As expected, the New York State Police Public Information Office, true to the general impression of aloofness and arrogance of so-called law enforcement, responded to our request regarding the relationship of the two Burns at Troop G … short and sweet:
“We are under no obligation to provide personal information about State Police employees.”
And then they turn around and ask the public for their cooperation in doing their police work — if and when they feel like doing it. Your tax dollars at work.
The Smalbany Blog was created several years ago to come to the aid of a local resident who was elected to the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Central School District Board of Education, and who was being harassed and intimidated by local political goons both on the board and in the local rag. The Truth was not being told and the goons and their goon-owned local rag were having a hey-day. Enough was enough. Someone had to come forward and provide truthful information. The public deserved it. As time went on, local politics got dirtier and dirtier; locals allowed it because of years of conditioning, propaganda, intimidation, and abuse of public office. The conditioning continues and the public becomes more and more deranged and distracted, and the powers at large take fullest advantage of the situation. The best we can do is send the old wake-up call, and hope people, voters, citizens, and victims and their survivors take up the fight; only they, YOU, can be catalysts for justice and positive change. Elected officials, and public servants must be made and held accountable.You need our help but we also need your help. Together we can make the difference.
We can certainly understand that when law enforcement is actively and conscientiously investigating a crime and are in hot pursuit of the perps, that they need to keep a lid on things, and not share material information that might prejudice the investigation or subsequent prosecution. Criminals are a wily bunch and if you’re going to nab them, you either have to be smarter than they are — rarely the case in most law-enforcement departments —, or you have to have some secret weapon like an informer or under-cover agent, or you have to work in stealth mode. Problem is, most law-enforcement can’t tell the difference between any of those and simply keeping information from citizens with a bona-fide right or reason to know. We’ve all had the experience of having some arrogant, self-important law-enforcement person ask us why we need to know, or being told flatly that they won’t provide the information requested. “Why do you want that police report or incident report?” Answer: “None of your damned business. Because I want it.” Did you ever think of putting them in their place? Reminding them that they are public servants, not the keepers of some mystical secret? Most of what you’re asking for is public access information, anyway. The NYS Public Officers Law and Freedom of Information Law, with a few very specific exclusions, make most documents and information available to you, even if most law-enforcement personnel are too ignorant to know that, or too arrogant to respond to your request. Just ask for the name of the F.O.I.L. Officer‘s or Public Information Officer‘s name, and hand them a demand citing New York state PUBLIC OFFICERS LAW, ARTICLE 6 SECTIONS 84-90 FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAW (F.O.I.L.) (N.Y. Pub. Off. Law Secs. 84 to 99) and tell them clearly and specifically what you want. It can be that simple.
Here’s an example. In the Joshua Abood case, the family approached the Cohoes Police Department for information relating to reward flyers being torn down. They got a snotty response, or were ignored. Nothing else.
Now, in good police work, we’d expect the Cohoes Police Department to know their neighborhoods and what’s going on in them. Right Chief Waldin? If they were doing their jobs, they’d have their “ears to the ground,” and be able to pick up on hints and clues that may be important to an ongoing investigation. Right? Furthermore, if an incident occurs in their territory, regardless of whether the real estate is State or Federal property, they should open their doors wide and share every bit of information with other agencies, including the New York State Police and the Feds, even if they are not asked. Right? And the State and Federal law-enforcement people and the investigators should tap into local resources, like local law-enforcement, because local law enforcement can be reasonably expected to know a hell of a lot about what’s going on locally. Right? Well, that’s not being done. Everyone wants to play nice-nice; it’s a big love-fest, after all, isn’t it? “It’s their case. We can’t interfere unless we’re asked.” Really? What a load of rubbish! A stinking pile of manure!
Well, it might make sense to the rest of us but it’s an uphill battle in many cases, until you start to read their keepers and handlers the riot act. Cat hits the fan and they pull their thumbs out of their butts. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
Here’s another idiotic example:
If you’ve been following this case, you’ll know that the New York State Police Investigator on the case is one Thomas Burns — you’ll learn a lot more about him in an upcoming segment. Fasten your seatbelt, it’s taking off. He’s assigned to Troop G, New York State Police in Latham, New York, and his boss is acting Major R. Christopher West. The Public Information Officer for Troop G is one Trooper Kerra M. Burns. So, logically, when researching and investigating this case this coincidence, possible conflict, raises red flags automatically: Investigator Thomas Burns, Public Information Officer Kerra Burns, both Troop G. Are they related? Husband and wife, perhaps?
