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Cuomo says troopers' "troubled" history is in the past

New York’s first graduating class of New York State Police in three years received their diplomas in a ceremony Tuesday. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who spoke at the event, says he hopes some of the recent controversies surrounding New York’s elite police unit is behind them. The New York State Police Pipe and Drum Band marched solemnly past the rows of the 133 gray, neatly uniformed new troopers, the first to join the ranks of the state police since 2009.

Cuomo says the state’s fiscal crisis led to the longest delay in hiring new state police since the 1970s.

“The state couldn’t afford it because of the deficit we had,” Cuomo said.

The governor, who gave each graduate a state pin that he personally designed, told the new troopers that integrity and the public trust are very important.

“We are working very hard in the state to reestablish trust,” said Cuomo. “To show that this is a government that is worthy of your trust.”  

In recent years, the state police have been involved in controversies that may have diminished public trust. Cuomo, six months into his term as state attorney general in 2007, investigated allegations that the state police, under former Governor Eliot Spitzer, improperly re-created travel records of the then-Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, in a case that became known as Troopergate. Cuomo found that the Spitzer administration erred.

Cuomo, also as attorney general, investigated suspicions by former Governor David Paterson that a “rogue” unit existed within the state police. Cuomo found no evidence of one, but did single out one former trooper for inappropriately influencing police matters after he’d left for another job.  

And Paterson’s state police detail was accused of trying to influence a Bronx woman to not pursue a domestic violence charge against a top Paterson aid.  After media disclosure of the allegations in February of 2010, Paterson dropped out of his week old race for another term as governor.

Since then, Cuomo has chosen a new police superintendent, Joseph D’Amico, and has replaced members of the governor’s security detail, which he says was “troubled.”

After the graduation ceremony, Cuomo says he believes the elite police force has moved on.

“I think you’ve seen a different set of ethics and behavior patterns,” says Cuomo who says he can’t guarantee however, that there will never be misconduct again.

“There’s always a chance of an issue,” he said. “But  it’s night and day compared to what it was.”  

Even with the new troopers, the state police force is still one tenth smaller than it was before the recession. Cuomo says the date for the next graduating class of state police depends on the state’s finances in next year’s budget.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.