The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors has approved recommendations to improve policing under an executive order by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
This week, the Saratoga County board approved a set of 10 recommendations handed up by the appointed Executive Order 203 Compliance Group last month.
The recommendations include establishing an advisory committee to seek public input and community involvement in reviewing police policies and procedures beyond April 1st, when reports are due to the state.
The recommendations address compliance with state guidelines, diversity and cultural training and addressing bias, department performance, mental health, and use of military-style vehicles. Also recommended: police body-worn and vehicle cameras.
Todd Kusnierz is the town supervisor of Moreau and also serves as chair of the county board.
“These recommendations are put together by people appointed by the Board of Supervisors, so obviously they are going to be taken very seriously,” said Kusnierz.
The recommendations also have the approval of county sheriff Michael Zurlo, a fellow Republican.
“All in all, the recommendations, I am totally in favor of all of them and I look forward to implementing the ones we have not already started here,” said Zurlo.
Zurlo said it is his wish to dedicate a staff member to meet the recommendation related to maintaining and reviewing professional standards within the department.
“I would like to have an administrative officer lead that. Currently, we’ve got different divisions here and each division has their own group to handle complaints. I would like to have one group to just oversee the whole department, so that’s something that I’m looking to implement here,” said Zurlo.
Zurlo said he also intends to sit down with members of the county board to discuss the expenses related to the recommended body and vehicle camera program.
Democratic county supervisor Tara Gaston of Saratoga Springs, speaking during Tuesday’s Saratoga Springs city council meeting, told councilors she supported the message of the recommendations but wanted to see more details on implementation.
“Obviously, in our fiscal situation, I don’t expect us to go out tomorrow and equip all of our vehicles and deputies with cameras, however, I did expect us to develop a timeline or a plan for how it could be implemented…”
Gaston said she also questions the language used in the recommendations themselves, wanting to see more forceful language requiring the sheriff’s department to comply with the report.
“Unfortunately, the 203 report uses a lot of phrases like ‘suggest that you consider’ or ‘encourage’ someone looking into something…” said Gaston.
Sheriff Zurlo, however, said he intends to comply with each recommendation.
“The word encourage…I will do these,” said Zurlo.
Though the report was developed through public input and includes written comments from community members of color, the racial makeup of the Compliance Group drew some criticism – all but one member of the group was white.
Kusnierz, who was not county board chair when the group was appointed last year, said he intends to ensure racial diversity in county government continues to be addressed.
“I can tell you as recently as last month and this week, if you look at the new appointments to the criminal advisory council here at the county, you will see that there’s more diversity as a result of those appointments than has ever occurred in the past,” said Kusnierz.