When a man composes a screed, gets it printed and published as his own expense, distributes it far and wide, and does not have a manifest financial stake, then we are apt to take him seriously. We are apt to credit him with sincerity, with strength of conviction, and even with a presumption of credibility. Qualifying for attention by that standard is the recently distributed (“FREE. Please Take One”) Greene County Newsletter proclaiming
STATE POLICE CORRUPTION IN GREENE COUNTY
It’s Here, It’s Serious, It’s Going Unpunished!
The GCN occupies 8 tabloid-sized pages. Not many of them, however, sustain its thesis. The main problems are three-fold:
Anonymity. Seriously compromising the GCN's credibility is name-lessness. We are told that the document is the handiwork of “authors.” Those unidentified expositors allegedly relied on “contributors” but kept them name-less too, along with “victims of police abuse,” so as to “protect them from police retaliation.” Yeah sure. Credibility then hinges on citing readily verifiable events and public records.
Spurious claims. Under the heading “Summary and Conclusion” the putatively plural authors claim to have “described” in previous pages “just a fraction” of a Greene County situation marked by “police and politicians breaking the law.” But that statement falsifies what appears in the preceding verbiage, namely,
Sidetracking. The Newsletter opens with a promise “to inform the public of the problem of police corruption by members [sic.] of the New York State Police Department in Greene County.” Then, after alluding to news media coverage (and avoidance) of the alleged problem, the putatively plural authors specify their “allegations of police misconduct”: “harassment, stalking, grand larceny, illegal dumping, malicious prosecution, fabricating evidence, fabricating charges, police brutality, troopers leaving their posts against orders to commit illegal acts, conspiracy to put a local man out of business, conspiracy to deprive people of their civil rights, and child endangerment.”
That formidable catalogue of charges offers remarkably little in the way of what is conventionally designated as “police corruption.” That phrase (like “official corruption”) brings to mind graft, bribe-taking, extortion, and the like: making illicit profits out one’s position. In any event, the “Allegations” list does not get used in the usual way, as an introduction to systematically unfolded of cases. Successive paragraphs do not chronicle episodes in which named troopers engaged in the named forms of misconduct. The 'authors' do cite one event, in which a State trooper, Sgt Pat Cullen, allegedly brought a charge of harassment against a civilian, Robert Meringolo. That case is cited under the heading “Security Tape Shows Troopers [sic.] Fabricated Charge.” That the harassment charge was spurious is said to be attested by four un-named tape-viewing “independent parties.” No information about judicial disposition of the case is supplied. And no other incidents are cited. Instead, readers are offered:
--The precedent. Two GCN pages consist of a reprinted New York Times account of an evidence-tampering scandal, involving several State troopers “over a decade ago,” in the community of Sidney NY. The story, while proving that police corruption is more than a hypothetical possibility, sheds no light on GreeneLand actualities.
--The “enablers.” Two GCN pages consist of branding named targets, individual and collective, as facilitators of GreeneLand’s corruption. The cited abettors are Linda Fenoff and her Greenville Press, “State Police,” “Internal Affairs,” District Attorney Terry Wilhelm, The Greene County Legislature and Captain Patrick Regan (commander of the GreeneLand barracks). They are held to be guilty of failure to heed information about police misconduct. They are not held to be perpetrators.
--The reward. Half of one GCN page is given to an offer of a $5000 reward “for information leading to the arrest of person or persons who stole approximately 13 pieces of antique flagstone from Freehold during the Freehold Beautification Program…. THE PRIME SUSPECTS IN THIS ROBBERY ARE NEW YORK STATE TROOPERS.” From this statement one can infer prudentially that while the “authors” believe that a theft occurred and that it was perpetrated by State troopers, no case has been developed officially.
--The ‘testimonials.’ One full GCN page consists of an alleged compilation of “What the [sic.] people are saying about the Greene County State police corruption scandal.” No sources are named (so as to “protect” them “from police retaliation”). None of the quoted statements consists of attesting to, let alone establishing the existence of, “the” GCSPCS.
--The prescription. Occupying all of the Newsletter’s final page are 39 words in the form of an “open letter” to the State Police Superintendent, requesting that Sergeant Cullen be removed “from this community.” That request (“Instead or protecting us, we view him as a danger to the people living here”) comes ostensibly from “Greene County Residents” but they, like our “authors” and “contributors,” are nameless. And the request’s terms weaken the credibility of the charge that Greene County is infested with State police corruption. If that were the case, then transferring one middle-rank trooper would not solve the problem.