After a seven-month administrative leave, Plattekill Police Chief Joseph Ryan was recently reinstated by the Town Board.
The board initiated the paid leave after Ryan was arrested by the Town of Newburgh Police due to a domestic incident involving his daughter that took place at his home on Nov. 22, 2016. Chief Ryan had forcefully opened his teenage daughter’s locked bedroom door out of concern for her well-being. As he pushed against the hollow core door it actually broke. Ryan believes the police were called to his home by his daughter’s boyfriend who was on the phone with her at the time.
In a recent interview, Ryan said Child Protective Services conducted a thorough six-month investigation, which backed his claim that he was worried about the safety of his child.
“They looked at all the evidence and looked at everything and concluded it [charge] was unfounded. They concluded that I had the right to do what I did and that I did not abuse my kids,” he said, adding that the lead investigator confided in him that if she was in his position she would have done the exact same thing.
Ryan said an allegation was floated at the time of the incident that he was in a rage, a charge he vehemently denies. After opening the door and the arrival of the police Ryan said “I was sitting on the couch talking to my kids. There was no domestic incident. It was me discussing with my kids the need to not lock doors.”
Ryan said the Town of Newburgh Police “chose what they wanted to hear from me.”
Ryan was formally charged with Endangering the Welfare of a Child and Criminal Mischief because of the broken door. A trial in February resulted in a mistrial because one juror out of six believed Ryan was guilty and was not willing to change her position. A second trial scheduled for May was postponed and just before a June date the District Attorney’s office dismissed all charges. Ryan suspects the offer was proffered because by that point the police had figured out what had happened “and I don’t think anybody really wanted to testify.”
Ryan pointed out that at his trial “not one of the officers stated who made the call [and] who determined there was probable cause to arrest me for the charge.”
“They made a determination that I did something to at least cause her to be so afraid [and] they decided to make an arrest,” he said. Ryan pointed out that the police did not question his mother-in-law who was present during the incident or his wife who returned home shortly after the episode.
Ryan said his children were traumatized by the entire course of events “more by the District Attorney’s office than anything.” He said he is less concerned about his reputation than he is about his children’s welfare.
“I think I got caught up in a situation where there were too many cases of police officer domestic violence going on and instead of protecting my rights, I got my rights trampled on so that they could protect themselves,” he said. “They didn’t know me from nothing but they did know they had a broken door and a child that was acting scared. Nobody was injured in my house, there were no weapons displayed, there was none of that. The police department was protecting themselves and the District Attorney’s office was protecting themselves.”
Ryan said after looking back upon the domestic violence cases that he has investigated, “I got a real education on this one.” He said he does not take these kinds of cases lightly and has responded proactively with the officers under his command.
“I review every case file and every document that is generated on a domestic violence call and I really scrutinize it. I make sure my officers are following up on it because domestic violence is a serious incident,” he said
Ryan said it is a relief to have this cloud lifted and the reception from his department has been “excellent.”
“Some of them said they couldn’t wait for me to get back. From what I see they’re happy and the Town Board voted unanimously to put me back on,” he said. “I’m back in the saddle and I am just looking to do my job and whatever I can do to help people.”
By Mark Reynolds