for its details have gotten too large for the Sheriff where the importance is placed on budgets, manpower, equipment and now a newer facility. What about the citizens? And how well are our Police and Deputies trained? I'm not so sure about the tasers, but they would be prefered over guns for less threatening situations. But tasers can be misused too. I guess its training again.

5:29 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...


Nascar…what kind of screwball would propose something like that in Saratoga Springs? Oh wait...just one of the guys proposing the new public safety facility for the city.

“Isn’t it the county that’s getting sued, not Bowen?”

Bowen is the law enforcement arm of the county. I believe one would have to sue the county in order to make a claim against something Bowen or his deputies did in their somewhat professional capacity. However, I’m not a hundred percent on this.

“One easy way to solve the rash of lawsuits: double up on the Tasers. Can't get enough Tasers.”

Don’t get me proselytizing on Tasers. While I think they can play an important role in law enforcement, I don’t believe that role has been properly defined. In short, most cops these days will use a Taser at a level of force BEFORE they use a billy club or pepper spray. In fact, some agencies even claim them to be better for the individual getting blasted than the alternatives.

Personally, I find some of the Taser-related death impossible to ignore. Simply put, the human form is not built to withstand the proverbial electrical reset Tasers induce. While their producers will vehemently deny this, there remains evidence that assailants in a highly excited state can perish after receiving a shock.

With this caveat, I’ll answer your comment with this statement: the civil courts are going to be filled tort cases if Bowen’s boys get Tasers. I’m frankly impressed they give those guys guns with ammo. I’ll probably just move far away from wherever those boobs patrol; maybe even buy myself a Taser just in case I see one of those fuckers stray out of the county.

“Maybe the territory and concern for its details have gotten too large for the Sheriff where the importance is placed on budgets, manpower, equipment and now a newer facility.”

A very good point. Frankly, one of the major drawbacks of having a large, untrained police force roaming the countryside is that they lack the one thing a beat cop has: street smarts. Get to know the people; develop a respect for and from them.

This sort of knowledge and working relationship is invaluable to defusing a situation rather than escalating it. It also acts as a deterrent for crime. If I know when I fuck up, there’s a guy that’s going to be looking over me like a scorned parent, I’m going to think twice about fucking up. And when I do fuck up, the best person to take me down is going to be the one who knows me the best.

Frankly, today’s police rely too heavily on new facilities, communication centers, Tasers, data banks and other modern amenities not available to their predecessors. All this dogshit –while useful in busting people –creates a buffer between the police and the populous they serve.

Ultimately, it’s the cops that feel like their herding sheep and the people who feel like their being herded like sheep. That sort of situation causes the violence we sometimes read about between cops and robbers. The guy on the street is just another criminal; the guy in the cruiser is just another pig.

In Bowen’s case, the larger his force gets, the less personal an already impersonal band of deputies become while performing an otherwise impersonal job. What the area needs is community police, not a roving gang of rednecks arbitrarily enforcing some laws while breaking others.

7:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh sorry, since you always claimed that it wasn't mctygue being sued but the city, i would have thought that consistency dictates the same for bowen. my bad.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

Well, since you're such a stickler for verbiage, it is the COUNTY getting sued for the ACTIONS of Bowen's department. If you feel necessary, insert "city" instead of "county" and "McTygue's" instead of "Bowen's."

I would point out that Bowen is still in office and worthy of criticism. McTygue, as of midnight tonight, is history. One would think the people who hate the guy so much would be content with his ousting from office and want his memory fade. But I guess abject hatred is difficult to forget overnight.

Speaking of the anti-McTygue crew, whatever happened to that pesky little FBI investigation? Or McTygue being led out of office in handcuffs? Anything proffered as truth by the Metrorag? Bring back those answers and I'll entertain a new discussion about McTygue. Otherwise, the former commissioner is old history along with the former mayor. May the go in peace.

7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow thats unbelievable she derserves every penny she gets that officer shouldn't of been driving.ms scarlotta deserves a cool mil

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

she is a criminal and should not be entitled to anything, if she did not break the law then she would not of been there in the first place.criminals should not be rewarded for freak accidents..

7:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know scarlotta personally and the life that she leads does not warnt for any retribution she put herself in this position on several occasions and just so happen that this one she was injured too bad think of the people that she has taken advantage of and injured herself..dont think she should be able to sue for anything

8:02 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

8:02, 7:58,

I agree. Unfortunately, the tort lawyers don't. I can recall one recent case in the Capital Region lately where an inmate with a rap sheet 40 pages long ended up suing a local police department after claiming they beat the tar out of him in a holding cell and then refused to give him medical attention. There were no witnesses of the alleged beating and the only evidence was that the guy had some lumps.

He made out with something to the tune of $20,000 WHILE SERVING A 2-6 year sentence for GTA. Why? Because it would have cost more for the town to fight the case. For Scarlotta, it's going to be a more open-and-shut case, seeing as though she was in custody. Like it or not, when you're detained by the cops, they are more or less responsible for your well-being. If their actions put you in harms way, you've got a more than viable tort suit, which just about any ambulance chaser would take with drool dripping from their chops.

No law enforcement agency would bother taking this to court, seeing as though all the plaintiff would need to do is flash an image of that girl's busted face and a picture of the sheriff's deputy's ticket for following too close and a jury would give her all medical bills plus a nice tidy sum for pain and suffering. My prediction: Scarlotta makes off with $50,000 in an out-of-court settlement, if she's savvy enough to file a notice of claim. So if she owes you money, you'll soon be in luck, if my foretelling proves correct.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regards to the comment from the person who "knows" Ms. Scarlotta, um do you really - because I do know of her - and she does not put herself in these situations often and get arrested - in fact she has never been arrested -does anyone even know the facts of the situation that put her there - no it wasn't mentioned. I myself have been accused of wrongdoing that was incorrect a few times in my life - and the information for those situations was incorrect and blown out of portion. I am pretty sure that almost everyone commenting on this piece has done something not favorable or wrong a time or two in their life. Maybe one should remember that this person wasn't placed in this car for a felony such as murder, rape or the likes but rather a situation that occured that had two sides and two opinions. But everyone has their opinion, don't they. So I guess I would say that one doesn't deserve to get slammed around and injured no matter what the circumstance of the matter is.

10:51 AM  

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