The Rotterdam Town Board continued taking comments Wednesday evening during an almost hour-long Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative meeting and public hearing held during the town board meeting.
Town board member Samantha Miller-Herrera was the only person to raise a question during the collaborative meeting as a member of the public on whether recommendations provided in a Phase 1 audit of the police department would be added to the reform plan.
“I’m concerned that interjecting the sex offender registry audit may be seen as an attempt to divert attention away from what this is supposed to be about” said Police Chief G. William Manikas.
The reform plan was created in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order requiring police departments to review their policies and procedures to determine how to better serve their communities after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers last year. The executive order stipulates that departments must submit a plan to the state by April 1 or risk the possibility of losing both state and federal funding.
Manikas said that the audit wasn’t brought up by the collaborative either. However, he said that if the town wanted to add that in he wasn’t against it, but wanted it worded so that it was understood the collaborative didn’t make those sex offender registry recommendations.
Miller-Herrera said the executive order language sounded all-inclusive and allowed for the review of all policy and procedures not just procedures related to underserved and minority communities.
“While that was the spirit of the executive order and the reason for bringing it forward, I don’t think it prohibits or precludes us looking at these things,” she said.
Recommendations from the audit included having the police department create a written policy on the standard operating procedures for the town’s sex offender registry and instructions on how to carry out those procedures. It was also recommended the department should implement quality assurance measures, which would be periodically applied to review the department’s compliance with registry procedures. The audit also said the department should design a training program highlighting the role, goals and objectives of the registry and that a segment of the department’s annual training cover compliance with the Sex Offender Registry Act.
Supervisor Steven Tommasone said during the collaborative meeting that comments brought up would be incorporated into the plan.
Recommendations in the police reform plan included:
- Additional training on implicit bias and de-escalation
- Continuing to increase knowledge about best practices for mental health calls and implementing those standards, including participating in the Schenectady County Emotionally Disturbed Persons Diversion
- Having community outreach officers attend job fairs and post about department exams to promote diversity in the department
Resident Jack Dodson asked for clarification on some of the statistics, which Deputy Chief Michael Brown responded to.
The town of Rotterdam is the second town in Schenectady County expected to adopt its plan April 1. Glenville adopted its plan on March 17. The city approved its plan on Monday and the county passed its plan on March 9. The town of Niskayuna is expected to approve its plan next week after deciding Tuesday evening the town board needed more time to discuss the document.
The towns of Duanesburg and Princetown are covered by state police barracks.
State Police Public Information Director Beau Duffy said the executive order applied to local departments, not the state police.
“However, the New York State Police is undertaking its own internal review of policies and procedures, which is ongoing,” he said. “Continuous learning and improvement is one of our core values and we remain committed to serving all New Yorkers with courtesy, professionalism and respect.”
He said the state police are using part 1 of the guidance provided by the governor’s office to do the internal review. That guidance includes items like procedural justice and community policing efforts and strategies to reduce racial disparities.