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Reform collaborative hears from police chiefs

Oct 30, 2020 2:45 pm
Sarah Trafton is reporting for Columbia-Greene Media the Greene County Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative met October 28, welcoming police chiefs from seven Greene County municipalities. The top cops from Catskill, Coxsackie, Athens, Cairo, Durham, Hunter and Windham answered the collaborative's questions about their respective department's policies and training. All the police chiefs and the sheriff reported that their agencies had active use-of-force policies in place, policies that ban chokeholds. All agencies receive de-escalation and bias training. None of the agencies have body cameras or dashboard cameras. Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said the county is exploring a camera option for the sheriff’s office in the next fiscal year. In addition to the expense, the cameras are labor-intensive and the office would need dedicated personnel to monitor the feed and make sure the cameras are working properly and to retrieve footage if there is an incident, Kusminsky said. The group discussed the racial breakdown of arrests in the county. According to statistics compiled by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, law enforcement agencies in Greene County arrested 944 whites, 146 blacks, 87 Latino and Hispanics and 6 Asians in 2019. Cornwallville resident Bernard Rivers lamented the collaborative's lack of diversity, noting young black men are the demographic having the most issues with police. “I look at your committee and I don’t see any young black males,” he said. “We’re not hearing the stuff we need to.” Catskill Central School District Superintendent Ronel Cook, who is black, took issue with Rivers' comments, saying he considers himself to be a young black man. “I do experience some of the same issues as young black males. I’m raising a 16-year-old black male. I work with young black males as a superintendent.” Greenville resident Thomas Kearney asked what is meant by the term police safety, saying it is sometimes used as an excuse for behavior. “It’s the individual officer’s perception of whether or not he feels safe,” Catskill Police Chief David Darling said. The concept is too subjective, Kearney said. Hunter resident Christine Wade asked the police chiefs if they feel fear while on duty. “I hesitate to say afraid,” Hunter Police Chief Robert Haines said. “To a certain extent, yes. But it’s not something I don’t think I can overcome, otherwise I would quit this job.” It is not the community’s job to make police feel safe, but the police’s job to keep the community safe, Kearney said. Kearney also questioned why the Greene County Sheriff’s Office uses deputies to address overdose victims with its Impacted Citizen’s Program. Through the program, an armed, plainclothes team makes contact with the victim within 24 to 72 hours and connects them to treatment resources, Greene County Sheriff Pete Kusminsky said. The program has an 85 percent success rate, he said. The collaborative will next meet on November 10, Groden said. Read more at HudsonValley360 [dot] com.
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