During the past two weeks we have been hearing much about the need for Police reforms. Here in Croton, across Westchester and throughout New York State and the nation, there have been calls for reform. A few days ago, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 203, “New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative”.
The NYS Order mandates that all local police departments develop a plan and have it approved by NYS by April 1,2021. Such a plan would cover a review of current policies and procedures, developing a reform and reinvention plan with input from all stakeholders, and public comment and local ratification by the local governing body.
What does this mean for Croton going forward and where are we now on the spectrum of changes in policing? Coinciding with the appointment of a new Police Chief, Russel Harper, in 2018, the Board made “community policing” a priority for the future of the department. Its many aspects include more community involvement by our officers, adding two bilingual officers and a park ranger, and hiring of a woman police officer (our first in many years). Currently, our police officers are also completing Anti-bias/implicit training by the end of June.
At the same time, the Board has postponed proposed improvements to the existing department. Although this was primarily due to the financial effects on the village of the Covid-19 virus, it effectively defunds the department for the time being. However, many of the items included in the postponed project were addressing the very things that the calls for reform are seeking. A booking experience that is humane in its conditions (not being handcuffed to a bench), a single holding cell with no bathroom facility, no facilities for women officers, no separation for minors and separation from adults are just a few. Ultimately, these are things I think a future reform law will call for.
Croton works with the County , State, MTA and DEC police. Each of these organizations will be developing their own new plan in accordance with the Executive Order. It is expected that there will be coordination among them all to achieve meaningful and lasting reforms. Croton-on-Hudson will be an active participant in this process.