Police reform plan discussed

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 3/31/21

SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — In June 2020, in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many other Black and Brown people, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order …

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Police reform plan discussed

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SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — In June 2020, in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many other Black and Brown people, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 203. He called on county law enforcement agencies to review their practices, talk to community stakeholders and make changes that would hopefully prevent more deaths. 

All local governments were asked to adopt these plans by Thursday, April 1.

On March 24, Sullivan County announced that its Police Reform and Reinvention Plan was posted online. The first public comment was announced for Friday afternoon, March 26; a second is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 30. Right after that, the legislature is expected to vote on it.

The plan crafted by the Sullivan County Sherrif’s Department, in collaboration with stakeholders, identified the following concerns:

“1. Training and resources to deal with subjects who may be in crises, experiencing a mental health or substance abuse emergency.

2. De-escalation training to assist personnel in the use of the minimum amount of force necessary in a given situation.

3. Recruitment, retention and diversity of sheriff’s office personnel.

4. The handling of complaints against sheriff’s deputies

5. Review and update community-oriented policing practices and training.

6. Participation in a law enforcement accreditation program.”

The sheriff’s office said the overwhelming need was training to deal with people in crisis; de-escalation training is also needed. They asked for the county to review compensation packages to see if more money might help with recruitment and to slow transfers to other police agencies that pay more. A standard complaint form is to be prepared and made widely available, the community-oriented policing program will be reviewed and a system put in place to make this happen within the framework of the department.

The first public comment opened with several supporters of the plan, who called for it to be approved with no changes and spoke in support of county law enforcement. Liberty peace officer and dog control officer Joanne Gerow gave an impassioned defense of the work law enforcement officers do under dangerous conditions.

They were followed by people voicing a series of concerns. They were troubled by the lack of representation of communities of color in the initial outreach and in the survey (88.76 percent reported to be white), the lack of response to the survey (a total of 362 people responded) and questions that there was at least one name on the list of stakeholders of people who hadn’t attended a meeting. (The list contained 27 names of people, including the Association of Town Supervisors.)

The Committee for Equity and Justice and the NAACP made specific comments to the plan and called for more training, a civilian oversight committee, demographic data for arrests and increased transparency of training curricula.

Undersheriff Eric Chaboty answered some of the objections, saying that the governor gave counties the leeway to create a local approach. Not all counties are the same or have the same problems. Not all communities have troubled relationships with the police.

There was no discussion about whether the asked-for amendments would be added to the plan document.

A second, short public comment period was held on Tuesday, and the legislature was scheduled to vote on the plan right afterward.

This is a developing story.

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