HUDSON — The Columbia County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted its Police Reform Plan at the March 10 board meeting, following a public hearing held March 8.
Work on the plan began last October with the establishment of the Columbia County Police Reform Collaborative by Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell. The Collaborative was designed with building on efforts already underway in the county, as well as to meet the requirements of Executive Order No. 203 issued last year by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Since October, steering committee co-chairs Supervisor Michael Benvenuto and Bill Hughes along with Chairman Murell have led a series of panels composed of community members, leaders of non-profits, law enforcement, elected leaders, government officials, and mental health and substance use practitioners. These individuals were placed into three groups: The Community Input Panel, Elected Officials/Law Enforcement Panel and the Plan Review Committee.
The three groups were tasked with creating a plan based on their work and the public’s input, collected from the series of panel discussions and comments received from the public via email. A website was established to keep the panelists and public informed as the process developed.
“Public input was a critical component of our work,” said Chairman Murell. “We have a very thoughtful and intelligent citizenry in Columbia County, and it shone through in the plan’s development. It was made clear yet again that we are all pulling for the betterment of our community.”
The plan was developed in conjunction with the Greenport, Stockport and Philmont police departments.
Plan highlights include:
The purchase of body worn cameras to equip all deputies at the county Sheriff’s Office, with the long term goal of supplying all law enforcement in Columbia County with them; the formation of a Reform Plan Implementation Committee to assist with implementation of the strategies and goals set forth in this plan; and a complaint process, with a Citizen Review Panel to assist, that will be revised and established to ensure transparency of complaints by the community about law enforcement.
In addition, increased training opportunities of law enforcement to address implicit bias, racial and economic disparity, cultural awareness and language barriers; increased social engagement of law enforcement with community groups, especially in black, brown and minority communities, to bridge the cultural gap that exists; increased efforts to address issues of racial and gender diversity in recruitment and hiring within county-based law enforcement agencies; and updates to policies and procedures of each of the law enforcement agencies in Columbia County to address the issues of racial justice and equality.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office already works in conjunction with local partnering police agencies in the towns of Greenport and Stockport and the Village of Philmont to provide a variety of trainings — including Procedural Justice and Implicit Bias awareness training — for members of law enforcement. Plans to increase and improve these trainings are underway and the efficacy of these trainings has also become a top priority.
“Everyone involved did good work in the effort to advance police reform in the county,” said Chairman Murell. “I think we all know there is always more we could do, but the newly adopted county Police Reform Plan not only helps to advance the cause, but opens up new ways of looking at old problems and represents a good first step. I’m looking forward to the plan’s implementation, as well as seeing what develops in the future.”