Onondaga County DA sounds off about strained relationship with Syracuse Police

At one point during Thursdayâ??s review of District Attorney William Fitzpatrick's proposed budget by the Onondaga County Legislature, Fitzpatrick sounded off about his strained relationship with the Syracuse Police Department.

Fitzpatrick referred to the Police Departmentâ??s complaint about the DAâ??s oversight of the crime lab that resulted in a state investigation, which found no problems with the lab. "Our lab is ratedone of the best in the state of New York, but I have to spend hours and hours, and hundreds of hours, finding out whether or not there's a bed bug infestation at the crime lab as alleged by the Syracuse Police Department," Fitzpatrick testified.

When CNY Central's Jim Kenyon asked the DA how he will overcome differences with Police Chief Frank Fowler, he said, "If we have personal disagreements, weâ??ll work through them." Fitzpatrick referred to the members of the police department as outstanding, but accused the Chief Fowler of giving out misinformation to embarrass his office.

Fitzpatrick also pointed to his decision to drop charges of resisting arrest against Brad Hulett, the man with disabilities whose hip was broken after police tased him for refusing to sit down on a Centro bus that was equipped for standing passengers.

Fitzpatrick says the incident on the bus illustrates a growing need by police to better their relationship with the community.

He criticized the Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Chief Fowler for being silent and refusing to discuss the Hulett case. "Where is the response from the hierarchy of the City? Can someone say something other than â??there may be litigation so I canâ??t say anythingâ??? If thatâ??s the case, donâ??t say anything about anything," said Fitzpatrick.

Though the DA's apparent feud is with Police Chief Fowler, Fitzpatrick says the ultimate responsibility rests at City Hall with Mayor Miner.

Fitzpatrick also pointed out that he finds it disturbing that there was a murder on Knaul Street in broad daylight shortly after a previous murder in the same area and there have been no arrests to date. The DA told lawmakers police need to improve relations with the community. "You have to understand that you are not here to guard people and control their lives, you're here to protect them. When you develop relationships, when you have outreach and you talk to people fairly and decently, they begin to trust you."

Many legislators appeared stunned by the Fitzpatrick's comments.

During the presentation, Fitzpatrick pointed to some positive accomplishments including a crackdown on welfare fraud that has disqualified 369 people from receiving benefits, which is 25 percent of all the disqualifications in the state.

Mayor Miner's office said she would not comment about Fitzpatrick's testimony.