GALWAY — Nearly a month after the state’s April 1 deadline for communities with police departments to submit mandatory police reform plans, the village of Galway in Saratoga County is the only Capital Region community that has yet to comply.
As of this week, about a dozen municipalities out of 494 with police departments have yet to submit plans to the state, and many of them small and rural, like tiny Galway. That number is down from nearly 40 agencies that hadn’t submitted their plans as of April 7, a week after they were due to be filed; state officials said they are contacting the communities that haven’t complied.
Village Mayor William Hyde did not respond to several requests for comment this week. Minutes from Village Board meetings show that then-new police chief Jeff Devine raised the need for the village to develop the plan last October, but there are no other references to it in board minutes.
By any policing standard, Galway is small. The village has a population of about 200. It sits at a crossroads on state Route 147 within the larger town of Galway. The police chief is part-time, and the chief and one part-time officer work about 10 hours per week, with their main duty being writing speeding tickets and other traffic enforcement.
In meeting minutes, village officials have said the levels of traffic in the village and number of tickets being written have both been reduced due to the pandemic, meaning the two officers are writing fewer tickets each month than they have in the past.
Under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Executive Order 203, issued last June as the nation was roiled by protests of police killings of Black people, municipalities were to examine whether there needs to be change in how their departments interact with the community, with a plan to be submitted by April 1.
The penalty for not filing is a potential loss of half of a community’s federal and state funding. In addition, legislation included in the 2022 state budget would allow the state to appoint a monitor to oversee departments that haven’t complied – with the cost of the monitor paid by the municipality.
According to the Governor’s Office, the state Division of the Budget is reviewing the submitted plans to ensure that municipalities have in fact complied with the law. If the plan is acceptable, the state will issue a certification that the localities have followed the required processes, developed a plan, and that plan was properly adopted by the local government.
As Cuomo has described the effort, in reviewing the plans the state is recognizing that each municipality is unique. The intent, he said, is to give local officials and the community flexibility to develop and approve a plan that best meets their community’s needs.
According to the state, at the small end of the scale, there are four police agencies with just one part-time officer. Some 92% of police departments employ fewer than 100 officers – but at the upper end, the New York Police Department has 36,563 members.
The Governor’s Office said it and the Division of Budget are in the process of contacting communities that haven’t complied to determine when and if they will file plans. The Warren County town of Warrensburg was taken off the list just this week after the state learned its police department had been disbanded.
The other communities that had yet to file plans include the town of Friendship, Allegany County; Pine Plains, Dutchess County; Corfu, Genessee County; village of Boonville, Oneida County; Chester, Deer Park and Tuxedo in Orange County; Norfolk in St. Lawrence County; and Candor, Tioga County.
The Galway department has had problems in the past. In 2018, following an investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office, then-chief Les Klein and three other officers were indicted for falsifying records indicating they had received mandatory training they hadn’t gone through, and those four officers resigned and eventually agreed to give up their police certifications. At the time, Galway had eight part-time officers, all of them veteran officers who also worked elsewhere.