BATAVIA — The Genesee County Police Reform and Reinvention Committee may adopt a report with recommendations for the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office after reviewing its practices, policies and procedures, county legislators were told Wednesday afternoon.
County Manager Matt Landers updated the Legislature, during its regular meeting, on the status of the committee’s progress. The committee had met the previous night.
The report is a response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 203 issued on June 12. Police departments across the state must submit reform plans by April 1. Government localities with law enforcement agencies that do not submit them will lose state funding for their agencies.
“We talked about a couple of the changes that are needed to meet the criteria and meet the conditions set forth in the executive order. They are relatively minor additions we are putting forth,” Landers said. “There was a strong consensus to move forward with the report as is. We have had the report out on the website for three weeks and have received a few different emails.”
The comments in those emails were discussed at Tuesday night’s committee meeting, he said.
“We are taking that into account in our final report. We appreciate the feedback from the community on those comments,” Landers said. “We’ll be meeting again next week as a committee to hopefully formally adopt the plan ... and put it forth for the next Public Service meeting for this Legislature to consider at the following legislative meeting.”
During Tuesday’s committee meeting, Sheriff William Sheron Jr. thanked those who took part in the committee meetings and the information and criticism they shared.
Committee moderator Robert Bausch said three issues or questions from the public came to him. He said the first one came up in the last two or three weeks in a number of conference calls/Zoom calls statewide.
“One of the issues that always comes up is that you have to remember ... we are making recommendations, not a plan,” he said. “The state, in some places, refers to it as a plan, some places, recommendations.”
Bausch said for this to become a plan, there are factors to be looked at that the committee hasn’t considered — union contracts, schedules, etc.
“I think it’s important to make sure everybody understands we are not doing a plan for the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department. We are making recommendations based on what we have learned,” Bausch said. “I think it is an important point going forward, which will definitely be noted in our final report.”
Issues Cuomo proposed the committee’s report should cover include:
• using smart and effective policing standards and strategies;
• fostering community-oriented leadership, culture and accountability;
• recruiting and supporting excellent personnel.
On the functions police perform, the report stated, “Currently there is a strong opinion that programs to address these concerns need to be expanded and further programs developed.”
Committee members said mental health professionals should be available to assist the 911 Emergency Services Dispatch Center, Sheriff’s Office road patrol and the county jail. The county Sheriff’s Office should work with Genesee County Mental Health, Genesee County Alcohol and Substance Abuse (GCASA) and other mental health and substance abuse professionals to train, advise and work together.
Regarding smart and effective policing strategies, the report recommends, “Although there are no significant issues at the present time, the Sheriff’s Office must be vigilant and prepared to address any issues and citizen concerns that may arise.”
On fostering leadership, culture and accessibility, the report recommends the Sheriff’s Office develop a comprehensive training plan that includes implicit bias, trauma-informed care and vicarious trauma training, mental health, and state-mandated trainings.
Sheron talked about expanding on a plan the department already has and functions already in place.
“We have a solid foundation. We need to make sure we say up-to-date with the standards for accreditation and that we meet any new standards that come along,” he said. “I would say that there different standards that come out on a regular basis regarding policing aspects. There’s going to be expanded issues with use of force and bias training ... those are just a couple (of changes) that I could see coming down the pike.”
The recommendations on recruiting and supporting excellent personnel, include that the county Sheriff’s Office “review its recruitment program and identify any programs or agencies available, such as the Genesee County Career Center or Veterans’ Outreach Program that may assist in their efforts.
“It is also recommended that the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office work with the superintendents of Genesee County schools, principal of Notre Dame HS (High School), and officials at Genesee Community College to expand its current programs of recruiting and educating students, especially those in underserved populations, on a career in law enforcement.”