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Friday, November 16

Sorry, but the only person who did anything wrong was the perpetrator.

"I apologize that we couldn't give out more information. I apologize for what this turned into. I don't think there is a reason to apologize for the whole incident."

That was Christian Mathiesen's response when I asked him yesterday about an apology he says was issued when he was talking to the creators of an online petition at a City Council meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The petition demands more information about why police didn't issue a press release or a statement after a woman reported being raped on the street near the intersection of East Avenue in Lincoln Avenue Sept. 1. At this point it has about 320 signatures, but every day I check it there are more.

Wednesday, Robin Dalton, one of the organizers of the petition went to the council meeting with a prepared statement.

“We are very pleased by Chief Cole’s remarks yesterday and would like to thank the police department for taking our concerns seriously,” she said. “We remain concerned, however, that Commissioner Mathiesen’s language seems to focus on asking women not to put themselves into dangerous situations.”

Mathiesen, in the wake of the attack, repeated something he keeps bringing it up: “Walking alone on a street at that time of night may not be advisable for a woman who is alone,” he said.

She said “Our purpose is about notifying the public to a public safety issue, not to place blame blaming the victim who he feels put herself at risk.”

Dalton said she was "surprised" by Mathiesen's response (the full webcast of which can be seen here. It's in the first portion of the meeting that included public comment), and "it was my understanding that the public remarks period isn't typically the venue in which city council members are supposed to be questioning you about statements you might make."

Mathiesen was noticeably upset when I asked him about the exchange between he and Dalton, and probably with good reason: Public Safety hasn't had the best week.

I won't rehash all of the details of the three police officers suspended after allegedly assaulting a man at Dango's late Sunday night (technically Monday morning), and I won't bother going into all of the details of the withholding of information about a Sept. 1 rape on a city street — because a national online publication already did.  Now be aware that Jezebel is in the Gawker family and news is melded together with editorial comments and coarse language. 

Mathiesen maintains the information was withheld for a reason, but said most of the reasons will likely never be made public.

Sources say the circumstances of the attack are vague, at best, and Mathiesen said at this point police can't say it was a rape for sure.

Mathiesen pointed to last year's yet-unsolved rapes and other incidents on city streets and said the public was notified about those incidents.

"This was different," he said. "There were complex issues that made it more difficult to determine (whether to send out a notice)."

In his exchange with Dalton Wednesday, Mathiesen said “We apologized to the public for not being able to notify them." Neither Dalton, nor I, knew that an apology had been issued so I called him Thursday night to clarify.

His response was the quote I began this blog post with ("I apologize that we couldn't give out more information. I apologize for what this turned into. I don't think there is a reason to apologize for the whole incident.")

He said that after he asked me if he had to "issue an official apology," and then insisted that "There is nothing to apologize for. No one did anything wrong here but the perpetrator."

Mathiesen also questioned The Saratogian's article, which in print was headlined: "Police: Rape information withheld.

"The newspaper article I thought was inflammatory and I thought was incomplete," he said. A letter to the editor from Mathiesen about that story is slated to run in Sunday's Saratogian.

At Wednesday's meeting, Mathiesen said Dalton and the other organizers of the petition should have come to him before coming out with this petition.

"Rather than react to a newspaper article it would make more sense to contact us first," Mathiesen said.

"I have an office, I have a phone there," he said. "Nobody came to my office in September. Nobody came to my office in October."

He then said he was trying to contact organizers of the petition, to which Dalton responded "No one has received a call from you."

In his conversation with me Thursday, Mathiesen was even more agitated (all becasue of my "misinformation," I'm sure).

He said there are "no ulterior motives" and said the decision not to issue a statement about the reported rape in September had nothing to do with it being track season or a desire to cover the crime up, something he said to Dalton as well. Like her, I had to point out that I never said either of those things were true and I don't believe they are. 

I did say I believe the public has gotten a mixed message between Chief Chris Cole's statement that “In retrospect, it may have been appropriate to release a general statement regarding the incident," and Mathiesen's insistence that "the only person who did anything wrong is the perpetrator."

When I said that, Mathiesen latched onto the "may" in Cole's statement and emphasized it. When Dalton asked if he agreed with Cole, he hesitantly said "Yea... Yea but nobody is guilty here except the perpetrator."

