In an effort to be fair I am presenting the Police side of the story.It is unedited from the a story in the Gazette written by Reporter Tatiana Zarnowski.I have no idea where the Saratogian is on this? They prefer to pretend this blog doesn't exist.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Police didn’t go looking for Meredith Lickwola last week to arrest her on a bench warrant — she called them, asking them to remove someone from her home whom she didn’t want there.
The 38-year-old Schuylerville woman, who died after she stopped breathing in the city lockup, called the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department early Thursday morning to take someone out of her house, said city police Chief Christopher Cole.
Police supervisors have taken a beating on at least one local blog and have been criticized privately by some residents for arresting Lickwola, a minor criminal, on one of the busiest drinking nights of the year.
But in an interview Monday, Cole said city police weren’t seeking out Lickwola on St. Patrick’s Day night.
“The intent was not to go to her house at two o’clock on the morning to pick her up,” he said.
Hours before Lickwola died, sheriff deputies responded to her home, and, as part of the incident, they ran a routine check on her.
The search revealed Lickwola was wanted in the city for violating a petty larceny sentence, for which she was supposed to spend a few weekends in the county jail.
And although city police weren’t actively looking for Lickwola, they weren’t going to turn down an opportunity to arrest her while she was already in custody, Cole said.
Deputies met city police halfway and the woman was processed and put in the city lockup’s sole female cell at about 1:45 a.m.
“She was normal when she walked in,” Cole said.
Lt. Linda Quattrini was the officer in charge at the station that night and performed regular checks on Lickwola every half hour until Quattrini found Lickwola unresponsive but apparently breathing at 5:47 a.m.
While emergency technicians tended to Lickwola, she stopped breathing. She was taken to Saratoga Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead.
Male lockup cells have surveillance cameras trained on them that supervisors can watch in the station in addition to performing in-person checks.
But, because male officers aren’t allowed to perform supervisory checks on female prisoners, there are no cameras at the female cell. Most police supervisors are male.
Instead, a female officer is taken off the street every half hour to check on female prisoners unless a female supervisor like Quattrini is working.
Cameras at the male cells do not record, Cole added.
The city Police Department’s internal investigation into the case has already started, Cole said. Capt. Michael Chowske is heading it up, interviewing the police officers who dealt with Lickwola that night.
Blood and tissue tests taken from Lickwola during an autopsy will take weeks to come back, so the investigation will continue until then. The Saratoga County coroner’s autopsy of Lickwola was inconclusive.
“I’m going to wait for the medical experts to say what the cause was,” Cole said.
Criticism of police staffing on St. Patrick’s Day night is especially intense because of a fight downtown that left 27-year-old Ryan Rossley dead when another person plowed a car into him and fled the scene. No arrests have been filed in that case but are expected soon, police said.
Although the fight leading up to the 4:25 a.m. hit-and-run was apparently prolonged, no one called the police and no officer on duty spotted the altercation during routine patrols. Critics have asked why officers weren’t driving or walking in the area, since fights often occur after bars close at 4 a.m.
Cole said officers were on duty that night, at least two on foot and one in a car downtown, but several patrolmen helped break up a couple of fights earlier in front of Clancy’s Tavern and were still processing those arrests back at the station when the fights that apparently led to Rossley’s death started.
“We did have the appropriate staff level based on the amount of activity that night,” he said.
And although that block of Caroline Street is a known problem spot, officers have to patrol everywhere, he said.
“It’s one of those things where, unfortunately, the police cannot be every place at every time,” Cole said.
“For an officer to be in that place at that exact time, it’s a crapshoot.”
It’s even more difficult since budget cuts this year eliminated seven police officer positions while also cutting overtime, he said.
Cole said this St. Patrick’s Day was unusual because most of the activity happened early in the evening, and even in the afternoon.
“The bars apparently had emptied out very quickly.”