HUDSON — Mayor Kamal Johnson’s Police Advisory and Reconciliation Committee highlighted program recommendations to improve officer-civilian relationships during a presentation Friday, signaling the release of a 95-page advisory report.
The committee, known as PARC, was formed as part of Johnson’s July 15 executive order for police reform.
“Police reform doesn’t mean that our police department is neither good or bad, as well as our officers,” Johnson said. “Does that mean that what happens nationally happens here in Hudson? No. But it doesn’t exclude that policing in general has been rooted in systematic racism, lack of trust in communities of color and police brutality. “Killings happen all across the nation and these are not isolated incidences. These are symptoms of a broken system. What you will see tonight will not be all the answers to fix that system, but it’s the first step in the right direction. It’s our officers coming to the table willing to listen, but also willing to be heard.”
The group met bi-weekly and also spoke with members of the Hudson community, PARC member and Hudson-based lawyer Linda Friedner said. The committee meetings were not open to the public.
“Often it was frustrating trying to listen to all walks of life, hearing different perspectives and being able to listen to understand one another,” Hudson Police Department Sgt. Mishanda Franklin, a PARC member, said. She called it an honor to be on the committee.
The group created a survey that received 1,056 responses, according to the city website.
Franklin thinks the survey responses were largely about how people think of policing as an institution, not specifically the Hudson Police Department, she said. But the department wants to recognize how people think of policing and adjust accordingly.
“We understand the need for those changes and that we have to listen to the perspective of our community members as well as we equally would like the community members to hear our perspective as well,” Franklin said. “Things that have been happening nationally, globally, certainly have created high tensions between the police and community members here and everywhere.”
Being a police officer is demanding of one’s emotions, even if they don’t show them, she said. An employee assistance program recommended by the committee will help officers cope with the stress, she said. The committee also recommends increased training for officers specific to their strengths.
A community ride-along program, “coffee with a cop” program and police explorer program to provide mentorship for young adults interested in law enforcement or the criminal-justice system can help improve relations with the community, Franklin said.
The city is waiting to hear back on grants to fund the programs, Johnson said. He hopes for news in the next couple of weeks.
Greenburger Center Executive Director Cheryl Roberts spoke about the role mental health and substance abuse plays in the criminal-justice system.
“I will tell you as a licensed bond agent, anecdotally, for the Columbia County bail fund, I bailed out people over about a two-and-a-half year period and I would say easily 90% of the people I bailed out from Columbia County had either a mental illness, a substance-use disorder, or both,” she said.
Various county representatives are tracking the resources in the community available to those with serious mental illnesses going through the criminal-justice system, Roberts said. Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murrell, Greenport Town Supervisor Kathleen Eldridge, Columbia County Mental Health Center Director of Community Services/Department Head Dan Almasi, Columbia County Department of Social Services Commissioner Robert Gibson, Judge Richard Koweek, Judge Jonathan Nichols, Columbia County 911 Director Robert Lopez, Twin County Recovery Services Executive Director Beth Schuster, Mental Health Association of Columbia and Greene Counties Executive Director Jeffrey Robitz and Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood Project Director Joan Hunt are part of the team working on the report, Roberts said.
The group hopes to release its report to Johnson within the next couple of months.
PARC member Theo Anthony, a filmmaker in Hudson, spoke about use of force and body cameras. While body cameras are meant to serve as a check and balance between the public and police officers, they are designed to represent the officers’ perspective rather than give full context, Anthony said. The Axon body cameras Hudson officers wear show what happens to officers but not necessarily the officers’ actions, Anthony said. The Axon cameras do not have night vision, designed to mimic the human eye and show what the officer sees, Steve Tuttle, an Axon representative, said, according to Anthony. In use-of-force scenarios, officers are judged by the information they could have had at the time without the benefit of hindsight and the cameras parallel that concept.
The Axon cameras are always recording but not necessarily saving footage. When the “event” button is pressed, the footage is saved, starting 30 seconds before the button is pressed. But that 30 seconds saves video, not audio. There is an option to record both audio and video up to 120 seconds up to the time the button is pressed, which is one of the policies Johnson in instating, Anthony said.
The Hudson Police Department’s de-escalation policies should be transparent, as should policies for when the public can view body camera footage. Any video manipulation such as cropping, zooming or speed changes should not be allowed when footage is released to the public, Anthony said.
Another policy reform recommendation is to forbid officers from reviewing their body camera footage prior to making a sworn statement. With this reform, officers would be able to view the footage after their statement and make changes, accompanied by a reason for the change.
The department should also opt out of sharing their footage with Axon, which does not reveal what the data is used for, Anthony said. Before renewing a body camera contract, the program should be audited holistically, he added.
The committee also recommends the police department take a free training on safeguarding children of arrested parents who may have anger towards police for arresting their parents and making sure there are policies to protect those children, Johnson said. Pages 58-60 of the report go into more detail on this, he added. The report is available on the city website.
The members of the PARC committee are Theo Anthony, Vern Cross, Elizabeth Dickey, Sgt. Christopher M. Filli, Sgt. Mishanda Franklin, Linda Friedner, Joan E. Hunt, Officer Jessica Mausolf, Gregory Mosley and 2nd Ward Alderman Dewan Sarowar, according to the group's report. Cheryl Roberts and 1st Ward Alderwoman Jane Trombley were also part of the group, Johnson said. Members of the committee represented various backgrounds and connections to the city, Friedner said.
“What everybody has in common is that they love Hudson and they want Hudson to be a great place,” she said.