He said to me and has said before that since there "hasn't been any subsequent rapes" the department "may have been right," not to send out a press release.

In the end, he said "I wish I could tell more, but I can't. I'm asking the community to trust me when I tell them this was done with the best of intentions and this was done with the safety of the city in mind."

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

cloae0netTturryadmEveryone issueing responces from the City of Saratoga Springs seems to have a common goal..Covering their butts..A woman was raped...She was violated...No one with half a brain would expect the Police Dept. to release "inside" facts that they needed for their investigation...The fact is this...The Saratoga Springs Police Dept. investigated and determined a woman was raped...The public was not notified in the media that this rape had occured...The womans identity would have been protected in a general "press release"...Weeks went by before this story became "public"...The Saratoga Springs Police Dept. dodged a bullet..No other woman was raped...This does not in any way justify your lack of responce...As for our new commissioner I thought you cared...Same old arrogant B.S...

November 16, 2012 at 8:20 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will try again...There is little doubt that a woman was raped on September 1...The police confirmed this...This issue now is that the general public was not notifified that there was a Rapist on our streets...The public did not need to know any of the details....Only that a woman had been raped..A petition was formed to ask why the public was not informed..In the video attatched to this story the Commissioner of Police informs the general public that "there were reasons" why this crime could not be divulged...What could be the reasoning that the investigated rape of this woman not be released to all the women of Saratoga?? The new commissioner is on a slippery slope here...It should not take a month or a petition to get answers that would help the Women of Saratoga Springs protect themselves..Knowledge is power Commissioner....Informing women not to "walk alone at night" shows a severe lack of respect for their intelligence...I am a father of two women and that information was passed along as soon as they got out of diapers...You are in charge of their protection "in the real world"...

November 16, 2012 at 9:17 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple of comments if you please.
(1) Whether or not women should walk alone at night has nothing, I repeat nothing, to do with information being withheld. The issue here is the Police Department not the victim.
(2) To say that there have been no additional incidents validates the withholding of information is ignorant at best. Rape is a largely unreported crime. There may have been previous incidents...there may have been subsequent incidents. We do not know. Providing information to the public on the September incident might have lead to an arrest. We don't know. The fact that the Police Department doesn't "know" of any incidents does not mean they did not occur.
(3) If the police were not sure at the time that a rape had occurred, then they could have reported the incident as an assault and updated the info later. Surely that would not have caused the "chaos" that was such a concern on their part.
(4) Our Police Department is full of excuses..and none of them wash. It's a very sad state of affairs.

November 17, 2012 at 6:40 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. The Commissioner has lost my vote. While his Chief and some of his men, are disgraces to their posts, he has no excuse for seeing this issue from the standpoint that "women need to be more careful". He runs the PS Department for this City and saw no reason to warn of a potential danger to his constituents on September 2. A failure is a failure and his response now is pathetic and plain stupid. This is the guy who worries about dream street and his “usual suspects” men are being served free booze to assault residents. What's next, "People should be more careful at night when going into businesses on Caroline street. My men may be drunk and you shouldn't get in their way."

His day-to-day deputy is culpable and so uncharacteristically quiet. The Council should remove them both - It's clear that they have little influence or business in PS.

If there were “complex issues” that prevented doing their PUBLIC SAFETY job, then those issues should be made PUBLIC today. Did they have a perpetrator in mind? My guess is that they just chose not to CRY RAPE on HATS OFF WEEKEND. Bad call MR. elected PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSIONER – You put POLITICS in the way of PUBLIC SAFETY.

November 17, 2012 at 7:13 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Mathiesen's inappropriate and insensitive comments regarding the abject failure of his department to communicate with general public about an alleged rape are astounding. His lack of insight has nothing to do with his integrity; however, the situation is reminiscent of his stubborn and silly failure to let go of the "3:00 o'clock bar closing" issue. Simply put, Dr. Mathiesen seems to be psychiatrically unfit to be a Public Safety Commissioner.

