The Westchester County executive has named the members of a Police Training Task Force, and reshaped the original intent to adhere to an executive order from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Governor Cuomo signed an executive order June 12 called the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. It requires local police agencies to develop a plan that modernizes police strategies and programs based on community input. That was nearly two weeks after fellow Democrat Westchester County Executive George Latimer announced he was forming a working group to review county police academy polices, in the aftermath of the George Floyd death.
“The original mission to look at training of new recruits, the curriculum, what we do at the academy, is now one of those areas, but not only those areas,” Latimer says.
Latimer Monday named the 27 members of the task force, including two co-chairs. He says the task force is diverse and contains county and local police professionals.
“Members of the county Human Rights Commission and the county’s Police Board, both existing institutions that have elements of public policy in this area. We have members of the African-American clergy,” says Latimer. “We have many justice advocates that will be on this.”
Former prosecutors Leroy Frazer and Mayo Bartlett are task force co-chairs. Here’s Bartlett:
“I expect that we will be looking at best polices and best practices not only that exist in the United States but I’m willing to look even beyond that,” says Bartlett. “And if there’s something elsewhere in another country that’s particularly useful that looks like it can be great for us to implement in our model, I’m all for doing that.”
He says a goal is to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community.
“This is an opportunity for real, meaningful structural change. I think that we can debate terminology, whether we call it reform or something else,” says Bartlett. “In my estimation, we’re looking at recreating and restructuring public safety, not just for the 21st century but so that 100 years from now, when young people who either live in Westchester County or who happen to venture into Westchester County for whatever reason, will be able to do so with the understanding that they will expect to be treated professionally, they’ll expect that their law enforcement is capable and that they have the training to provide whatever services are necessary and where necessary also for us to explore perhaps strengthening other areas of government that can complement law enforcement so that our police are not necessarily looked to to be the mental health providers or to fill services that they were not trained to perform.”
Ben Boykin is Democratic chair of the Westchester County Board of Legislators.
“The important thing is that this is a task force that is going to get to work, to do things, to make substantive and fundamental changes in how we do policing in Westchester County and hopefully will be a model for New York state and a model for America. That’s what we’re trying to do here, starting not only with training but, Mayo said one important thing, who should be serving as police,” says Boykin. “We need to start with the recruitment so that we recruit people who have it in their DNA and in their system to know how to be police, to be assistive to the community needs, to be important servants to the public.”
There are a few county legislators on the task force. Cuomo’s executive order says each police agency's reform plan must address policies, procedures, practices and deployment, including but not limited to use of force. And police forces must adopt a plan by April 1, 2021 to be eligible for future state funding. Again, Latimer:
“And we have set an internal deadline — it’s not written in stone — of December 31, which is almost exactly six months as we start our business, because we want to provide to the Board of Legislators the plan for the beginning of January, giving them 90 days to review and implement," says Latimer.
He says there will be at least two chances for public comment — once when the plan is put together and another time during the Board of Legislators process. Separately, Latimer says he will end his daily COVID-19 briefings in two weeks, at the start of Phase Four reopening. The Mid-Hudson Region is set to enter Phase Three Tuesday.