Broome DA Debate Hits On Addiction, Police Body Cameras And Experience

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BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) – Candidates for Broome County District Attorney participated in a debate at SUNY Broome Community College on Wednesday.

Republican Paul Battisti, Democrat Debra Gelson and Libertarian Mike Korchak discussed multiple issues during the 90-minute forum.

Left to right; Republican candidate Paul Battisti, Democratic candidate Debra Gelson, Libertarian candidate Mike Korchak. Photo by Charles Compton/WSKG News

Among the issues discussed was relations between police officers and citizens. Battisti said a lot of problems can be resolved through the use of body cam footage, but currently, it’s not easily available to prosecutors within the district attorney’s office.

“Because they’re not making the request within a timely fashion,” he claimed. “This is a perfect example of the fractured relationship between law enforcement and the district attorney’s office.”

Several law enforcement groups have endorsed Battisti rather than Korchak, who’s current Chief Assistant D.A.  Korchak ran as a Republican until he lost the GOP primary in June to Battisti. That race was decided by absentee ballots.

Korchak said the issue with police body cameras is more with a state statute that doesn’t require timely release of images. That statute is changing next year.

Gelson also complained about the lack of access to body cam footage.

Meanwhile, one issue raised was a supervised injection site for opioid addicts. This would be a space for people to inject, under the supervision of medical professionals who could prevent a fatal overdose.

Supporters say it would help lower overdose deaths. Though the number fatal overdoses has decreased, Broome County has been hit especially hard over the last several years.

Opponents, like Battisti and Korchak, said having a place where people can do an illegal activity is a bad idea.

An estimate 300 people gathered in SUNY Broome’s Angelo Zuccolo Little Theatre and a nearby cafeteria for the event. Photo by Charles Compton/WSKG News

But Gelson isn’t so sure. She said this is a complicated issue. “I’m on the fence, I’ll admit it,” she said. “It’s a tough situation. I don’t want any more deaths, but I also will be taking an oath to enforce the law as it is written.”

A supervised injection sites has been proposed in Ithaca, and endorsed by a federal court.

Gelson and Korchack both took time to tout their courtroom experience.

For example, Korchak said his experience with sexual assault victims has taught him a lot about handling people. “This is not experience that you get from a mentoring program, from watching it on TV, from bringing everyone to a table and talking about it,” he said. “This is very important. These are victim’s lives we’re talking about.

The candidates also debated cyber crime and the treatment of crime victims. The winner of next month’s general election replaces current District Attorney Steve Cornwell, who’s leaving office to run for Congress.

This debate can be heard in full on WSKG Saturday beginning at 6:00 p.m.