On January 18, 2001, New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the Town of Wallkill, seeking injunctive relief to reform and monitor the Wallkill Police Department, which Spitzer had described as "out of control."
The lawsuit was the offshoot of the Attorney General's investigation of the Wallkill PD. The investigation revealed a pattern of pervasive misconduct including: officers illegally stopping women motorists and sexually harassing them; retaliation by officers against the Town's Police Commission after it issued a report that criticized the department; and officers illegally stopping drivers for the Middletown newspaper and charging them with bogus traffic violations in retaliation for stories the newspaper ran about the department.
A month after the complaint was filed the Town agreed to enter into a consent decree which the Attorney General. However, in court proceedings discussing the formal entry of the consent decree, counsel for Wallkill commented that the Town did not believe that the court had subject matter jurisdiction over the action. Judge Colleen McMahon treated the comment as an oral motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and ordered that the parties brief the issue, before the court evaluated the proposed consent decree.
On March 20, 2001, after considering the parties' briefs, judge McMahon issued her decision and order dismissing the defendant's challenge to subject matter jurisdiction. The court cited the doctrine of parens patriae which allows states to use their power to seek federal relief to protect their "quasi-sovereign interest in the health and well-being - both physical and economic - of [their] residents." Alfred L. Snapp & Sons, Inc. v. Puerto Rico, 458 U.S. 592, 600 (1982).
On April 5, 2001, the court entered the consent decree and an amendment to the decree.
On May 2, 2001, the court appointed Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC) as the independent monitor to oversee the implementation of the consent decree. On June 11, 2001, the Court appointed Dean M. Esserman to serve as auditor of the Wallkill PD for the duration of the consent decree. The court approved additional amendments to the consent decree on September 21, 2004.
The independent monitor issued four reports detailing the compliance efforts of the WPD.
On February 28, 2006, the court entered its order terminating its oversight with respect to the WPD and ordered the WPD to comply with certain sections of the Best Practices Guidelines adopted pursuant to the consent decree.Dan Dalton - 12/29/2006