The town of Colonie in Albany County is accepting public comment on its draft police reform report, as the deadline for communities to submit reports to the state is approaching.
Last June, Governor Andrew Cuomo set an April 1st deadline for communities to form panels to formulate plans for police reform or risk losing state funding.
The Colonie Police Practices Review Committee was tasked with looking into the history, structure and current organization of the town Police Department in order to perform a comprehensive review of current police force strategies, policies and practices.
Democratic Town Supervisor Paula Mahan:
"We have taken a look at our policies. We are an accredited, received accreditation in our police department for over 20 years now. And our record is very good. We have a 91% approval rate from our community. But again, looking at our policies, there are a number of recommendations that we came up with. And they have to do with, you know, we've recognized the changing demographics of the town. And it's becoming more diverse. So we certainly want to look at our policies related to that."
The town released a review of police policies, procedures and practices on February 1st. Of 23 complaints documented in the report, only one alleges racism: a motorist saying he felt an officer pulled him over because he is Black; however, an investigation found there was probable cause. Mahan is asking townspeople to read and comment on the report, which concluded the department has treated “all citizens with dignity, honor and respect.
"You can go to our website, www.colonie.org to read the report. And also you can send your comments through the website, or we have copies in our vestibule at Town Hall 534, New Loudon Road Latham for your review if anyone doesn't have access to the computer."
Input from non-residents is also welcome, as the majority of arrests involve people who don't live in Colonie. Committee member Martin Robinson says the town's policing practices must be reflective of the needs of an increasingly diverse community.
"You have a large number of immigrants that are deciding to set roots here. You have a growing number of people of color that are moving in and ultimately, you know it’s not the same town as it was 50 years ago."
Robinson adds his time on the committee has been "very enlightening."
"I've gotten a better understanding of the Colonie Police Department and how they work and stuff. I think its led me and probably a few other committee members to have a better perspective on how our police department can work with the community. At the end of the day this is still really very much an ongoing process. I know for me, I'm at the point where I'm still waiting to see all of the community feedback, and I think we'll just go on from there."
Comments are being accepted through March 1st. Mahan says there will be a series of public discussions in March prior to the release of a final draft.
"We'll have some on the north side of town and on the south side of town. We'll start out with two or three and then we'll see how things go. We have received some comments already, some feedback already, which has been very positive. So I think a lot of people will utilize the website to, you know, to send in their to send in their comments as well. Especially during this time of, you know, COVID, we wanted to have different options for people."