Schenectady residents who are really interested in contributing to the future of their city, by making it safer and more secure, now have a task this month and next that involves more than voting.
Starting on Wednesday, Oct. 21, and over seven other sessions in the following two weeks, residents will have a chance to get information and offer input into how the Schenectady Police Department can better serve the community.
The forums are an outgrowth of the Black Lives Matter protests earlier this summer, and are designed to help the community shape the way the department interacts with the public and eventually lead to concrete policies.
The first meeting, to be held virtually, will be an introduction to the process.
The seven others that follow will involve community groups, faith-based organizations, neighborhood groups, public safety groups, businesses and youth and education groups. The forum on Oct. 27 will feature a presentation on procedural justice by the John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety, which will assist the city in analyzing data and developing policies.
City and state police are expected to sit in on the meetings and observe.
The formats for the meetings and the avenues in which the public can participate are still being worked out. Organizers hope to hold some of the forums beyond the inaugural meeting in person.
The role of the ordinary citizen observer still hasn’t been determined, but some type of public participation beyond the panelists at each forum is expected.
While everyone understands that police reform is a complex and emotional issue, the only way we’re going to move forward with reasonable, constructive, workable reforms is if participants and observers treat one another with respect and be open to what everyone has to say.
If these turn into some kind of free-for-all, where people are talking over one another, shouting and arguing, then all sides will retreat to their respective corners, no changes will be made, and we’ll all be left right back where we started.
Constructive dialogue is the key to shaping these new policies.
Most importantly, people need to manage their expectations. Change often isn’t instantaneous. Reform is a process that won’t happen overnight.
If you care about the city and want to make a difference, make time to check in on these meetings. The dates are in Friday’s article, and the times and locations are still to be determined. Check The Gazette for updates.
We all want the same thing.
These meetings, and the public’s involvement in them, are an important step forward.