HUDSON — A double-digit police department budget cut and redirection of 2021 police funds to a contingency spending plan for reform are parts of a resolution proposed Tuesday at the Common Council meeting.
The resolution calls for the council to urge the Board of Estimate and Apportionment to cut the police budget by 13% in 2021 and transfer about $300,000 of the savings into a budget line for alternative public-safety initiatives.
The contingency provides money that could be used for Mayor Kamal Johnson’s Police Advisory and Review Committee recommendations in 2021, since city budget items will have been approved when the committee’s recommendations are ready for Johnson, Nora Feldhusen, of Citizens of Hudson, said.
The committee is a long-term initiative in its planning phase, Johnson said.
Since the plan is not complete, the city would not know how much money to allocate for the committee, Johnson said.
Funding could be part of the 2022 budget, but could depend on budget changes in 2021 or federal aid, he said.
“What I want to build is something that will be beneficial to the city long term,” Johnson said. “This is bigger than just the budget. So in the eyes of some it will be too late, but in the eyes of those who understand the plan for reform, it’s not too late.”
The resolution is the first of more to come from the Breathe Act, Common Council President Thomas DePietro said.
The Hudson Breathe Act was proposed by Citizens of Hudson and the Hudson-Catskill Housing Coalition and was not considered because of structural issues.
“The Breathe Act was a very long and complex document that we sort of have taken apart and tried to put back together parts of it that are doable, so there will be more coming forth from this whole effort,” DePietro said.
DePietro, 4th Ward Alderman John Rosenthal and 1st Ward Alderwoman and Minority Leader Rebecca Wolff worked with writers of the Hudson Breathe Act to create the resolution, DePietro said Tuesday.
“The idea is that the contingency will exist for forthcoming proposals for public safety initiatives and police alternatives that either come out of the PARC report in November, or out of independent research and development from grassroots organizations,” Michael Hoffman, of Citizens of Hudson, said.
There are preliminary proposals for a 311 service and citizens response team, he said.
“I think that it’s really powerful that our small city is making so much progress and really working together to support the community,” Feldhusen said.
Citizens of Hudson and Hudson Catskill Housing Coalition are working with other grassroots organizations to research the reform ideas, Hoffman said.
Megan Rhinehart, a Citizens of Hudson member, has been researching alternative policing, such as a service called See Click Fix.
“I’ve been doing a lot of research in just best practices in community safety and that a 311 is one of the leading best practices in alternative services and can do a lot for the city with efficiency,” Rhinehart said.
Communities comparable to Hudson are switching to a 311 call system, Lillian Melcher, a Citizens of Hudson member, said.
“We really should be looking at the numbers, we really should be looking at other communities, not only on our practices now but also communities that are taking steps that we haven’t yet,” Melcher said.
Fifth Ward Alderwoman Eileen Halloran questioned the purpose of the resolution when it was introduced at the meeting, because the proposed contingency is unclear.
“I think we have to be mindful and have a plan that’s more than, you know, we’ll talk about it in the future,” she said.
Rosenthal defended the resolution, saying it is a start.
“I think as a statement of basic principles, this resolution is pretty fair in saying the per capita spending we do as a community for policing is very high and the desire to reallocate those resources is a fair one,” Rosenthal said. “And it fits in with the government’s mandate to local communities, as well as what the mayor is trying to do, so as the Common Council, we should take this seriously and find a way forward rather than punting on it.”
The 2020 adopted operating budget for the Hudson Police Department was $3,061,304, according to the resolution.
Hudson-Catskill Housing Coalition President Claire Cousin thanked the Common Council for considering the ideas from the Breathe Act,
“I think that this is progress, I think it’s moving in the right direction,” Cousin said. “I think the more people that we bring to the table and the more transparency we have around issues of policing in the community, the more productive we’re going to be, and this is a great start.”
Stephen Dunn, a local real estate lawyer and Zoning Board of Appeals member who spoke as a member of the public, called attention to a recent Rope Alley shooting that took place near his home.
He wants a property on Second Street between State Street and Rope Alley to be fenced in because of illicit activity, he said. He asked the code enforcement officer twice, as well as members of the council.
“It has a huge back lot that’s unfenced, filled with garbage. It’s disgusting,” Dunn said.
He called the property a drug emporium.
“Our murders are all due to drug deals gone bad,” Dunn said. “And stray bullets, they might start killing other people other than those involved in the drug deal.”
Hudson resident Quintin Cross responded to Dunn by saying violence and people not speaking up about it is a result of a lack of community trust in the police.
The Hudson Police Department had not reported instances of misconduct within their force to the Common Council or to the community in the past, Cross said.
“The community is essentially acting no different than what the police do in their own business, so the ownership shouldn’t always be on the community to speak up when the very same people who are asking to speak up are protecting their own when they do wrong,” Cross said.