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Troy Police Reform & Reinvention Collaborative Begins Gathering Input

Jerry Ford speaks at Monday night's meeting of the Troy Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative
City of Troy, Zoom, image captured by WAMC
Jerry Ford speaks at Monday night's meeting of the Troy Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative

Troy has begun public meetings of its Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. Tonight, city residents will have the chance to share their thoughts in a public forum. As WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports, a coalition of the city’s Black leaders offered recommendations this week.

Like other municipalities in New York, under Executive Order 203, Troy is due to submit a report to the state on April 1st on police reform at the risk of losing state funding.

Troy Mayor Patrick Madden, a Democrat, announced at the start of Monday’s meeting that he wants to continue the dialogue on police reform after April 1.

“I don’t know at this time know the exact form it will take but I do believe that there needs to be an ongoing and organized dialogue among those in the criminal justice system, the mental health and substance abuse communities, and the community-at-large. Maybe others as well,” said Madden.

Madden said dialogue in the city on police reform intensified beginning last summer. There were changes made to the city police department’s use of force policy and disciplinary procedures, the Troy police department received accreditation, and new police training for work with individuals in emotional distress began. A body camera program will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

There was also the reorganization of the city’s Police Objective Review Board, with new members and new rules.

Before Monday night’s presentation, Police Chief Brian Owens thanked those in attendance and the community members he said have long been in communication with the city police.

“We’ve evolved over time to better serve the people of our city and we welcome this ongoing dialogue to find ways to improve our police department,” said Owens.

Monday’s meeting included a presentation and Q and A with members of the Troy Coalition of Black Leaders. Formed amid a rash of violent crime and a national moment of racial reckoning last summer, TCBL members of the group previously met with the city administration.

Deacon Jerry Ford of United Ordained Church is also a community and youth advocate involved with the Boys & Girls Club and a co-founder of the Team HERO.

Ford presented the recommendations from the TCBL to the Collaborative.

“There are three areas that the TCBL proposes immediate addressing in improving the equity in the criminal justice system serving Troy that result in the reimagining and re-informing the law enforcement system serving Troy…”

The three main categories of recommendations were, one, transparency, two, improving community relations, and three, building trust.

Some recommendations in the first category included enhanced criminal justice diversion and re-entry programs, providing the Police Objective Review Board subpoena power, and improving the police hiring process and building diversity.

The second category of improving community relationships included the recommendation that city police examine interactions with people of color, require walking details, and the rollout of body-worn cameras, replacing street cameras, and making un-redacted footage of incidents available.

The third category of building trust included suggestions to engage with the community and young people and reallocate funds to triage and respond to calls appropriately. In line with trends in other communities, TCBL recommended the dispatching a community service officer or trained mental health professional – and even considering the racial and gender identities of those dispatched to a call – instead of an armed officer. A recent incident in Rochester where a 9-year-old girl was pepper sprayed by police was discussed Monday in Troy.

Recognizing steps taken by the Troy Police Department to build on those tenets in recent years, Ford asserted there was an internal resistance to such reforms.   

“Although the policies and procedures have evolved to address the times, the intentions remain questionable when we declare known that there is a such thing called the Blue Culture.”

For over an hour following the presentation by TCBL, members of the Coalition asked questions of the sub-group on their recommendations.

Republican City Council President Carmella Mantello commented on concerns over the makeup of the Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative itself, which is mostly white.

“This is going to be a working documents, so come April 1st it’s not the be-all-end-all, however, the council has to approve this. And if there’s a real concern from all of you on the makeup, we need to know that, we need to hear it, and we need to be open to modify that, so thank you,” said Mantello.

The next meeting of Troy’s Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative will be held tonight and will include a public forum.

For more details visit: http://www.troyny.gov/mayor/police-reform-reinvention-collaborative/

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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