Saratoga Springs City Council Approves Policing Plan Over Objections From Advocates, Task Force
In accordance with a state mandate, the Saratoga Springs city council adopted a police reform plan Wednesday night ahead of an April 1st deadline.
For an hour prior to the city council’s vote on a third draft of a police reform plan, a virtual crowd of city residents and advocates voiced their objections.
Activists and members of the Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force spoke out after the city council’s police reform plan deviated from a set of 50 recommendations handed up by the Task Force.
Chandler Hickenbottom, a young Black woman who has helped organize Black Lives Matter protests in downtown Saratoga Springs over the last year, was among the most vocal on Wednesday.
“They worked seven months to give you a plan that was flawless! A Hail Mary! And you don’t even know how to take it gracefully. It’s disgusting, honestly,” said Hickenbottom.
While the city council’s plan included a majority of recommendations developed by the Task Force over the last several months, there were four main disagreements.
The council’s plan cited reasons for not adopting recommendations to ban no-knock warrants; prohibit use of military-style vehicles from other municipal, state, or federal law enforcement; and divert seized assets from criminal charges to community-based restorative groups.
Additionally, the city council’s plan calls for additional review of the creation of a civilian police review board. While agreeing with the creation of a civilian police review board in principle, the plan cites potential conflicts with the city charter, police union contracts, and other technical details.
Advocates have called for further oversight of the city police department for years, since a police foot chase involving Darryl Mount Jr., a biracial man who died months after sustaining injuries in the August 2013 incident at age 22. The city has remained tight-lipped on the case, citing a lawsuit filed by Mount’s family alleging police brutality. Calls for a police oversight body intensified during last summer’s mobilization for racial justice.
City Attorney Vince DeLeonardis, who served as a non-voting member of the Task Force, pushed back against claims that the city was not following the recommendations.
“This is not a rejection of the Task Force’s recommendation. It’s simply a recognition that further evaluation is required,” said DeLeonardis.
But in not accepting all 50 recommendations, others predicted future conflicts, including Ron Kim, a former city Public Safety Commissioner and aspiring mayoral candidate.
“If the city council doesn’t ratify all 50, here’s what’s gonna happen – we’re gonna get sued. The city is going to get sued…We’re going to have to hire lawyers and the taxpayers are essentially going to be on the hook for essentially not following the law. We need to follow the law here,” said Kim.
The city council voted to approve the plan Wednesday night 4 to 1. Outgoing Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan defended the plan and its call for further evaluation.
“Many of us will be gone in just a few short months, but I plan to do what I am able to lay the groundwork and foundation for a successful implementation of the Task Force plan, but is a plan that requires resources and further analysis, and those accommodations are included in our next steps,” said Madigan.
The lone vote against the plan came from outgoing Commissioner of Accounts John Franck. Franck did not speak Wednesday night but did air his objections during a testy city council meeting on March 23rd.
“I’m very proud of this group, as I know all of you should be and are, and I think, if we’re going to get into the legal wrangling of ‘Item Number 32’ and item number this and item number that, I think we’re missing the point. This can be cleaned up as we go, but I don’t think we wait on this. I think we move forward,” said Franck, asserting his position to advance all 50 Task Force reccommendations.