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Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force Rejects City Council's Draft Reform Plan

The Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force
Lucas Willard
The Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force (file photo)

Members of the group tasked with reviewing police standards and practices in Saratoga Springs are objecting to a recently released draft police reform plan.

The City of Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force is taking issue with a draft police reform plan introduced during Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Friday morning, members of the Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force announced they would hold a press conference Monday, claiming the city council is attempting to “modify or weaken” the Task Force’s 50-point police reform plan forwarded to the council earlier this month. A final police reform report is due to the state by April 1st under Executive Order 203 by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

On Tuesday, City Attorney Vince DeLeonardis, who served as a non-voting member of the Task Force, read the draft reform plan aloud. The draft proposal, while stating it recognizes the work of the Task Force, points out many proposals are either already being practiced by the city police department or would require more review.

One such item that Task Force members consider central to their reforms is the creation of a civilian police review board with subpoena power. Here’s DeLeonardis reading from Tuesday’s draft resolution:

“The City Council recognizes the history and debate which has surrounded this issue and finds that while merit may exist for such a program, further review is necessary,” read DeLeonardis.

Languages in the draft measure echoed concerns from Police Chief Shane Crooks that the creation of a civilian review board could conflict with union contracts. DeLeonardis continued…

“Title 6 of the City Charter vests the Commissioner of Public Safety with the “jurisdiction, supervision, and control of the governance, administration, disposition, operation, and discipline of the Police Department and its officers. Such authority would seemingly include that which the Task Force recommends be provided to the proposed Civilian Review Board and, as such, the City Council may be limited in its ability to act upon such recommendation. There also remain questions regarding the impact such a Board would have on the existing Collective Bargaining Agreements…”

Members of the city council stressed that the resolution was in draft form, and offered their input on items including the establishment of the review board.

Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan suggested a process for a potential implementation plan for a civilian review board.

“If we could come up with, maybe a project plan, and I know we don’t know what that’s going to look like yet… to look at a civilian review board by ‘X’ date, let’s say June 15th, June 1…I am not sure what the date is… to come back and let public know how we might handle moving forward evaluating and implementing a civilian review board,” said Madigan.

But Friday morning, Task Force members said the city council was ignoring or slow-walking their recommendations.

Here’s co-chair Jason Golub.

“The fact that it might difficult to do and that there might steps that need to be taken with a union or a local law, shouldn’t be a reason, a ‘get out of jail free’ card,” said Golub.

The draft police reform resolution presented Tuesday night does not include any implementation dates or timetables. Golub likened it to the council punting the issue down the road.

“I don’t have a problem with the city council putting in place an implementation task force that determines how you do these in our community in a way that makes sense. But I think the first step, it really has to be, they have to take seriously, that these recommendations not only reflect what the task force believes, but what the city believes is best for police reform,” said Golub.

Task Force members plan speak Monday on the steps of City Hall to pressure the city council to adopt a measure that more closely adheres to the Task Force’s recommendations. Task Force member Kristen Dart plans to attend.

“I identify as biracial. Many of the folks on the committee were Black. And so you have a majority Black committee for the first time, probably, in Saratoga’s history doing work on behalf of the city. And the city council has really chosen to disregard a majority of that work,” said Dart.

Task Force members will also be joined by advocates. Lex Figuereo, a city resident who organized several Black Lives Matter demonstrations as part of the group All Of Us and attended a majority of Task Force meetings, also plans to join…

“The city council is undermining everything that they did and it’s a waste of our time,” said Figuereo.

A special city council meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 23rd, with another meeting set for March 31st. The police reform report is due to the state at the risk of losing state funding by April 1st.

Speaking Tuesday night, Mayor Meg Kelly was forceful about the structure of the upcoming special meeting.

“It will be a city council meeting with public comment. And we can have the two Task [Force] chairs if you would like and…the committee could be on the call, it’s an open meeting. But I’m not going to run it any differently than I am running this meeting,” said Kelly.

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