UPD Chiefs Take Heat From Union For ‘Mismanagement’
Campus policing has grown too lax, jeopardizing public safety, a state law enforcement union has jabbed at University at Albany police chiefs and senior administration.
Orders to avoid penalizing traffic violations and recently issued mileage restrictions on patrol cars, the Police Benevolent Association claims, have barred officers from protecting the public. PBA represents 36 UPD members.
With growing frustration, this month the PBA board issued a vote of no confidence against Chief Frank Wiley and Deputy Chief Aran Mull. Wiley has been at UAlbany since 1996; Mull started working with UPD in 1989.
Since the vote, members have spoken out to local media about their concerns with department leadership. Daniel De Federicis, founding PBA executive director & counsel, said he doesn’t want a change in UPD leadership. He wants a “functional and respectful” police administration.
Conflict between officers and administration has been ongoing. A survey this year by PBA overwhelmingly found that most PBA UPD members believe they are treated unfairly by Wiley and Mull.
Tensions simmered last winter after PBA filed a complaint against the condition of patrol cars. According to De Federicis, the vehicles were stalling and had malfunctioning equipment.
Soon after, UPD established a goal of 15 miles per shift uptown patrols and 20 miles per shift for downtown patrols (this was later changed to 25 and 30 miles). Wiley told the Times Union last week that the cap was installed to create a friendlier relationship with passersby.
“Foot patrols are an important tactic for helping to build good relationships with the campus community, as well as deterring crime,” read a university statement sent from Michael Parker, UAlbany associate director of communications, to the Albany Student Press on Wednesday. “They are especially helpful for reaching areas of the campuses that are not easily accessible from a vehicle.”
UAlbany communications stated the university’s community policing approach has been effective. Despite changes in enforcement, the number of UPD-handled traffic incidents has risen two percent between 2015 and 2016.
De Federicis said the approach has shifted towards deficient policing. Senior administration has mistreated officers, spun issues to the public, and tuned out grievances, he continued.
“I don’t accept their answers,” he said. “I don’t think this is a struggle between the university that wants to institute community policing and a resistant police department.”
PBA sent a letter to Interim President James Stellar concerning issues within UPD in early May. The interim leader, De Federicis recounted, did not respond to the letter.
They followed up with Stellar’s office after a month passed by. PBA representatives were redirected to speak with Darrell Wheeler, interim provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. Due to a scheduling delay, the meeting was pushed to July 12.
A follow-up meeting is expected to take place next week.
“Management will continue to meet union representatives to foster a collaborative approach to the issues raised,” read a university statement.