HUDSON — A resolution recommending a 13% police budget cut and redirection of Hudson Police Department funds was rejected in the Common Council by a single vote Tuesday.
The final tally was 6-5 against the measure.
The resolution called for the council to urge the Board of Estimate and Apportionment to cut the police department budget by 13% in 2021 and transfer about $300,000 of the savings into a budget line for alternative public-safety initiatives.
The contingency was intended to create a pool of money dedicated to alternative public-safety measures for 2021, since Mayor Kamal Johnson’s Police Advisory and Reconciliation Committee will not have recommendations in time for the initial 2021 budget.
Mandates from the state and the city’s contract with the police department make many sections of police spending immovable, City Treasurer Heather Campbell said at the Finance Committee meeting earlier Tuesday evening.
“I think it’s pretty clear the only way you could reduce the HPD budget by any significant amount is by eliminating positions,” Campbell said at the meeting. “If you were to eliminate positions, personal services would decline, which means that health insurance, in theory, would decline.”
In 2020, $510,270 went toward the Hudson Police Retirement Contribution, which is mandated by the state, and that number will increase to about $630,000 in 2021, Campbell said.
“This number is going from 510 (thousand) to like 630 (thousand) next year, so that’s more than our entire tax cap increase right there,” she said.
Finance meeting attendee Stephanie Monseu asked if the number of officer positions is mandated by state, and DePietro said no.
She asked if the city would be able to buy itself out of the police contract.
“I’m not a lawyer, but I would think you could buy your way out of a contract,” DePietro said. “Now whether the city wants to do that is a whole ’nother question. So I was just answering theoretically — yes, you can break contracts, but it’s a legal hassle. It’s not a simple thing. And I’m not suggesting we’re going to do it or that we would do it.”
Halloran referenced the Finance Committee meeting discussion in her opposition vote.
The proposed resolution could negatively impact the public safety of the city and of officers, Merante said after the meeting.
“I think that this resolution as it stands will affect public safety,” Merante said, adding the department could lose three to four officers — including three female officers — due to seniority ranks in the department.
A 311 line, one of the suggested alternative safety methods, could benefit the city, but would need to be thoroughly thought out, Merante said Wednesday.
“With the resolution being defeated, I think it also gives some support, hopefully, to the police department and confidence to the officers that are working,” he said.
Rosenthal, who supported the resolution, emphasized the proposal was not a cut to the budget itself, but a request to the Board of Estimate and Apportionment.
He cited Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s request for municipalities to reform policing measures.
“We’re not cutting the budget here,” Rosenthal said. “We’re just suggesting that there has to be some new way of thinking about policing here. We have great police officers, a great chief.”
The resolution could start a conversation about developing a framework moving forward with police reform, Rosenthal said.
Sarowar thanked Citizens of Hudson for its interest in addressing public safety and the city budget, but opposed the proposal because of public-safety concerns.
“I’m all for saving money, but reducing budget for public safety and police, I don’t think is appropriate,” he said, echoing Merante’s concern about cutting officers.
Trombley, who supported the resolution, understands it is largely symbolic, she said, adding it is ultimately up to the Board of Estimate and Apportionment and the mayor.
“But I do think what is really important about this is we start rethinking about what public safety looks like and how we might as a community want to reallocate our resources to staff and train, not necessarily reduce, for optimal public safety for everybody, for all citizens,” Trombley said. “I feel very strongly that the two obstacles to change are the very firm belief that we’ve always done it this way, bookended by we’ve never done it this way.”
The Common Council and police committee should work in partnership with Hudson police to reimagine public safety, Trombley said.
DePietro and Wolff, who both voted in favor of the proposed resolution, supported Trombley’s response.
“This is not an anti-police vote in any sense in that I agree with Jane,” DePietro said. “I think she has taken a very measured look at this resolution and understanding that only the mayor can fire anyone, first of all, and that it’s just the beginning of a longer conversation.”
Walker, who opposed the resolution, emphasized the council coming together as a community with Hudson police.
City Police Commissioner Shane C. Bower would be ideal to lead conversations about producing change, Walker said.
“I do feel that some change is needed, but to what extent?” Walker said. “I think we really need to think rational on that, and strategically, and figure out some things. And I think we can do that as a community together.”
Lewis, who voted against the proposed resolution, spoke about his vote at the end of Tuesday’s meeting.
“I am a part of that progressive conversation regardless of how this may come across on surface level,” Lewis said. “I, as a Black man, am a part of this community regardless of how my vote came across this evening. And, you know, my final takeaway is that I am a partner in this conversation.”
Walker further explained his vote.
“I’m thinking just of collaboration, you know, with the community, with police, you know, they are part of the community,” Walker said.
He encouraged discussions going forward.
“I’m also definitely all for the rebuilding and doing things the right way,” Walker said.
As officers retire, the city will assess the positions and decide on filling them, Johnson said.
Seeing if the county can provide resources to help ease the load of the city police department to avoid more overtime would be an option, Johnson said.
“We’ll continue to work at this,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot that needs to be done and a lot of resources that people want to see money allocated to, but first we have to build a plan and, you know, let’s continue to do that.”
DePietro, 2nd Ward Alderwoman and Majority Leader Tiffany Garriga, 1st Ward Alderwoman and Minority Leader Rebecca Wolff, 1st Ward Alderwoman Jane Trombley and 4th Ward Alderman John Rosenthal voted in favor of the resolution to reduce the police budget.
Second Ward Alderman Dewan Sarowar, 3rd Ward Alderman Shershah Mizan, 5th Ward Alderman Dominic Merante, 5th Ward Alderwoman Eileen Halloran, 3rd Ward Alderman Calvin Lewis and 4th Ward Alderman Malachi Walker voted against to the resolution.