FROM THE NEWS DIRECTOR’S DESK: Immigration Law is Not the Cops’ Fault

Trustee Mary Rutigliano has stirred the pot to a boil. She knows this. She consistently doubles down on her pride in protesting GPD’s decision to call U.S. Border Patrol at that traffic stop, inviting others to protest GPD’s call and most recently inviting college students to get involved in and change the policy of the village government, which she represents.

First off, her and others’ direct criticism of Chief Eric Osganian and Officer Ian Hall is completely misdirected. There’s a problem with an elected official making public comment about which laws her cops should enforce and not enforce before sitting down face-to-face with Osganian. In this case, she made comment hours after the traffic stop while at a protest in Irondequoit, if you don’t count her appearance in Facebook Live videos at the scene as comment.

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It’s no secret that police officers choose to strap into bullet proof vests at work because they believe that enforcing the law at every level makes the public, their neighbors, safer. The public anger and mistrust in Geneseo Police following this incident is completely misplaced. If the complaint is with the law, then your problem is with Catherine Young, Andrew Cuomo, Joe Errigo, Chris Collins, Patrick Gallivan, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, not Eric Osganian and certainly not Ian Hall.

Police officers really do show up to work intending to protect the public. I had the pleasure of meeting Hall early in the evening of March 8, the night that a tree fell across Main Street and crushed a car and utility pole, leaving a live wire lying on the side of Main Street. Hours later, long after our story on the incident went live, the tree cut up and traffic reopened, I saw that a GPD car was still at the scene with its light bar on. While I was nosing around, an officer, Ian Hall, got out of his vehicle and warned me of the live wire lying on the side of the road, which no first responder could touch until the utility company arrived, which in that storm was many hours. He was there, as any Geneseo Police Officer would be, to make sure that this idiot newsman didn’t fatally electrocute himself on Main Street.

Just as they would warn someone of an imminent hazard, the cops are going to call Border Patrol if they think someone at a traffic stop is not who their I.D. says they are. That said, one of the things that SUNY Geneseo math professor Tony Macula is doing right is going after policy, not people. He started the petition with five succinct, specific policy changes that he and others want to happen at the GPD and for local law enforcement county-wide. The request is for local cops not to enforce federal immigration law because the Attorney General said that they are not bound by statute to do so. Love it or hate it, you know exactly what Macula is asking for.

There are plenty of others besides the police who are to blame for what happened on March 23. I haven’t asked who the farmer is who employed these women. I’m not looking to embarrass a business. But whoever gives a minivan to a licenseless driver who can’t communicate with English-speaking law enforcement is responsible for her getting into legal complications if pulled over. I don’t know how many migrant workers that farm employs, but they ought to take responsibility for people who are using the farm to try to live and do good in the community.

If and when there is criticism, it must be presented professionally to be taken seriously. Deputy Mayor Sandra Brennan and Trustees Margaret Duff and Matt Cook are so far silent on this incident. Cook, also a SUNY Geneseo student, has made no public comment on the matter. Besides saying that ‘the discussion is all good and important’ at the emergency meeting on March 25, he has spoken his mind only to his fellow board members so far. I’m sure that we will know his and the others’ thoughts on this once private meetings are held and the board knows who is in agreement and not in agreement. That’s how you handle a powder keg.

Rutigliano is young. She’s smart, and she has enormous resources.

At a small rally on SUNY Geneseo’s campus Wednesday, she mobilized college students, whom she credited with her election, to change the law in the Village government, which she represents. That’s not how the game works in Geneseo, and she knows it. She’s trying to change the game and so far has dug the trenches deeper.

She doesn’t say things in front of TV cameras by mistake, and by her words Wednesday in front of multiple media outlets, myself included, unquestionably and deliberately made her a political enemy to many east of Main Street.

“I was elected through the hard work of student organizations, you,” said Rutigliano to protesters. “There’s now a population of students who influence village, town and county elections. That’s huge. We are now a constituency that people have to answer to. Our issues, what is important to us has to be important to the people in power. It’s really exciting. We can make an issue out of this.”

A few people have come after us on the almighty Facebook for publishing Rutigliano’s statements. How else would you know that she is saying this stuff? But to unequivocally clarify, if I write a story about a public official making a statement to push a political cause, that doesn’t count as my or the GeneseeSun.com’s endorsement.

Rutigliano is purposely being the bull in the china shop. She’s publicly split the Village board before they could meet on the issue, drawn Town officials out of the woodwork to protect their own political capital by backing GPD. The county sheriff tweeted his support for GPD in the days following the incident. We have multiple people on our Facebook page pledging not to vote for her in 2020.

Her comments Wednesday make it sound like this is part of the goal. She credits students with her election and is mobilizing them to affect change in her village. Many have marked their calendars for election time. It will be interesting to say the least to see what Rutigliano, Cook and SUNY Geneseo students do when the Mayor and Sandra Brennan go up for re-election next year.