November 17, 2012 at 7:47 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From my perspective, as a citizen, it appears that the Doctor/Dentist had no clue that the Commissioner's job would take so much of his time.
He is agitated when questioned, because he is not used to being questioned.
His past warnings about the toxic atmosphere on Caroline St. have come home to bite him. It's his own cops who have made it toxic.

November 17, 2012 at 10:52 AM 
Blogger Bologna Bob said...

Go back to fixing teeth. What a horrible commissioner he has proven to be. Way worse than anyone couldve thought. Thank god we will be able to vote him out. Just wish there was a way to get him outa there sooner

November 17, 2012 at 12:16 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shameful. Absolutely inexcusable.
So far, just about every official response on this unbroadcast violent crime to date has been off the mark.

And, there is no excuse for three drunk off-duty cops unable to cope with one man. They are not fit for duty. As for the dentist, I agree with anon: 7:47 AM. he's no PS Commissioner.

November 17, 2012 at 12:30 PM 
Blogger MaryLeigh said...

In relation to Mathiesen's “Walking alone on a street at that time of night may not be advisable for a woman who is alone,”I was working late the night of October 13th on Caroline Street, which is the main strip for drunken tomfoolery in Saratoga. I was entirely sober when I left work at 2:30 AM and was nervous to walk to my car by myself. At the time, I had already read the "blurbs" about the unresolved rape and did not feel safe walking alone to my car. I approached two police officers who were standing outside of Sam's Smoke Shop. One was a male with short brown hair and the other was a female with blonde hair. When I asked them for assistance, they essentially told me it wasn't there job. They proceeded to ask me why I wanted help, where I was parked and if I was alone. After answering all the questions - I was alone, I was parked in a shady part of town and I didn't feel safe (after all, if it were safe at that time and place, why would police officers be there at all?) - they still told me no. As someone who was raised to always go to a police officer if you needed help, I was completely shocked. I approached them with the utmost respect for them and their authority, and was completely disgusted with their unprofessional behavior and unwillingness to prevent a potentially horrific event. The Saratoga Springs Police Department has not been living up to their duty to create a safe environment for the community they are a part of and serve. There are a lot of issues that need to be resolved.

November 17, 2012 at 12:40 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apparently Commissioner Mathiesen anything you or your Chief have to say on this issue is going to be attacked by the liberal media and their minions. Someone must be looking to run against you in the next election cycle that is more liberal. Obama was reelected by attacking the opposition.

November 17, 2012 at 12:55 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Besides failing to understanding how unacceptable his, “be more careful” advice to women is, the Commissioner then stated that he didn’t hire the guy (one of his department’s officers) responsible for beating an unarmed civilian. Doesn’t he have any idea how preposterous that sounds coming from the Administrator of the PSD?

November 17, 2012 at 3:55 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saratoga Springs deserves the Public Safety Commissioner it elected. This is what you get when you elect a neo-prohibitionist crusader to a position for which he has no qualifications. Hopefully, voters will now choose more thoughtfully in electing a Commissioner to replace him.

November 17, 2012 at 6:27 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't doubt MaryLeigh's comment for a second, and that sort of behavior, and lack of obligation to the citizens of our city, is exactly what got us where we are today. Both the mishandled rape investigation and the attack by off-duty officers at Dango's are the direct effect of too much being "swept under the rug".

The officers haven't judged comissioners and chiefs by their ability to help the department serve the community, it's been about the ability of those two (and the DA's office to some extent as well) to provide for the officers.

The police want a commissioner who will get them the biggest budget, they want a chief of police who will cover his officers, and they want a DA who help them legitimize and cover up the messes they create and charges they exagerate.

There is a lot more digging that needs to be done here, and solutions need to be created to make sure that we don't have keep asking the same questions about police conduct every six months, what is what seems to be happening here.

November 18, 2012 at 10:09 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MaryLeigh
That is a very revealing dialogue that you just shared with us.
I'm very disturbed at that story.

November 18, 2012 at 3:42 PM 
Blogger Lucian said...

Hi MaryLeigh,
I also appreciate you sharing that story with us. If you are interested in going on the record with it for the newspaper, please contact me at lmccarty@saratogian.com or call me at 584-4242 ext. 221.
Thanks,
Lucian McCarty

November 19, 2012 at 10:16 AM 

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