In compliance with a state mandate to “reimagine” policing, the Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force has approved a list of policy recommendations to be reviewed by the city council.
Over the last several weeks, the Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force discussed a number of proposed recommendations in several categories. Twelve separate subcommittees were established, and reviewed recommendations in categories including Police Culture and Mission, Use of Force, Data Analytics, and others. .
All but one category of recommendations was approved Wednesday; a vote on recommendations in the category of community-centered reinvention was deferred to allow for more review.
Though all but one category of recommendations was advanced, Task Force members entered their concerns into the record.
Here’s an example.
There was small debate among Task Force members regarding the establishment of a civilian police review board with subpoena power. A 10-member Citizens Advisory Board was established in 2018.
Task Force Co-chair Jason Golub was supportive of the recommendation to establish a review board with more oversight power, but took issue with the bullet point that a minimum age of 18 be established to serve on the board.
“I mean, look at the end of the day, I will vote yes for this, but I have concerns with that age. But as some people said, there are 21-year-olds who will not perform well on a civilian review board, and some 31-year-olds who would not, so…but I am voicing that concern,” said Golub.
Saratoga Springs Police Chief Shane Crooks said he was not opposed to the idea of a civilian review board, but voted “no.” The chief had issues with the minimum age, as well as the recommended implementation process, suggesting it could run afoul of state labor law.
“I also had concerns that the way this is set up, it has to be negotiated under the Taylor Law and its contractual obligation. I believe it probably should be worded that the city council look into implementing one through negotiations down the road, something along those lines. I don’t believe the city council is being able to just do this, just so you’re aware,” said Crooks.
But the back-and-forth over the recommendation for an enhanced civilian review board exposed the roots of one underlying concern among some Task Force members – the death of Darryl Mount Jr. In August 2013, Mount suffered serious injuries during a police foot chase. He died months later. His family has claimed police brutality and the city is still involved in litigation over the matter.
Meantime, the call for answers and greater oversight and an independent investigation has only grown among advocates.
Here’s Task Force member Daesha Harris speaking to fellow member Kim Galvin:
“Kim, I just wanted to remind you that we have a seven-year-old death in Saratoga that has never been investigated, because we don’t have something like a civilian review board,” said Harris.
“Well, I don’t necessarily believe that’s why it quote-unquote hasn’t been investigated. You have a District Attorney’s Office, you have an Attorney General’s Office, you have a police department – all of whom could have, may have, or are investigating…”
In 2018, five years after the incident involving Mount, the Albany Times Union reported that court testimony showed the city’s former police chief had intentionally misled newspaper reporters and that an official internal investigation into potential police misconduct was never conducted.
The Mount case gained renewed attention last summer among a new generation of demonstrators who organized protests in the Spa City after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Galvin later clarified her remarks in justifying her “no” vote on establishing a civilian police review board.
“In my personal opinion, the death of Darryl Mount should have been investigated at every level and I don’t think a civilian review board would be anything that would make any of those investigatory arms do it if they chose not to,” said Galvin.
There was some brief public comment at the end of Wednesday’s night’s meeting, but Task Force Co-chair Golub reminded those on the call that there would be more time for review of the recommendations.
“We are going to have an entire meeting that walks through all of this exhaustively with just public comment, and you’ll have the opportunity to view the entire document in advance of that,” said Golub.
Documents are posted to the City of Saratoga Springs website. It will be up to the city council to adopt recommendations by the Task Force in its police reform plan due to the state by April 1st.