Background

New York State had never sued a town over an allegedly out-of-control police department before [suing the Town of Wallkill].
— Nathan Hegedus, "Walkill scandal a first for New York," Times Herald-Record (Jan. 2001)

The Town of Wallkill's police department became the focus of scrutiny following complaints of a pattern of abuses of police authority, especially related to officer harassment of young women and retaliation against those who filed complaints or who were involved in oversight activities. The New York Attorney General sued in federal court and the Town (population 27,426) entered into a consent agreement. 

Scope of Work

The court selected Dean Esserman, then-Chief of the Providence Police Department, to serve as Monitor of Wallkill's compliance with the consent agreement. The court also asked PARC to provide staff assistance to the monitor.   Following the conclusion of the consent decree, the Town retained PARC to continue to assess its ongoing effort to improve its policing practices.

The decree stemmed from a pattern of harassment against young women civilians and the use of complaints as retaliation. Core issues addressed included:

  • Supervision;
  • Citizen complaints;
  • Stops and detentions of civilian subjects;
  • Use of force;
  • Officer training;
  • Early intervention system;
  • Discipline; and
  • Relationships with other law enforcement agencies.

Approach

Rigorous Policy & Procedure Review by Seasoned Experts. PARC engaged a distinguished team of law enforcement experts to conduct detailed assessments of the Department's policies, practices, and procedures.

[T]he court directed that the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC) should provide staff assistance [in monitoring the consent decree]. On the successful completion of the consent decree, in 2006, the town retained PARC staff to continue to assess compliance with good policing practices.
— Harry W. More, Current Issues in American Law Enforcement 83 (2008).

Best Practices. In considering new policies, establishing new procedures, or designing new training, PARC evaluated policies and training in light of best practice–as established by assessments of law enforcement agencies nationwide, model policies from national organizations, legal and academic research, and consultation by experienced professionals and law enforcement experts.

Transparent Internal Review & Discipline.  Internal investigations of citizen's complaints must be rigorous, fair, objective, and timely. Reviews and assessments of those investigations must be critical, comprehensive, and transparent. PARC and its staff collaborated with the the Town of Wallkill to strengthen the integrity and transparency of the treatment of citizen's complaints.

Ongoing Oversight & Collaboration. PARC worked closely with a number of key stakeholders, including city, state, and police officials and community stakeholders.  The ongoing engagement provided an opportunity for the sort of meaningful, sustained oversight necessary for the implementation of enduring reforms.

Results

Culture Change. The implementation of PARC's recommendations helped usher in a new era of transparency and accountability among the Town of Walkill's police, resulting in the improved perception of police among the Walkill population.

Increased Integrity of Internal Reviews & Investigations. The number of inadequately investigated or reviewed force incidents and civilian complaints declined following implementation of several of PARC's recommendations.

 

PROJECT OBJECTIVE

Monitor first-of-its-kind consent decree between Town of Walkill, New York and New York state addressing a pattern of abuses of police authority.

KEY ISSUES ADDRESSED

Supervision
Citizen Complaints
Stops & Detentions
Use of Force
Officer Training  & Tactics
Early Intervention System
Data-Driven Mangement
Discipline
Inter-Agency Relationships

KEY RESOURCES

First Wallkill Monitor Report (Jan. 2002)
Second Wallkill Monitor Report (July 2002)
Third Wallkill Monitor Report (March 2004)
Fourth Wallkill Monitor Report (March 2005)

MEDIA

"Wallkill cops in 'substantial compliance' with decree," Times Herald-Record (Feb. 2005)
"Wallkill scandal suit a first for New York," Times Hearld-Record (Jan. 2001)
"Shocking Cop Abuse Suit," N.Y. Daily News (Jan. 2001)