NISKAYUNA — A draft reform plan for the Niskayuna Police Department includes recommendations to ban chokeholds, require body cameras for officers and publish an annual use of force report.
“It’s pretty comprehensive,” said Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed Tuesday.
The plan, released early Tuesday afternoon, comes as Governor Andrew Cuomo’s April 1 executive order deadline on police reform nears and several months after protests over police brutality began over the killing of George Floyd and other Black people.
The Niskayuna Town Board established a Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative to produce a police reform plan for the town. Before the executive order, the town already had established a Task Force for Racial Equity and Justice in early 2020. The collaborative, made up of town officials, community members and members of the police department, was tasked with forming recommendations on police reform and what the department would look like in the community.
Some of the other recommendations in the report include:
- Independent civilian review board to look at use of force incidents
- The task force would maintain oversight and conduct reviews of actions taken on recommendations in the report and relay the status of the actions to the town board
- Community dialogue on how to demilitarize the police
- Development of policies to address people who are disorderly during otherwise peaceful assemblies
- Ongoing implicit bias training for officers
- Creation of a Community Affairs Officer who can liaison between the department and community organizations and groups
- Better access to a translator and basic language classes for officers
- Annual community forum to address issues in the community and the promotion of monthly town council meetings on policing
Ayah Osman, who is a member of the collaborative, shared a description of the interaction of an unnamed Black Niskayuna resident with town police in the report, said an emphasis should be placed on the importance of having civilian oversight and a civilian review board.
“We worked really hard putting this plan together, and my hope is that the change we hope to see in our community comes to fruition,” she said. “ I look forward to seeing our town’s plan to implement our recommendations.”
Syed was pleased with police officers joining in on the discussions.
“They really did so with a great attitude of wanting to improve their department,” she said.
The town also hired CNA, a private non-profit research firm, to conduct an audit of the department and make recommendations as well. Some of those recommendations were included in the plan.
Town Board member Denise Murphy McGraw said that board members only got the plan shortly before it was released to the public. She said she had hoped to have a meeting where the plan was walked through a little and discussed. Regardless of that though she’s said she’s looking forward to hearing what the public has to say about the recommendations.
The town will hold a public hearing on the plan March 9. People are encouraged to attend the meeting or provide public comment prior to the meeting.
After that meeting public comments will be taken into account and a final draft drawn up, Syed said. She said the town has allowed for some wiggle room before the governor’s deadline in case additional meetings to hash out some of the recommendations need to take place. If everything goes according to plan the final draft will be voted on at the town’s March 23 meeting.
Read the full reform plan:
— Provide comment at [email protected] by 5 p.m. March 9
Attend the public hearing:
WHEN: 7 p.m., March 9
HOW: visit https://meet.google.com/kxd-cqdx-asa