County begins public safety reform discussion

BRIAN QUINN/DAILY NEWS Group members, from left, Rachel Gelabale, Julie Carasone, Perez Dinkins and Tyrone Woods listen to a presentation Wednesday.

BATAVIA — A group including Genesee County residents, educators, a religious leader, officials and county Sheriff’s Office representatives met for the first time Wednesday as it begins a look at county Sheriff’s Office policies and suggests changes and come up with a reform plan by the spring.

“We have to get to know each other and our shared purpose, and how we see each other as we discuss public safety and its delivery here in Genesee County,” Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said at the beginning of the meeting. “Step by step by step,we will do this together. This is open to our entire community and so the fact that you have been tasked to represent a social group or a minority group, or even just being a leader that’s been elected, we need each and every one of you as we step off to this plan to ensure that we are meeting our governor’s directive, which is very simply put, that each community must envision for itself the appropriate role of the police. Policies must be developed to allow the police to do their jobs to protect the public and the policies must be with the local community’s acceptance.”

The goals of this first meeting, to be followed by another meeting Oct. 28, included giving the committee members who were able to attend, either in-person or remotely via Zoom, a chance to introduce themselves. County Manager Matt Landers reviewed Executive Order No. 203 from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which requires the “chief executive” to consult with local community stakeholders and develop the plan.

Committee member Barb Starowitz of Elba said she works on a farm, for her four brothers.

“I work on a farm with many different, diverse employees that are Mexican, Guatemalan and minorities, so I can bring some insight of what they would feel of what they’ve been treated and what their perspectives of the police department (are),” she said. “It is an honor to be asked to serve.”

John Keller, a pastor at Northgate Church in Batavia, said he got a call from Undersheriff Bradley Mazur about being part of the group, “I’m looking forward to learning. I’m really honored to be asked.”

Sheriff William Sheron Jr. said the county Sheriff’s Office can always improve on what it does.

“Any input we can get that we can make a better situation for the citizens, I’m all for it,” Sheron said.

The sheriff said he was pleased to be in the group and made a point about constructive criticism.

“When I started in police work, I was taught that if you can’t take constructive criticism, get out, because that’s what it’s all about,” he said. That’s how you get change. You listen to each other and you formulate a plan and move on with it.”

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