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Let the circle be unbroken

Kops and Kids session fosters listening as well as talking

by Brian Hollander, Sophie Strand
August 26, 2010 11:45 AM | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Maybe it was a beginning. At its start Friday, August 20 at Woodstock Town Hall, the evening, dubbed “Kops and Kids,” and intended to create some sort of dialogue and familiarity among adversarial groups in town, included eight under-20-year-olds, a full time and five part-time police officers. Others joined in as the evening progressed. The kids called the cops “rookies.”

“When this curfew stuff came up I was instinctively opposed,” said Woodstock Times publisher Geddy Sveikauskas, who had organized the meeting. “I have no idea what is going to come out of this. This is not so everyone will love each other.”

An outer ring of participants included town board members Terrie Rosenblum and Cathy Magarelli, youth center director Fern Malkine Falvey and former youth center director Eric Glass, longtime Woodstocker Mary Lou Paturel and relatively new Woodstocker Joe Nicholson. Stephanie Marco, who raised her daughter here, and Rachael, her daughter, who is raising her own son here now. “I grew up with Keefe as a constable,” said Rachael. “I was one of those teenagers on the green.…Those cops knew where we were at.”

John Amoroso, a full time Woodstock police officer, on the job since April 2001, 30 years old, lives in Greene County, deflected a criticism that the local police are intimidating to the youth. “We’re at the police department by choice,” he said. “We have a lot of responsibility. On a day where we have to make tough decisions we might look different…but I work with these guys so I’m biased. From my perspective they are in tune with the community.” Then he conceded, “I understand your anxiety.”

Samantha Ray, 15, who spends summers here, confronted Officer Brian Williams. “Tourists come here and they see this pretty postcard and they think it’s so nice and funny. I haven’t seen you smile once!...You guys walk around like crazy transformers!...It’s like when you got the job they removed the hormone that produces emotion. We probably should have a curfew we just don’t want one.”

Morgan Spinetti pointed out that problems came from others than youth. “Older people are drinking and doing bad stuff but you guys target the kids.” 

“We don’t walk out of the station to target anyone,” Amoroso answered. “Older people require my attention on a daily basis.”

Robin Richardson, 17, brought up the issue of heroin in town. “I’ve seen a decrease in the heroin. Six months ago I was in a really bad place. If the police officers hadn’t noticed what I was going through and been easy on me I might still be a heroin addict.” Looking at Amoroso, he thanked a couple of the officers whom he did not further identify.

The talk meandered through the use of tasers and the possibility of having curfews at specific places, such as the Millstream or the Woodstock Cemetery.

Nicholson pointed out that “There are kids for whom going home isn’t such a pretty option. I don’t know if our community has a solution for that problem.” 

Afterwards, Sveikauskas was pleased with the session. “It worked. Not in terms of ideas needed to save the world, but in terms of cops and kids listening to each other and understanding just how unique the community in which we all live is.” He said that another meeting will take place in a month or so, “which will focus on some things, mostly small, that will improve the situation for everybody.”++

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