Thank God! – We’ll Finally Eliminate State Police Political Interference

The New York State Police have been involved in non-stop political machinations – and investigations – since 2007. Always, political interference with and by the office is found. Always, the governor, attorney general, and superintendent of state police vow to (a) continue scrutiny, (b) end politicization, (c) improve once and for all the role the police play in government in-fighting and cover-ups. The vows always fail.

After the New York Times revealed that New York State Police had contacted an alleged victim of abuse by one of Governor David Paterson’s aides while she was seeking a restraining order, Paterson immediately called for investigations by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt.

Paterson was apparently shocked to learn of the details recounted in the Times, since just last week, he said he had “looked into” that matter and found no cause for concern. Following the appearance of the Times article, however, Paterson suspended long-time aide David Johnson who (allegedly) ripped the clothes off of his partner, choked her, and prevented her from calling police.

Of course, one focus for such an investigation will be Paterson’s contacting the alleged victim himself the day before a scheduled hearing in the case, a hearing she did not attend, leading to a dismissal. Although he originally said the woman called him, it turns out that one of Paterson’s assistants first contacted the woman and instructed her to call him.

The same day that the article appeared, the cabinet member who supervises the state police force, Denise O’Donnell, resigned, indicating that the situation was intolerable. Particularly offensive to her was her claim that Superintendent Corbitt misrepresented the facts when he told her that the state police had no role in the matter.

When we hear the words “Cuomo Investigation of State Police Political Involvement,” does it ring a bell? Well, let’s see. In July 2007, Cuomo issued a scathing report on then-governor Eliot Spitzer’s misuse of the state police to report on his political opponent, Joe Bruno.

Then again, we might be thinking of the September 2009 Cuomo Report, also scathing, saying that the Governor’s office had been using the state police for political purposes for the past decade or more. Especially intriguing was its citing that superintendent Wayne Bennett “ordered subordinates to erase the official police report of a 2005 domestic violence complaint” against a congressman.

But we might have been reassured by the reaction to the report. Governor Paterson was intensely concerned about the “troubling politicization of certain actions and decisions that occurred at highest levels of the State Police.” And Harry Corbitt, Paterson’s pick for superintendent, vowed to overhaul the agency.

You may recall that Corbitt is the person whose actions caused the public safety secretary O’Donnell to resign. Corbitt reacted to her resignation by saying that O’Donnell misunderstood what he told her. Corbitt indicated that there was no state police involvement in the abuse case – an officer only saw the alleged abuse victim, Corbitt explained, to present options to her, including counseling.

For her part, the alleged victim said the police repeatedly called to harass her to drop her charges against the governor’s aide. There seemingly was more than the one contact by an officer that Corbitt described. It turns out that Maj. Charles Day, the head of the governor’s security detail, personally contacted the woman twice as well.

There is a bit of confusion around the investigations. Paterson originally asked both Cuomo and Corbitt to investigate the matter. But Cuomo instructed Corbitt to “stand down” from conducting his own investigation. Nonetheless, the superintendent has promised to cooperate fully with Cuomo.

So, let’s count up. There was the 2007 investigation by Cuomo of Spitzer’s political use of the state police. Then there was his September 2009 report indicating long-standing political use of the state police by the governor’s office. Then Paterson “looked into” the matter of his aide’s abuse of a woman. Then Corbitt questioned his officers about their involvement in the case.

Well, we can rest assured that the new Cuomo-Corbitt investigation will lay the matter to rest. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take 18 months to complete the investigation, like the one leading to the 2009 Cuomo Report. Considering that the next incident occurred within six months, we just don’t have that kind of time. Of course, according to the Times, in September 2009 Cuomo’s investigation “is continuing.”

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts by The Fix, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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