HUDSON — A police reform resolution was offered to the Legal Committee on Wednesday by the Hudson-Catskill Housing Coalition, a new group called Citizens of Hudson and 2nd Ward Alderwoman Tiffany Garriga.
The proposal, called the Hudson Breathe Act, was conceived by the Hudson-Catskill Housing Coalition and Citizens of Hudson, and was presented by Garriga.
Citizens of Hudson was formed in the past few months to address budget transparency and policing in Hudson, spokesman Michael Hoffman said.
Garriga introduced the bill by honoring victims of police brutality.
“This local law shall be known as the Hudson Breathe Act of 2020. This visionary bill reinvests our taxpayers’ dollars in a new vision of public safety, a vision that allows all communities to finally breathe,” she said.
In May, she said, the Hudson Police Department budget was around $3 million, but after further investigation, she learned that annual spending on police exceeded $4.8 million, which is 33% of the city’s overall budget. She said the second largest spending category is utilities, which is $1.97 million less than the police budget.
“This bill serves to better align our state verbal priority with financial priority. We acknowledge the individuals serving in the Hudson Police Department are talented, capable and respectful individuals who took an oath in order to serve this community. ... The residents of Hudson have elected a city council and mayor that is diverse and progressive for this very reason that we should lead our county, state and country in the adoption of best practices,” Garriga said.
The proposal calls for amendments to the city charter for a residency requirement in Hudson for the city’s police officers, reduction in the number of police officers and a ban on no-knock warrants, called Breonna’s Law, in reference to the shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.
The proposal also calls for city resolutions that would redirect funds from the police department, including at least $490,000 to the Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency to provide at least six subsidized housing units, at least $242,552 to the Hudson Youth Department, at least $145,000 to services for assisting formerly incarcerated individuals with re-entry and employment services, such as ReEntry Columbia, at least $100,000 to the development of a citizen’s response team and at least $100,000 to the creation of a non-emergency phone service.
The proposal also calls for resolutions that would provide a body camera review protocol, restriction of specific force mechanisms, quarterly community meetings and data reporting.
Attorney Jeff Baker said he received the document the day of the meeting and will need more time to research and review the policies.
“As it’s written, or laid out, it’s not in the form of a local law. It has to be significantly reorganized,” he said.
There will be a follow-up meeting to continue to discuss the proposal 6 p.m. Oct. 1.
At the meeting, 4th Ward Alderman John Rosenthal inquired about overlap between the Hudson Breathe Act and plans from the mayor’s police reform committee. Mayor Kamal Johnson did not know about the Hudson Breathe Act prior to Wednesday’s meeting, he said.
The group’s proposal came as a surprise to 5th Ward Alderman Dominic Merante.
He is concerned that the group’s initiative could put the mayor’s Police Reconciliation and Advisory Commission in jeopardy by negotiating the same topics.
“I think it’s a disservice to the mayor’s reconciliation committee,” he said.
Elizabeth Dickey, a member of the mayor’s police reform committee, said the budgetary efforts of the proposed bill do not feel, to her, duplicative of the efforts of the committee.
She noted that the committee’s recommendations for the mayor will not be ready until mid-November.
“At this point, the committee is really focused on listening to the community and that’s going to be a huge part of the report that we put forward,” she said.
First Ward Alderwoman Jane Trombley said she does not think the Hudson Breathe Act and PARC are in conflict.
“I think it’s interested parties wanting the best for Hudson,” she said. “They’re very much aligned.”
Logistics of the proposed bill concern Merante.
“There is a lot of things in there that I’m sure need to be looking into about what would stick,” Merante said.
He pointed to the $100,000 proposed budget for a citizens’ committee.
“I want details. Who’s involved? What is the chain of command? What are the salaries?” Merante said. There is nothing in the proposal that includes the fire department or ADA — Americans with Disabilities Act — concerns, he said. “Financially, every department is going to take a hit in our budget, so for us to commit to this is not realistic,” he said.
Merante said he has received phone calls from concerned constituents and doesn’t want to override the work of the mayor’s police reform commission.
“I don’t want that energy to fade because of this premature resolution or local law,” he said.
“Introducing legislation based on our research seemed the most natural and effective next step, especially given what’s just happened with Breonna Taylor’s case in Louisville and will inevitably continue to happen around the country,” Hoffman said. “We have to look deep and hard at policing in Hudson, and radically rethink what it means to invest in safety in our communities. The Hudson Breathe Act is severely overdue — we need action now.”
Claire Cousin, president of the Hudson-Catskill Housing Coalition, spoke about the importance of the proposal at the meeting.
“We live in a time where accountability is priority. Any public official is subject to public criticism and feedback and should be open to it. Our nation is in crisis. People of color and other marginalized communities are under attack from a racist system. The people are tired of mourning the loss of Black people at the hands of police. We are tired of teaching our babies of having to avoid conflict with officers, even if they haven’t committed a crime,” she said.
Hudson can serve as a model for the rest of the country, Cousin said.
“Changing the biases that cause many of these interactions will only come from a solution that’s deeper than training. It comes from a willingness to rehabilitate and repair the community that our officers swore to serve and protect. The Hudson Police Department has the potential to lead the nation because we’re small enough of a city to implement big changes and see real change,” she said.
She said the decision made just that day when the police officers who fired their weapons at Breonna Taylor were not charged with her murder is another example of the need for police reform.
“And finally, I’d like to magnify the importance of this proposal as I condemn the findings in the pursuit of justice on behalf of Breonna Taylor. An innocent victim of police force. She was not the intended target but will now forever stand as a symbol for the need of systemic change and accountability. She could have been my sister. She could have been me. She could have been either one of my daughters. My work is not done until Black people are safe and free. I will fight tooth and nail in life and after death for my people. We keep us safe,” she said.
First Ward Alderwoman Rebecca Wolff encouraged citizens to write e-mails to the Common Council.
“It’s wonderful when we are voting on something to actually show your support by writing a letter to the Common Council,” she said.