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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 8, 2009

Deputy recovers from crash

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Deputy Sheriff Gerard Munrett III is recovering after his patrol car crashed into a tree on Sept. 27; he hopes to return to work by Oct. 15, said Craig Apple, undersheriff with the Albany County Sheriff’s Department.

“He’s chomping at the bit to get back,” said Apple this week.

Munrett was on Route 20 in Guilderland, near Schoolhouse Road, when a call came in of a prowler in Knox, said Apple. “An elderly woman believed someone was in her house,” said Apple. “That raises the stakes.”

The call turned out to be unfounded.

It was raining hard when Munrett got the early-morning call. He was driving on Route 20, heading towards Knox, with his lights and siren on when he got to the intersection with 155 and his car hydroplaned, turning 180 degrees and sliding into a tree, Apple said.

“He’s damn lucky he’s alive right now,” said Apple.

Munrett, whose face was badly cut and whose body was bruised, was taken to Albany Medical Center. “He has mobility back in his arm,” said Apple. “He got his stitches out this week…His right eye is still droopy,” Apple said. “They think it will bounce back.”

“His seat belt saved his life,” said Apple. “If it weren’t for that, we’d probably be attending a funeral.”

The accident was investigated and witnesses said “he was not out of control or going that fast,” Apple reported. “They said, all of a sudden, the car just spun…He just took off.”

Police presence in the Hilltowns

The Hilltowns have no municipal police forces of their own. Asked if he thought the sheriff’s department covered the rural towns adequately, Apple said, “There’s a lot of land to be covered up on the mountain. We do our best.”

He declined to say how many patrol cars are assigned to the area. “We don’t want the public to know exactly what we’re running,” he said.

“I’d always want to see more cops up there,” he added. But, Apple went on, circumstances were unusual the night of Saturday, Sept. 26, and early Sunday morning, Sept. 27, when Munrett’s accident occurred.

“A short time before the prowler call came in from Knox, a call for help came out from the Bethlehem Police Department for a large group of people, 30 to 40 in size, fighting with knives and guns.”

With a call like that, Apple said, “Everybody comes, so all of our cars started that way…At midnight, there’s not 30 cops combined.”

This week, in John R. William’s Enterprise column, “Old Men of the Mountain,” commenting on the breakfast banter among Hilltown old-timers, he reports their suggestion that volunteer firemen be deputized to fill in if the sheriff’s department can’t get to a crime scene quickly enough.

“If the closest officer to respond to the emergency was in Guilderland,” writes Williams of the Sept. 27 prowler call, “this poor lady could have been done in, looted, and the intruder could be half way to Oneonta before help arrived.”

He also writes that lawlessness is getting out of hand in the Hilltowns because there is so little police presence.

Apple commented that deputizing volunteers is “absolutely not” a good idea.

“These people would be exposing themselves to an ungodly amount of liability,” he said of deputized volunteers.

Deputies, he said, train for a minimum of six months at a police academy and then receive another 12 weeks of on-the-job-training before working under the supervision of a field sergeant.

Also, Apple said, deputized volunteers could “turn into a vigilante form of justice.”

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