Niskayuna

Niskayuna approves police reform plan; Chief already working on some recommendations

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PHOTOGRAPHER:

Niskayuna Police Chief Fran Wall is already working on some of the police reform recommendations the town unanimously adopted Tuesday evening during a special town meeting. 

Wall said early Tuesday the department recently had residents — a defense attorney and someone from the District Attorney’s office — participate in an interview of officers applying for a detective position at the department. 

“I thought it went really well,” she said, noting that process is something the department will keep in mind when it needs to do interviews for patrol officers. 

The police reform plan was passed just days before Governor Andrew Cuomo’s April 1 deadline after town board members took time to discuss the plan Friday.

Some of the recommendations included: 

  • Banning chokeholds
  • Having officers wear body cameras
  • Publishing an annual use of force policy
  • Using an independent civilian review board to look at use of force incidents 
  • Developing policies to address people who are disorderly during otherwise peaceful assemblies 
  • Holding ongoing implicit bias training for officers  
  • Establishing a Community Affairs Officer who can serve as a liaison between the department and community organizations and groups

While no residents commented during the special meeting, one resident’s emailed comments were read:

“I’m against the future setting up of a civilian review board on page 21 for the reason that nothing should ever interfere with a police officer’s right to a fair trial in a court of law,” said Valerie Lacovangelo. “A review board should not be the judge and jury or have the power to discipline an officer.”

During the special meeting board member Rosemarie Perez Jaquith asked to have the implementation plan amended so that it will read that each of the five town board members will select one community member to serve on the community task force.

She said with only three spots, less opportunity is available for minority members of the community to sit on the task force. 

Board member Bill McPartlon said the police reform plan and the implementation of the plan will continue to be discussed at the Police and Public Safety Committee.

Wall also said she is working on developing and implementing a new wellness policy for officers that includes guidelines on peer support and physical fitness. 

“It’s going to take awhile to implement,” she said. 

She’s working with Samaritan Counseling Center to reach out to officers about distress counseling, “which is something our department hasn’t implemented in a long time.” 

Officials are looking into buying body cameras for the department’s 27 patrol officers at a cost of anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000, for just the cameras, Wall said. There are additional costs for data storage, she said.

 

Categories: News, Schenectady County, Your Niskayuna

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