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Schenectady Police Reform And Reinvention Collaborative Draft Plan Discussed

 Protesters march outside Schenectady City Hall July 13, 2020
Lucas Willard / WAMC
Protesters march outside Schenectady City Hall July 13, 2020

The Schenectady police collaborative reform plan draft was presented virtually Monday night.

The online public hearing to discuss Schenectady's draft police reform plan, developed under a state mandate, came during a regular city council meeting. The reform plan was developed with assistance from the John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety.

Officials say the plan was crafted after a series of virtual community meetings and discussions.

With a report due to the state by April 1st, the collaborative says it “reviewed current police deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, and practices to better address the needs of the community, promote community engagement to foster trust, fairness, and legitimacy, and to address any racial bias and disproportionate policing of communities of color.”

"I am an African American parent of a son. And every day, I worry, not just because my son walks the street. But there are so many police officers with guns. And if they happen to come up to him, he's a black man, that he might not come home at night. "

Janette Brown told the panel that although Schenectady has "started the process of dealing with the executive order of the governor" there's still much to be done.

"These issues was not created overnight. And they're not going to get fixed with a rush job. Everybody has to be heard, and to provide a document on a Friday evening, and ask the community to be prepared to really make public comments on a Monday evening, is just so unfair. It is very typical of our systems today, that it's a barrier to get the voices heard that need to be heard."

Jamaica Miles speaks to protesters outside Schenectady Police HQ
Credit Lucas Willard / WAMC
Jamaica Miles speaks to protesters outside Schenectady Police HQ in July 2020.

Activist Jamaica Miles, co-founder of All Of Us, says her organizations' 13 demands need to be part of the reform initiative. Those demands of the city, county, and district attorney include a ban on all forms of strangleholds, chokeholds, and hogties. The group is calling for an "end to racism and oppression in all of its forms."

"The city of Schenectady is not living up to the objectives of the executive order, is not working collectively to create changes in policing, changes to address racial disparities and police brutality, and the draft of the recommendations report from the mayor and the chief of police because that's who it's from, it reads ‘in conjunction with independent research and work of the John Finn Institute for Public Safety. The recommendations put forth signified the acknowledgement of community needs.’ Well guess what? This fails to acknowledge the local research and work of All Of Us or the NAACP. The report in its entirety is not ‘ tailored to specific needs of the community,’ and it especially does not address the high needs of police community interactions.”

Two dozen recommendations made in the draft report include changes to community policing and community engagement, use of force, de-escalation training, harm reduction and community health initiatives, along with diversifying the department, implementing anti-racism training and establishing substations "within neighborhoods most affected by over policing."

Miles says all 13 of her group’s demands should be included in the final version of the report to be sent to the governor.

Democratic Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy spoke near the end of the session:

" This is a dynamic process, it's going to continue going forward, and this report is kind of a summary of where we are today and outlining some of the goals that we want to accomplish in the future. But that doesn't mean that there aren't going to be changes to that, other things that we're going to look at, and other ways that we're going to work to make the community stronger, better and make sure that we're fair and equitable in the way we deliver services and the environment that we create within the city of Schenectady. "

The city council will discuss Monday night's comments during its March 15th meeting. The panel is expected to put finishing touches on the draft plan March 22nd in anticipation of the governor's April 1 deadline.

Schenectady PD Reform and Reinvention Report on Scribd

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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