is there a problem that this solves? what inspired this?

here’s info for the Mayor’s office:
Office Hours and Location
City Hall — 3rd Floor
Monday through Friday
9:00 am to 5:00 pm

Contact Info:
Mayor Nancy Cozean

The Common Council is the deciding body before this goes to the state.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

City splits over peace officer plan

Fire inspector, animal warden may get powers

City of Poughkeepsie Councilwoman Gwen Johnson is worried that designating fire inspectors and the animal warden as peace officers could infringe on residents’ constitutional rights through warrantless searches and arrests.

City officials countered that would not be the case and defended the proposal.

The designation would give the inspectors and officers certain powers, for example conducting warrantless searches at fire scenes or homes where animals are being confiscated. The powers would only kick in during the performance of their official duties.

Peace officers can also make arrests and detain people when they deem it necessary during an investigation. Officials stressed the city’s peace officers would not be armed.

“I just don’t see the need for this,” said Johnson, D-7th Ward, of the proposal before the Common Council. “I think they’re doing a good job with the powers they have right now.”

Effect downplayed

Fire Chief Kenneth Boyd told the council Tuesday night at city hall that inspectors do investigative work at fire scenes. He said giving inspectors peace-officer status does not mean they would patrol streets and make arrests, and that police would still work on suspicious fire investigations.

“There seems to be a significant amount of misinformation,” Boyd said after hearing resident concerns. “This is certainly not a return to the Wild West or the Dark Ages. … They will not be police officers. They will not be performing a police function.”

Officials said peace-officer status would not apply to firefighters, only fire inspectors. Boyd said fire inspectors are peace officers in Rochester, Buffalo, Utica and Syracuse.

Poughkeepsie Corporation Counsel Stephen Wing said residents should not be concerned that peace officers have too much power.

“A fire inspector cannot just traipse down Main Street and start arresting people,” Wing said. “This is not a broad-based thing where they go out and arrest people willy-nilly.”

Wing said peace officers would be allowed to serve appearance tickets on alleged violators and handle criminal complaints in court. The measure would also allow peace officers to interview suspects at a scene and compel them to read suspects their Miranda rights.

But several residents who spoke Tuesday night said they were concerned about the “We have police in our community to do what they need to do,” said Mae Parker-Harris, who worried that authorities might target the city’s predominantly minority north side.

Resident Eunice Johnson said the prospect of peace officers entering homes would be “against our constitutional rights,” and that police already serve and protect the public.

“We don’t need others interfering with what they’re doing,” said Johnson, who is not related to the councilwoman.

The council took no action in the proposal, instead referring it to the Public Safety Committee for review.

If the council passes the measure, it would still need to be approved by the state Legislature as part of a home-rule request.