Trustees to vote on village police reform

Catskill police headquarters on Main Street. File photo

CATSKILL — The village of Catskill’s police reform and reinvention committee released its draft report Thursday and residents will have an opportunity to comment on the plan next week.

The plan was developed in response to a state executive order in June requiring all municipalities with a police agency to conduct a review of policies and procedures and develop a plan to improve them in a way that will address the needs of the community.

The report included recommendations for better engagement with the community, less intimidating uniforms, a civilian review board and additional training. Residents can comment on the plan at the public hearing March 24.

Catskill Police Chief David Darling was supportive of the recommendations.

“They want more community interaction with police officers and a review board, which I have no problem with,” Darling said. “I think it was constructive criticism, which I have no problem with.”

The committee also recommended the agency give a biweekly report to the village board, closely examine the budget and keep the committee active for a year to continue the review process, Darling said.

“I get the message, I understand what they’re saying,” he said. “I will continue to work with them.”

The committee will meet on a quarterly basis to monitor the progress of the department as recommendations are implemented, according to the plan. The lieutenants are asked to meet with the committee within 60 days of the plan’s adoption to go over ways to increase officer-involved programming and events in the community.

The committee recommended the establishment of a Police Advisory Accountability Board, which will consist of five members of the community. The village board and police chief will be apprised of any complaints received.

The plan calls for more interaction on the department’s Facebook page, including a “meet the officers” section.

The committee also recommended a uniform change.

“A lot of research shows that the police uniform itself can be very intimidating,” according the plan. “Khakis and a polo shirt tucked in with the Catskill Police Department logo on it are recommended for at least one officer to wear per shift.” The committee recommended the village board discuss having a 24/7 mental health crisis team on call with the county. Another recommendation was to have officers attend diversity and inclusion training, as well as the Science of Recovery and Addiction training,

The group had two public meetings, one that included members of the police department. A survey was also administered. About 75% of respondents said they were satisfied with the department’s service, 76% said they trusted the police department and 80% said they would feel comfortable calling the police department. Of residents surveyed, 57% said they would be comfortable filing a complaint about an officer and not fear retaliation, while 26% disagreed.

Residents were asked if they had personal experienced or witnessed inappropriate, threatening or intimidating behavior, or discrimination of any kind by a Catskill police officer. Eighty-four percent of residents surveyed said no, 16% said yes.

In terms of responding to mental health calls, 59% agreed officers should respond even if a mental health worker is present and 27% disagreed. A total of 66% of residents said they disagreed with defunding the police, 18% agreed with the concept. Eighty-five percent of residents surveyed said they wanted to keep the department, while 15% said no. A total of 14% of residents who were surveyed said they did not live in the village of Catskill.

Catskill is comprised of more than 4,000 village residents, according to the 2010 census. About 60% of residents are white, 31% are Black, 7% are Hispanic, 0.6% are Asian, 0.4% are Native American and 0.02% are Pacific Islander. About 19% of the population lives below the poverty line. Over the past two decades, about 80% of the arrests in the village have been white suspects versus 20% Black, according to the plan.

The Catskill Police Department has 15 full-time officers, including Darling, Lt. Ronald Frascello, Lt. Daniel Waer and four sergeants. There are also two part-time officers and six dispatchers, four of whom are part-time. Two of the officers are minorities and there are no female officers, according to the plan.

The department has been an accredited agency for the past 12 years and until recently, was the only accredited agency in the county.

Officers complete 21 to 23 hours of annual training and all new hires are required to ride along with a senior officer for 160 hours before they can patrol alone, according to the report. Officers receive training in use of force, anti-bias and de-escalation training.

No-knock warrants and choke holds are banned by the department. The department has not had a use-of-force complaint in the last five years. There are no reports within the past decade of a Catskill police officer injuring a civilian. The department has had three personnel complaints in the past year and disciplinary action was taken. The nature of the complaints or disciplinary action was not listed in the report.

The agency does not have body cameras.

The 2020-21 budget for the department is $1.3 million, or 26.5% of the village’s $4.9 million budget.

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(6) comments

Rory VanDeusen

Looks like good run department. Stay the course Chief!

scottmyers

The Catskill Police Department is not needed. The Sheriff's Department and State Police are enough to meet our safety needs. There's very little real crime here.

The CPD website lists 24 officers. Maybe that means total staff. Realize that the $1.78 million spent on the CPD is nearly half of the Village budget. We need a Community Center more than we need the CPD. What possible need do we have for two lieutenants and four sergeants?

Missing from this report and the County police report is an authoritative civilian review board. Complaints about the CPD go nowhere, which is why the CPD report is useless.

My four interactions with them showed a lack of talent on their part and unsatisfying results. I'm personally victimized by the CPD.

The conclusion they need more interaction with people is spurious. Why would someone want more interaction with the police? I certainly don't.

It's essential NOT to use police as mental health or medical professionals. Our budgets are way too skewed towards people in police uniforms, with badges and guns, rather than licensed professionals. This is why Greene County and the Village of Catskill recycle problems rather than solve them.

Remove the CPD entirely and replace them with a) a hospital b) a funded community center. If not, immediately provide an independent civilian review board. Otherwise, you'll perpetuate the same ineffective waste of our scant resources. Fund medical professionals and social programs, not police.

A village of 4,000 with very little real crime doesn't need its own police department.

Chris B

“The 2020-21 budget for the department is $1.3 million, 26.5% of the village’s $4.9 million budget”

So yeah, just over one quarter. Not half. Quoted directly from the very end of the article.

“I’m personally victimized by the CPD” That’s also interesting. Not a victim of your own poor life choices? It’s clear to me, as it should be to any other intelligent adults in the room, that this is nothing more than you projecting your own personal vendetta.

“In terms of responding to mental health calls, 59% agreed officers should respond even if a mental health worker is present and 27% disagreed. A total of 66% of residents said they disagreed with defunding the police, 18% agreed with the concept. Eighty-five percent of residents surveyed said they wanted to keep the department, while 15% said no. A total of 14% of residents surveyed said they did not live in the village of Catskill.”

Those results do not support your argument. Kind of impossible to ignore the facts.

scottmyers

No Community Center, a demolished Sheriff's Office, a $90 million jail, two sheriff's that needed removing (Hussey and Seeley), a Village Trustee that needed removing (Seeley, again), and NO, police aren't counselors. The all-white Village of Catskill Police Dept. is not needed here. Like Greg Seeley, who was a featured speaker, most of the CPD are Oath Keepers. It's really poison, as fully proved when Black Lives Matters was suppressed. Time for change.

Chris B

Sheriffs office is gone. The jail is almost done. Greg Seeley has nothing to do with this. Vincent Seeley is gone and has nothing to do with this. Your endless vitriol is poison. Time for you to change

ScottMeyers

Catskill has very little real crime and isn't justified in having a police force, eh?

Perhaps you should do your research instead of just making things up. Statistically, when comparing crime versus population, Catskill ranks higher than many other places in the state. That's a fact.

You can put poo in a box, but at the end of the day, it's still poo.

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