HUDSON — Data transparency and social worker assistance at the police department topped discussions by the city’s Police Committee.
Mayor Kamal Johnson issued an executive order in June calling for changes in the way the police force does business.
Police Chief L. Edward Moore presented an update on the department’s progress Monday.
“We’re happy with the progress we’re making,” Moore said. “We’re getting there; we’re probably ahead of most departments.”
One of the objectives is to limit or remove social issues from police responsibilities when possible. Mental health issues are of particular concern.
Reform will require at least one member of the Hudson Police Department to be trained in crisis intervention by Jan. 15 to assist with 911 calls involving people in mental health crises.
“We definitely have a crisis when it comes to the mental health issues that we have,” Police Commissioner Shane C. Bower said at the meeting.
The 2003 closing of the Hudson River State Hospital, a psychiatric center in Poughkeepsie, placed added strain on the police department, Bower said.
“There is only so much we can provide as police officers,” Bower said. “A lot of these calls are not law enforcement-related calls.”
Bower wants a social worker assigned to work with the police department.
Moore has reached out to Columbia County Social Services Commissioner Robert Gibson about having a social worker assigned to work closely with police officers, Moore said.
“If the goal is for us not to respond, that’s an admirable goal,” Moore said. “We would like to work towards that to take that off of the things that we do.”
Out of eight “emotionally disturbed person” calls in September, six involved the use of violence or the threat of violence, including a 2-by-4 used as a club, a knife, someone threatening to shoot an officer and a threat of suicide, Moore said.
The number of such calls and number of calls involving drug overdoses is required to be reported on a monthly basis.
“We’ve always got to be mindful of the inherent danger when a person is threatening to harm himself or someone else, but I think if we close the gap with a social worker being readily accessible, that would improve things,” Moore added.
Another facet of the reform plan requires the police budget to be reduced by 10%, a hiring freeze on police officers until further notice, a full accounting of forfeiture funds and equipment for the last three years, no forfeiture funds accepted without review by the mayor’s office, no vehicles or equipment formerly used for military purposes accepted through the federal forfeiture program, avoiding military equipment and military-style uniforms for nonessential purposes and allowing officers to wear less formal attire approved by the police commissioner.
A forfeiture fund is money or assets seized by the police department from a suspected crime. A vehicle or cash that may have been used in a drug transaction is an example of a forfeiture fund, Moore said.
Former Police Commissioner Peter Volkmann proposed the requested 10% budget cut in April, Moore said, following Johnson’s departmentwide call amid COVID-19.
The proposed cut is a contingency in the event COVID-19 continues, Johnson said.
Since much of the police budget covers personnel, Johnson said, a full 10% cut could not be made. Instead, the police budget was cut by 7%.
The Police Advisory and Reconciliation Commission should have recommendations for Johnson by Nov. 15. He will then share the findings with the police department by Dec. 1 and the public by Dec. 30. Sgt. Mishanda Franklin, Sgt. Christopher M. Filli and Officer Randy J. Strattman are members of the committee.
Quarterly two-hour community conversations between police and community members in hopes of improving community and race relations are also required.
No community conversations have been held, but Johnson is planning one for early November, he said.
Data collection from the Hudson Police Department shows 78% of arrests in September were of white individuals and 22% were of Black individuals. Forty-one arrests were made, totaling 67 counts and 67 charges.
Hudson is 56.4% white (non-Hispanic), 21.3% Black or African-American (non-Hispanic), 7.81% Asian (non-Hispanic), 6.4% multiracial (non-Hispanic), 6.5% White (Hispanic), 1.12% other (Hispanic), .221% Black or African-American (Hispanic) and .11% multiracial (Hispanic), according to the 2018 American Community Survey, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The state-required discrimination and harassment online training has been completed, Moore said.
The department received an $8,400 grant from the Hudson River Bank and Trust Foundation for body cameras over the summer, Moore said.
The order requires routine supervisory review of body-camera footage as well as a weekly report of the findings for the mayor and Police Commission to access.
The department has conducted a weekly review of footage and sent a report to Johnson each month since June, Moore said.
An emergency notification system to alert elected officials of major emergency incidents was to have been in place by July 30, according to the mayor’s order, but it remains a work in progress.
“We seem to be settling on an app called Iamresponding.com,” Moore said at the meeting. “It’s a small price and we’ll probably have that thing online here shortly.”
The service starts at $300 per year, according to the company’s website.
About half the department is ready with the app and others are uploading it, Moore said Friday.