(A) So we shoot off an email to the PIO, which reads:
For the attention of Trooper Kerra M. Burns.Public Information OfficeIn the interest of avoiding any conflict of interest or confusion, can you please tell us if you are related to NYSP Investigator Thomas Burns, also assigned to NYSP Troop G.Thank you for your prompt response.
BURNS, KERRA (TROOPERS) <KERRA.BURNS@troopers.ny.gov>
I will be out on maternity leave for the next few months. Trooper Meghan Lohman will be sitting in for me beginning on September 14th. As of that date, she can be reached at 518-783-3284 or at email@example.com. If you need assistance before then, please contact the Division Public Information Office at 518-457-2180.
(C) We later get a response from the Troop G Public Information Office, Trooper Meghan Lohman, who is sitting in for Kerra Burns:
Trooper Burns is out of the office on leave and will be returning at a later date.
Trooper Meghan K. Lohman
(D) So we ask:
Thank you for your response to our inquiry.
Can you or Major West tell us if there is a relationship between Trooper Kerra B. and Trooper T. Burns?
(E) And we get the response from the Troop G PIO:
It is not appropriate for us to answer personal questions about Trooper Burns.
Are we missing something? In (B) above, Trooper Burns tells us she’s out on “maternity leave.” How f***ing personal can you get? “Maternity leave!” And minutes later, from the same Troop, same office, we get an answer like (E), refusing to answer a general question because it’s inappropriate and personal. Twilight Zone AGAIN! Note that all the communications come from the official emails @troopers.ny.gov, and all responses come from the Troop G Public Information Office.
To be very honest, we tried to go the straight and narrow route and give Troop G the benefit of responding to a good faith question regarding a possible conflict of interests between an investigation and the information available from the Troop G PIO. All we wanted to know is if there is a relationship, that is, are the two troopers at Troop G with the last names Burns related, such as by marriage. Naturally, if they are, we would go through the main PIO for any information we need. Naturally, too, regardless of their relationship, you can bet your life that Trooper Meghan Lohman has already informed both Trooper Kerra Burns and Investigator Thomas Burns that Smalbany has been making inquiries.
This goes to the question of What’s there to hide? What’s the big secret? Are they married, or related, or not? Furthermore, there’s always the back door approach, which they force honest citizens with honest inquiries to take: either go to their bosses or go to available public information resources with the information we have. For example, Trooper K. Burns discloses shes on maternity leave. Any office of vital statistics can provide the public access information on births and deaths, and that information would have to show the names of the mother and father of any child born, as well as other “personal” information. And what about public access voter registration information. That would give names, addresses, and tons of other information. Then there are county tax assessment records, which list names and addresses and other information. In fact, if we were to file a F.O.I.L. demanding the information we are asking informally above, and even if the NYSP F.O.I.L. Officer were to deny our request, we are aware of decisions from the NYS Committee on Open Government (COOG), a division of the NYS Department of State, and NYS Supreme Court cases that state that if the information requested would be available from other public accessible information sources, as this one is, the information must be provided. It’s the law.
Now, in this case we are trying to play ball fairly but even we come up to a stonewalling situation when public servants, in this case a New York State Police Public Information Officer is poorly informed (1) about what her coworker is doing, (2) about her obligations to the public under NYS law, (3) and that her response is just plain ignorant.
To be very honest, the qualifications for getting into the ranks of the New York State Police are considerably higher than the requirements for getting on the Cohoes Police force or the Coeymans Police force but that doesn’t exclude the problem of arrogance and ignorance that is part and parcel of law enforcement, and generally of the public sector.
That’s just some of the information for the benefit of our readers. It’s a real-life example of what’s going on in the lowest level of law enforcement to a very high level of law enforcement — from a rinky-dink local police department like the Cohoes PD and so many like it right up to the ranks of the paramilitary, elitist New York State Police. Wherever you go, they are just out of touch, somewhere in the Twilight Zone.
We will be getting back to the Joshua Abood case, and will provide more specifics and detail on the investigation and the weirdos investigating and making decisions in the case. Stay tunde for the upcoming segments of this investigation.
Some Related Smalbany Articles
Politics, Power, Patronage and Conflicts of Interest: The Albany County Coroners Office
A Response to Lorin Marra. re: Office of the Albany County Coroners
The Cover-up Continues… A Mother’s Despair
Riley’s Mom Responds: A Mother’s Perspective
You can’t make this sh*t up!
This is the Twilight Zone!
( NYS Assemblyman John T. McDonald III )
Acknowledgement: Some of the information about the resignation of Ben Sturges and the appointment of his brother, Antonio Sturges, was extracted from the Albany Times Union article, Former coroner’s brother to fill vacancy in Albany County office (TU, Amanda Fries, March 12, 2019)