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Local trooper, now union leader, would like to see return of plea-bargaining

By Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY — February 16, 2010 — NYS Trooper Tom Mungeer has a message for speeders statewide, and it’s not just “slow down!”
Troopers wish they could still plea-bargain your ticket with you.
For real.
“We would be willing to go prosecute the tickets, but we’re not allowed,” Mungeer said.
Mungeer is the new president of the New York State Police PBA, the union representing 3,600 state troopers, non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers across the state.
The Liberty native is at the start of a three-year term but has already garnered significant media attention, as he’s the guy who can speak for the troopers who aren’t allowed to speak for themselves.
That also means he can safely run counter to the messages emanating from the Albany brass – as he has with the State Police’s plea-bargaining policy.
As explained in a two-part Democrat series last week, the State Police no longer plea-bargain speeding tickets, with the higher-ups arguing that it presents an ethical conflict-of-interest.
Mungeer and others consider it more of a financial move.
“It was basically to save the overtime,” he remarked, noting that even the State Police administrators have now formally acknowledged such.
And that irks him, since for 13 of his 17 years as a trooper he was always available to plea-bargain with those accused of minor traffic offenses.
But since 2006, the State Police have not been allowed to do so, and now Sullivan County District Attorney Jim Farrell has stopped, as well, citing manpower and financial issues.
Mungeer doesn’t fault Farrell at all.
“They do have more important things to do,” he acknowledged.
So now plea-bargaining is in the hands of local towns, for whom this could become an additional expense.
Mungeer, however, also worries about what he calls “uneven justice,” where tickets are handled differently from township to township – or not at all.
He says the system should be about what’s right and fair, not what’s simply the most cost-effective. And he bemoans the State Police leadership’s increasing focus on the bottom line – noting with irritation “cash cow” headlines over troopers issuing one million tickets in 2009.
“I don’t want to be viewed basically as a revenue generator for the state,” he said.

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