Focus on local input

Under a mandate from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, police departments throughout New York are soliciting input from members of the public on how to improve operations.

Municipalities in Northern New York have begun developing their plans for modernizing policing strategies as required by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Protests have been held since spring over alleged cases of police brutality. Demonstrators have said these tragic incidents resulted in the deaths of Black Americans.

Statistics reveal an alarming trend. According to an article published Monday by the Washington Post: “Although half of the people shot and killed by police are white, Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans. Hispanic Americans are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate.

In response to this, Mr. Cuomo announced measures designed to reform policies and procedures affecting how law enforcement agencies operate. He signed bills to provide more transparency of officers’ disciplinary records, prohibit chokeholds, outlawing race-based 911 reports deemed to be false and designate the state attorney general as an independent prosecutor for matters relating to the deaths of unarmed civilians caused by law enforcement agents, according to a news release issued June 12 by the governor’s office.

He also signed an executive order establishing the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. This requires “local police agencies … to develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs in their community based on community input. Each police agency’s reform plan must address policies, procedures, practices and deployment including but not limited to use of force,” according to the news release.

The executive order calls on all police departments to engage stakeholders in a public and open process on policing strategies and tools; present a plan, by chief executive and head of the local police force, to the public for comment; after consideration of any comments, present such plan to the local legislative body (council or legislature as appropriate), which has approved such plan (by either local law or resolution); and have the plan certified by April 1 to ensure the police force remains eligible to receive future state funding.

“Our law enforcement officers are essential to ensuring public safety — they literally put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect us,” Mr. Cuomo said in the release. “This emergency regulation will help rebuild that confidence and restore trust between police and the communities they serve by requiring localities to develop a new plan for policing in the community based on fact-finding and meaningful community input.”

Law enforcement agencies in the the four-county GLOW Region have started the work necessary to carry out this directive.

The executive order applies to every community with a police department.

The City of Batavia has been meeting since late September.

“The group will meet to review the current policies, procedures and training initiatives of the department and issue a report that will recommend improvements ... some of which may be in the areas of community policing initiatives, problem-oriented policing responses, crime prevention through environmental design, training enhancements, to name a few,” said Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski.

The group’s first meeting on Sept. 24 covered the evolution of law enforcement’s role in the community and some discussion on use of force. The goal of the meeting, said City Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said, was to “introduce the process to the group, to discuss the executive order, evolution of policing, some current practices, issue the Department’s use of force policy to the group and lay out the agenda for the next several meetings.”

The city’s Police Stakeholders Group is scheduled to hold a second meeting Oct. 8.

The village of Medina in Orleans County has also had discussions to update policing strategies.

Nineteen people will meet later this month when Genesee County holds its first discussion of police procedure and reform and reinvention. The committee members were announced Monday.

Former Legislature Chair Robert Bausch will be the moderator for the committee’s initial meeting to begin an open dialogue about public safety needs in Genesee County.

“We look forward to open and respectful dialogue among members and see this as an opportunity to collaborate and better understand others’ points of view resulting in updated, and new policies that offer fair justice for all,” Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said.

The issue of developing new policing strategies has unfortunately become a politically divisive one. We certainly appreciate why so many Americans believe that reforms within the law enforcement community are necessary. And we also understand the concerns this raises for police officers.

The outline for undertaking this process offers some hope of common ground. Mr. Cuomo’s mandate emphasizes for need for input from members of the community. They understand how local policing practices affect their neighbors and what measures will make things better.

By working collaboratively with local law enforcement representatives, residents have the chance to strengthen their police departments while ensuring municipal policies bring about the positive changes we’d all like to see. People should strive to become more involved in the reform movement in their respective areas.

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