The city of Plattsburgh’s Police Department recently revised its Use of Force Policy to incorporate the national “8 Can’t Wait” recommendations and codify de-escalation requirements. The mayor then announced a citizens’ panel to advise city leaders on community policing and make recommendations on further police oversight.
The creation of the city of Plattsburgh’s new Public Safety Citizens Review Panel is motivated in part by unrest across the country over racial bias in policing and the surfacing of a local video from 2017 that appears to show city police roughing up a Caucasian man in a holding cell.
Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read, a Democrat who is running for reelection, said the new panel will help the city move swiftly to implement 21st century community policing policies. “This board will have an ongoing role to advise the Common Council on accountability issues and investigation oversight. Not investigation themselves but oversight. But also to make recommendations within three months in the following categories: the use of force by police officers and de-escalation training and practices which we’ve already put much of that in place very very recently; crowd management, community policing implicit bias awareness training, restorative justice practices, community-based outreach, transparent citizen complaint disposition procedures, diversion courts and youth courts and drug courts expand those missions as well.”
The panel includes a representative of the Clinton County District Attorney’s office. Andrew Wylie felt it was imperative his office be a part of the effort. “Obviously the present day issues that have gone on, the demonstrations that we’ve had here in Plattsburgh, have called out for this type of action. I’ve appointed Assistant District Attorney Jaime Douthat to provide the prosecutorial viewpoint and things that we can do as far as training and assisting to ensure that at least as best we can that events that occurred obviously not only in Minneapolis but throughout the country and even here in Plattsburgh that those events don’t occur again.”
Panel member Emily Stacey is a senior in criminal justice at SUNY Plattsburgh. She says problems in the city here are not necessarily at the same level as in major urban areas and change has to be tailored to the community needs in Plattsburgh. “My vision is to learn myself because I think that there is a lot that I don’t know not being in law enforcement. I’m not a law enforcement officer. I’m not a lawyer. I’m not a judge. I’m not a probation officer, parole officer. But what I do know is that it’s a very stressful job and I’d like to understand what their side is when they’re out on that beat and then how we can help them to understand what the community side is, developing a bridge there and not a break.”
Mayor Read said the panel will review whether the budget should reallocate police funds but he feels that the city of Plattsburgh needs fast responding law enforcement and first responders. “I don’t think it would make sense to defund police. We need police and we need rapid response police and we need police that are very sensitive to local community mandates.”