The April 1st deadline for municipalities to submit police Reform And Reinvention Collaborative reports to New York state is fast approaching. Here's an update on the process in Greene County.
The Greene County Police Reform and Reinvention Committee met 10 times from September 2020 through February 2021.
With state funding at risk, Governor Andrew Cuomo's directive for municipalities to reimagine local police policies has an April 1 deadline.
Elide Bell lives in the Greene County town of Jewett and is a member of a group called Anti-Racist Catskills.
"Our expectation was for an open and transparent process that includes robust community feedback, dialogue, and the open consideration and inclusion of community recommendations. This exercise was to explore what we want our community policing systems to look like, not just to make recommendations to the existing structure. But this process failed. And I feel like our county government failed, the community was barely notified, certainly not engaged, and the only thing that was transparent was shutting out those that seek reform like myself, this was not in the spirit of the order. “
Bell says the final report did not include or reflect community feedback of Anti-Racist Catskills' recommendations.
“If the reform committees would have worked with us, we could have helped increase engagement with folks in our community and created self and welcoming spaces to do so. Folks that are Black, indigenous and people of color, these are the most important voices to be highlighted in this conversation. In their words of the committee, they claim they spoke with the Black community and a special private meeting.”
Bell adds no video conferencing options were offered despite multiple requests
The last meeting that the county legislature had on March 17, was to vote on whether or not they were going to accept the plan presented and they did it passed without discussion. So as a community, we're not really sure where that leaves us at this point. So we are exploring steps to dissent and hopefully, you know, find a way to continue the conversation and make some amendments because the plan is not officially due until April 1, so we're hoping there’s still time.”
Committee member Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden says the panel addressed 25 recommendations and met all the bars that were set in arriving at a fair, comprehensive plan.
“The committee worked, I thought incredibly hard over six months, seven months. Very few of them missed many meetings. Even with the COVID restrictions, we still met via Zoom. We had multiple public hearings. I think we met every intention that the governor's outline required. Yes, I know one or two people were in objection to it, but one or two people out of 47,000? I'm OK with that.”
Bell says although there were several meetings, organizers didn't make it easy for people to speak up.
“Posting information on a hard to navigate website on a page that's difficult to find. Not responding to questions and comments and letters and making it difficult to attend or speak at meetings was only the tip of the iceberg. For example, I intended to speak at the meeting held on March 15. You had to reserve a space to comment by getting permission from your district legislator. My legislator didn't reach out to me until 30 minutes prior to the meeting. And it's not possible to drive from my town to Catskill in less than 30 minutes obeying traffic laws. I asked what my options were to get my comments into the minutes and I was told that I either had to show up or I could watch it on YouTube. “
Committee member Jeff Friedman is President of the Greene County Chamber of Commerce. He noted that many people were reluctant to speak with members of the committee, and says there are no personnel complaints on file at the sheriff's office dating back many years.
“We created what we believe is the starting point. We've all been asked to stay on the committee for the coming year. The legislature has agreed to keep the committee intact and continue its work. This was done within a very tight time constraint that the governor's office gave municipalities to work on this process. So that lends itself to not necessarily being as able to make as comprehensive a final plan. But it's my hope that this is just going to be the first step in a in a long process.”