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N.Y. State Sues Town Police

January 19, 2001

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ A town is being sued for allegedly allowing several rogue police officers to menace, intimidate and sexually harass citizens, including 16-year-old girls.

The state filed a civil rights lawsuit Thursday seeking a federal monitor to watch over Orange County’s Wallkill department while police officers are trained and the department is ``professionalized,″ according to state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

Spitzer called the force a collection of ``untrained and unsupervised men and women armed with guns and the authority of police officers.″

Calls to the police chief, town supervisor and council members requesting comment weren’t immediately returned. Wallkill is about 79 miles north of Manhattan.

The lawsuit alleged that the town’s political leaders ignored requests by citizens to stop the problem perpetuated over a period of at least two years by about six members of the department of about 25 officers.

Spitzer claimed that some officers used an unmarked car they called ``the stealth car″ to stop women for traffic violations in order to solicit dates, sexual favors or ``simply for sport.″

Sometimes, officers made sexually suggestive comments or implied that bogus charges could be dropped if the women dated them. Women said officers shone flashlights on their breasts and some were ordered to strip.

In one incident, a uniformed police officer visited a restaurant and grabbed several 16-year-old waitresses around the waist, hips and thighs and made sexually suggestive comments. Parents complained to the town about the officer, but no action was taken, the lawsuit alleges.

``We have a total breakdown of the government structure,″ Spitzer said Thursday. ``What is perhaps most egregious is the failure of the local government to respond.″

The allegations are being investigated and aspects of the case may be referred to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, said spokesman Marc Violette. No criminal charges have been filed.

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