HUDSON — The Columbia County Board of Supervisors is creating a panel to look at police reform in the county and is expected to hire a liaison to lead the effort.
The facilitator will earn a rate of $250 an hour, according to the county resolution establishing the position.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell, R-Stockport, said he expects the facilitator will be needed for fewer than 20 hours.
In June, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order requiring local municipalities in the state to adopt a policing reform plan by April 1, 2021, or face the loss of state funding.
The state Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative created a guide for public officials and citizens to review the policies and practices of law-enforcement agencies, such as the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.
State guidance outlines four areas that will be looked at by the committee: the function of police agencies; how to employ smart and effective policing standards and strategies; fostering community-oriented leadership, culture and accountability; and recruiting and supporting personnel.
“Our thought is that we could have a lot more people involved through a facilitated discussion, which is what we were doing, versus only having three or four or five people from the community on the panel,” Murell said. “This way, I think we’re going to get more bang for our buck in terms of input.”
The county offered community members an opportunity to join the police reform panel; the deadline to apply for appointment was Aug. 7.
Once members are selected the panel could consist of up to 30 people, Murell said.
The panel will be co-chaired by former Hudson 4th Ward Supervisor William Hughes and Ghent Town Supervisor Michael Benvenuto. Murell said he envisions the panel beginning its work in October.
The board has an individual in mind for the facilitator’s position and that person has expressed interest in the post, Murell said.
The individual under consideration, who has not been identified, has experience dealing with a wide range of diverse groups in the past and is from Albany, so the person does not have a stake in the decisions the panel will make, Murell said.
Columbia County is also working on a website for members of the panel and the public so they will be able to give input during the process.
“I want to make sure different areas of the county are represented. They are private citizens from all different walks of life — retired people, younger people. We want the panel to be diverse,” Murell said. “To have up to 30 people from across the community, I think it will produce a very good product in terms of their input.”
Village and city police departments in the county are expected to form panels to review police reform in compliance with the governor’s executive order.
There are over 500 different law-enforcement agencies in the state, according to the governor’s office.
The state’s decision to have local governments review their policing agencies came after nationwide protests following the deaths of several Black people at the hands of police over the summer. In the Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative guide Cuomo called the current situation “unsustainable for all.”