Governor Kathy Hochul announces allocation of first-year opioid settlement funds on October 30, 2023. Susan Watts / Office of Governor Kathy Hochul
The governor has neglected to announce a public emergency over the increasingly deadly opioid epidemic. Observers are perplexed.
By Spencer Norris

As New York hits the zenith of the opioid overdose crisis, pressure is mounting on Governor Kathy Hochul to declare a public health emergency. So is confusion over why she hasn’t done so already.

“I don’t really understand the reticence,” said Christopher Assini, policy director for Friends of Recovery New York. “People are dying and not enough is being done to mitigate it.”

Massachusetts became the first state to declare a state of emergency over the opioid crisis in 2014, and at least seven other states have since taken the step. The federal government declared one in 2017. The orders give state leaders expanded authority to boost a variety of public health measures.

Arbitrators can effectively overrule personnel decisions made by corrections leadership, including the commissioner. Dion MBD for The Marshall Project
Over a 12-year span, three out of every four state correctional officers fired for abuse or covering it up got their jobs back.
By Alysia Santo and Joseph Neff

A guard working at a Hudson Valley prison pummeled a 19-year-old shackled by the legs to a restraint chair. An officer at a facility near the Canadian border denied food to a man in solitary confinement 13 times over a week. Outside Albany, a guard told a prisoner, “That’s how you get dumped on your fucking head,” then smashed his head into a wall.

Each time, New York state officials fired the guards. Each time, they appealed. Each time, private arbitrators gave the officers their jobs back.

This article was published in partnership with The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the US criminal justice system.

The Rochester Police Accountability Board tried to unionized with Workers United. The city wants them in AFSCME. Rochester skyline: Theresa Marconi via Wikimedia Commons | Illustration: Maia Hibbett for New York Focus
Can an oversight group be in the same union as the police it monitors?
By Maggie Duffy

A public sector union in Rochester has spent the past 14 months fighting for recognition from a mayor who is required under city charter to recognize it.

The Police Accountability Board, a civilian oversight group that Rochester voters overwhelmingly approved in 2019, filed to unionize last October. It was the first police oversight board in the country to take the step. The board is seeking recognition with Workers United, a national union whose upstate branches have gained attention for successful Starbucks organizing drives.

For over a year since, Rochester Mayor Malik Evans has resisted calls to recognize the union.

A recent spate of rulings suggests that New York’s top court is headed in a more progressive direction, especially concerning the rights of people accused of crimes. Radio Catskill interviewed New York Focus Senior Reporter Sam Mellins about the story.


And at least three New York nonprofit organizations are calling on donors to help outfit those settlers with combat gear, in a fundraising blitz funneling millions of tax-deductible dollars to the West Bank aggression

NYPD Police Academy Graduation Ceremony at Madison Square Garden in 2014. Diana Robinson
Police training materials link the discredited “excited delirium syndrome” to synthetic marijuana use.
By Chris Gelardi

Synthetic marijuana is turning people into violent, super strong aggressors best subdued with stun guns and pepper spray, the New York City Police Department tells its new officers.

In training materials obtained by New York Focus, NYPD instructors are told to teach police recruits about “excited delirium syndrome,” “a state of extreme excitement and agitation” often associated with drug use. It’s a “medical emergency,” the materials say, characterized by symptoms including “elevated body temperatures, increased physical strength and lack of physical fatigue,” and it can lead to sudden death by cardiac arrest.

The problem: The medical establishment has disavowed the syndrome as vague and pseudoscientific.

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Staying Focused is compiled and written by Alex Arriaga
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