Police panel sees ‘big responsibility’

Greene County Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Feml at the scene of the accident in this 2018 file photo. The Greene County Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative will focus its efforts on the Greene County Sheriff’s Department. Lance Wheeler/For Columbia-Greene Media/File

CATSKILL — The Greene County Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative will hold its first public meeting next week.

Community members are invited to the meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 14 in the Catskill High School auditorium. The committee was formed in August in response to a state executive order in June requiring all government entities with a police agency to conduct a review of police policy and procedures and develop a plan to improve them in a way that will address the needs of the community.

The Collaborative will focus on matters pertaining to the Greene County Sheriff’s Office. All other municipalities with a police force are required to develop their own reform plan.

Rabbi Zoe B. Zak of Temple Israel, who serves on the committee, said the public meeting is an important part of the process.

“The committee wanted to make this second meeting of ours public to make sure that we’re including the public and the public’s voice right from the beginning,” Zak said. “It’s a great opportunity for us all to contribute to the health and well-being of our community.”

The committee held its first meeting Sept. 30.

“My takeaway [from the meeting] was what a big responsibility it is to be on this committee,” Zak said. “This committee is being asked to look at our officers and to look at their job and to be able to make recommendations. In order to do that, we really have to understand that job and that’s a very serious matter. How well do we understand other people’s jobs?”

The committee is looking at more than just how arrests are made, Zak said.

“This isn’t a committee that is only looking at the way the officers respond when making arrests,” she said. “This is about their entire jobs and the way they serve the community — the way that they interact with the community and the way the community interacts with them.”

Learning the role police play in the community is a critical function of the committee, Zak said.

“I need to be educated, I need to listen and I need to learn to really understand what our officers do in their jobs so that we’ll be truly informed enough as individuals and as a committee to make good, sound recommendations.”

Zak hopes these discussions will bridge the gap between the public and law enforcement.

“This has great potential for improving the relations between the officers and the communities that they serve,” she said. “I don’t want there to be a divide between officers and the communities that they serve, Some people are afraid of police, afraid if they see the sheriff, afraid if they see a car. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if when every person saw a police car they felt comforted, they felt assured?”

Other members on the committee include Catskill Central School District Superintendent Ronel Cook; the Rev. Richard Turpin of Second Baptist Church; Rita Taylor of Hop-O-Nose; Gary Slutzky of Mountaintop Progressives; Greene County Public Defender Angelo Scaturro; Greene County Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Friedman; Community Life Church Pastor Rick Snowden; Kate Oldakowski of the Mobile Crisis Assessment Team; Greene County District Attorney Joseph Stanzione; and Sheriff Pete Kusminsky, Undersheriff Adam Brainard, Capt. Tracey Quinn and Lt. Andrew Overbaugh. Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden serves as chairman of the committee.

Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, thanked the committee members for their commitment.

“It’s hard enough to get people involved here to do anything these days, so this is a pretty big undertaking and I just wanted to let everyone know that it’s very much appreciated,” he said.

Linger encouraged the committee to involve local communities in the process.

“This should be a community discussion as to how our police departments interact with the community and with our criminal-justice system,” Linger said. “I would encourage you to go back to any of your communities and let people know that you’re a part of this. Let them come to you with suggestions. Bring them here. This is going to be a pretty lively and good discussion I think, as far as what our policing is going to look like in Greene County.”

Turpin sees the committee as an opportunity to look to the future, he said.

“I’m not looking at pointing fingers so much at what was done, but more so pointing fingers at how we can do better, how we can take the mistakes of the past and improve the movement of the future,” Turpin said in August. “Marching for peace and justice is only half of the change for the future. We have to be able to sit down and look at the facts. And be aware of the past so that we can protect the future.”

Scaturro said he is honored to be a part of the process.

“I’m honored to sit down and discuss it with them so that maybe all people, all perspectives, will be brought to the table,” he said. “This way, everybody is airing their opinion on how to approach things. In the end we’ll protect everyone’s rights and make society a better place to live.”

Scaturro did not identify any specific policy or issue that he believed needed review.

“I feel like we’re doing the right thing here already, for the most part,” he said. “You can always fine tune things.”

Stanzione also was not aware of any specific items in need of review, he said.

“We don’t have the extent of problems we see across [the] country recently,” he said. “Seventy to 75% of our jail population is white. We don’t have this situation where we’re targeting minorities. Racial profiling is not a common practice [locally].”

Stanzione spoke highly of the local police force.

“I think our police officers, in my experience, are really top quality. They are truly concerned with serving and protecting the community. That means every community, whether it’s a minority community or a white community,” Stanzione said.

To submit questions or concerns to the committee, visit https://www.greenegovernment.com/greene-county-police-policy-review-committee.

The committee’s reform plan must address use-of-force policies, procedural justice; any studies addressing systemic racial bias or racial justice in policing; implicit bias awareness training; de-escalation training and practices; Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion programs; restorative justice practices; community-based outreach and conflict resolution; problem-oriented policing; hot-spots policing; focused deterrence; crime prevention through environmental design; violence prevention and reduction interventions; model policies and guidelines established by the state Municipal Police Training Council; and standards set by the state Law Enforcement Accreditation Program, according to the governor’s executive order.

The sheriff’s office was last accredited in 1992. Lawmakers approved a contract in August with Police Management Services, LLC, in the amount of $15,000 to work with the office through the accreditation process.

The reform plan must be ratified by the county Legislature by April 1, 2021, with certification sent to the state Division of the Budget.

“The director of the Division of the Budget shall be authorized to condition receipt of future appropriated state or federal funds upon filing of such certification for which such local government would otherwise be eligible,” according to the executive order.

To submit questions or concerns to the committee, visit https://www.greenegovernment.com/greene-county-police-policy-review-committee.

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(2) comments

scottmyers

It's not a civilian review board if Shaun Groden is chair (who just completed a $90 million new debt and is destroying 80 Bridge St.). The problem with Zoe is she threw me out of the synagogue because I opposed the new jail. Understand that we're rated a worst offended by the State Commission of Corrections (”SCOC”). Realize also that Ulster has 120 detainees in a very expensive jail with a capacity of 500. And, also firmly notice that the Town of Catskill just defended the very needed Catskill Community Center. And, that Vincent Seeley (cousin of the sheriff I removed, Greg Seeley) bent over for Greene County allowing the demolition of 80 Bridge St. The reason that building has to be destroyed is to get a technical exception to spend over the 2% property tax caps. No old sheriffs office means a new one is ”required.” 80 Bridge St. is valued at $1.85 million as is. Delolition costs $450,000. Making the property into a none-income producing parking lot costs $1.2 million.

The committee is toothless, is controlled by the same people that created the massive new debt, is loaded with self-interested enforcement, like Lt. Tracy Quinn). All in all this simply advances the hegemony that created our worst offender operating, and furthers the conclusion of Central Hudson’s Out of Alignment report.

Pathetic.

bongolicious

Wait. If Greene county is 90% white

and the jail population is 70 to 75% white...

In what universe is that proof that there is NO possible racial profiling occurring?

Bizarro non logical world maybe

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