Beacon Names New Police Chief

Mayor critical of ‘leaks’ about decision

By Jeff Simms

The Beacon City Council has unanimously approved the appointment of Capt. Kevin Junjulas, a 23-year veteran of the police department, as chief of police, succeeding Doug Solomon, who resigned in December to take the same job in Newburgh.

Junjulas, who is a resident of Cold Spring, had been serving as interim chief. He was recommended by Mayor Randy Casale, who before the vote blasted council members for allegedly leaking the news that Junjulas would be appointed.

Beacon Police Chief Kevin Junjulas (Photo by J. Simms)

“Trust is a valuable word, and I have lost a lot of trust,” Casale said, implying that the leak led some residents to protest the hiring process. The mayor said he had received emails suggesting he should have asked for input from the public before making his recommendation to the council.

“The people elect the mayor of Beacon as the CEO of the city,” Casale said. “The person that I put up as chief, I have to know that he’s going to follow through and lead with my vision.”

Casale said that he told council members Jan. 29 during a closed session that he would name Junjulas, who will serve on a provisional basis until he takes the Dutchess County civil service exam for police officers, which is currently scheduled to be given in March 2019. If he scores highly, he could then be named permanent chief and begin a one-year probationary period.

At the council’s Monday, Feb. 5, meeting, the debate focused on procedure and not on Junjulas’ merits as a candidate.

“There’s nothing more deteriorating to an organization than to have no leader,” said resident Pat Kelliher, urging the council to approve the appointment.

But Lisa Marie Martinez asked that the council delay its vote, citing the lengthy search that the Beacon City School District undertook last year before hiring Matt Landahl as its superintendent.

“This is the city’s opportunity to have an ally of the people and not more of the same from a department with a tarnished reputation and bad community relations,” she said.

Council Member Amber Grant said that while she had no objection to Junjulas, “if the community wants to have some information about this person, I think they have that right.”

Mayor Randy Casale at the Feb. 5 meeting (Photo by J. Simms)

Casale agreed but said, “I don’t think [Junjulas] needs to answer to the community before I make the appointment. This isn’t government by committee, this is government by elected officials.”

The discussion continued for nearly an hour, with each council member ultimately indicating his or her support for the appointment but not necessarily the procedure. “People just want to know how this process worked and how the decision was come to,” Grant said.

Yet, said Council Member George Mansfield, “as much as I value the opinion of the public, I can’t imagine how much it will actually influence our discussion with tangible information.”

Three Beacon religious leaders — Pastor Ed Benson of the New Vision Church of Deliverance, the Rev. Ricardo Pacheco of Tabernacle of Christ Church and Rabbi Brent Spodek of the Beacon Hebrew Alliance — also emailed Casale to ask for a delay.

“We know the history of the Beacon police,” Pacheco said in an interview on Feb. 7, referencing past oversight of the department by the U.S. Justice Department following allegations of brutality. “But we don’t know the new chief and we don’t know his vision as far as community relations.”

Three years ago, Pacheco helped initiate a dialogue that led to the creation of Beacon Speaks Out, a quarterly meeting of residents with police and city officials, including Solomon and Casale.

“That helped to quell some of the community’s concerns at that time,” he said. “We don’t want to go back to having our police department [engaged in] racial profiling.”

Solomon, who was confirmed by the Newburgh City Council on Feb. 5 as that city’s provisional chief, has been credited with restoring order to the Beacon Police Department after he was hired in 2012. Federal oversight was lifted in 2016 after the department demonstrated “substantial compliance” with recommendations regarding the use of force, the type and quantity of ammunition carried by officers, the city’s system for handing public complaints and officer training methods, among other issues.

Junjulas, 50, was promoted to captain in 2015. He did not attend the meeting Monday, but Casale read a statement in which the officer pledged that the department under his leadership would “live and work in accordance with the highest ethical standards.” He is scheduled to address the council at its Feb. 13 workshop.

5 thoughts on “Beacon Names New Police Chief

  1. The mayor’s yelling and outbursts during this meeting were shocking and inexcusable. His tone of voice, public reprimanding of the Council, and allegations of problems within the Beacon City School District that he alluded to but wouldn’t explain was out of line.

    The Highlands Current should have reported on this meeting’s tone overall. How the mayor bullied his constituents for writing emails and speaking up at a public meetings.

    I’m extremely disappointed that this person represents Beacon as our mayor. If he can’t take input and criticism, questions and suggestions calmly from his constituents, he should not be mayor.

  2. I think the people of Beacon would benefit from Officer Junjulas’s longevity as a officer starting with the MTA, then with the Beacon Police Department. Spending years following the law and enforcing it. Officer Junjulas has a family that serve the people, not just in Beacon but the armed forces. I believe Officer Kevin Junjulas would be at the pinnacle of Beacon’s quest for the highest ethical standards that has been a source of distrust for some time.

  3. Before leaving the Beacon City Council last year, I was informed that Police Chief Doug Solomon would be leaving. I was unsure how our city administration and newly elected City Council would assure residents that the position would be filled in a transparent manner.

    Given our diverse and evolving population, having a clear and open hiring process would reassure residents that a diverse pool of applicants has been encouraged to apply and considered. In today’s social climate, it is urgent to have committed community leaders who will contribute to our collective growth and development. A way to foster this ideal is by having responsible and responsive leaders who reflect our population.

    I was sure about what I wanted to see in a new chief but insecure about how the transition would happen. I had a long conversation with Mayor Randy Casale, who told me how the city appoints officers to the captain and chief positions, and the timeline and requirement that the chief score high on the civil-service exam. He stressed that an open hiring process is needed at times, such as when we went out of the department to hire Chief Solomon. But he felt strongly that Capt. Kevin Junjulas would continue to serve residents well and follow the charge that our chief executive officer (the mayor) has set.

    I had my reservations until recently, after listening to what our mayor had to say. In this case, I would ask that the citizens of Beacon stand with our city administration, City Council and law enforcement. On Feb. 6, Junjulas, Casale and Yvonne and Lavonne McNair, two members of Beacon’s Commission on Human Rights, met productively with the New Covenant Learning Center parents who were victimized this past summer when a driver removed barricades and drove through its Bike Day event.

    I would suggest that we improve upon our public relations as a municipality. Working on that weakness will foster a stronger relationship between our citizens, law enforcement and public officials. A better informed and more educated public can only help as the culture is shifting in our magnificent city.

    Muhammad is a former member of the City Council.