Saratoga Springs

BLM activists and Saratoga Springs mayor criticize proposed police review board

Camille Daniels, co-chair of the Police Reform Task Force in Saratoga Springs, reads a statement criticizing a proposal for a five-member community review board that would investigate complaints against city police.
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Camille Daniels, co-chair of the Police Reform Task Force in Saratoga Springs, reads a statement criticizing a proposal for a five-member community review board that would investigate complaints against city police.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – A proposed five-member community review board empowered to investigate complaints against city police wasn’t lacking in critics on Tuesday evening.

Black Lives Matter activists gathered on the steps of City Hall Tuesday night to critique what they said were its flaws, lack of information, accountability and transparency.

Afterward, a public hearing on the matter devolved into a heated back-and-forth between Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton, who pushed the proposal forward, and Mayor Meg Kelly.

Establishing a civilian review board was one of the major recommendations of a city task force charged with developing ideas for police reform. 

Kelly called the proposal “weak legislation with a lot of holes,” and on multiple occasions she pointed out that her term as mayor was expiring in 72 days, meaning she had nothing to gain politically by derailing the proposal.

“Maybe you haven’t done enough legislation, but we don’t do it individually,” Kelly told Dalton. “We do it as a collective council.”

Dalton countered that the process called for the public safety commissioner to make a recommendation in collaboration of an advisory committee.

“I fulfilled this task exactly as you laid it out,” Dalton said. “So you can stall and stall and stall.”

Kelly replied that she wasn’t stalling, but refused to put “garbage in, garbage out.”

Dalton then asked Kelly where had she been the last 14 months as it was being developed.

Dalton said Kelly appointed attorney Jason Golub to an independent advisory committee tasked with researching civilian review boards. 

Golub fulfilled the task, Dalton said, and came before the council multiple times to present what he found. At no point did the mayor speak of a concern, according to Dalton. 

Dalton said she and Golub put together a proposed ordinance, and Dalton then sent it out to the council two weeks ago, after the assistant city attorney drafted it.

Kelly said she didn’t have a problem with the process until Dalton “intercepted it.”

BLM members and their advocates appeared to take pleasure in the disagreement. 

One speaker, Angela Kaufman, asserted that the council and mayor had used the police to intimidate activists during previous meetings. 

“You can’t even agree with each other and you’re the ones sending the guns after us,” she quipped.

As the Dalton-Kelly exchange continued, Kaufman motioned toward two officers in attendance to “split this up.”

Dalton said an agenda item planned for Tuesday’s City Council meeting about the proposed community review board had been removed so that the council could consider feedback from the public hearing.

Dalton is serving her last term as commissioner and she is running for mayor as an independent against Democrat Ron Kim and Republican Heidi Owen West. Kelly is not seeking re-election as mayor.

Prior to the hearing, BLM activist Lexis Figuereo pointed out flaws with the proposal, including its call for background checks of would-be board members.

He said they shouldn’t be subjected to that level of scrutiny, considering they would be volunteering their time for the role. 

Also, he said the task force’s 100 pages of recommendations had been greatly reduced. 

“That’s a disgrace, and it’s a slap in the face to Black Lives Matter Saratoga, and the police task force, which was mostly ran by Black and brown people who sat there and took six months of their time to put effort into making changes for our community,” Figuereo said.

The activist added that about 15 people were arrested in protest while fighting for a civilian board that would foster transparency, equity and inclusion.

Camille Daniels, co-chair of the task force, read a prepared statement asserting that the proposal missed the mark. 

“The current proposal before the City Council is nowhere near as comprehensive as the one proposed by the Police Reform Task Force,” Daniels said. 

“There is no clear mechanism for complainant participation, or what the process of review or resolution should be. With each City Council member making an appointment, there is no way to ensure diversity and equitable representation on the board.”

During the hearing, Dalton said the revised proposal calls for each council member to make an appointment, instead of the mayor making all of the appointments. This, she said, made it less political by taking it out of the hands of one politician.

Paul “Batman” Collins-Hackett, secretary of a civilian review board in Albany, said the such boards are designed to include critics in the process. That’s lacking with the Saratoga Springs proposal, he suggested.

“See, in Albany, we realize that we all work for the people,” he said. 

He told Saratoga Springs officials the Albany board would help them, if asked.

“You do not have to start from scratch,” he said. “This process does not have to take another year, another five years.”

Activists have said if there were already a civilian police review board, the public might have clearer answers about the 2013 incident that led to the death of Darryl Mount Jr. 

Mount was running from police when he ran into a construction site and fell, according to the police account. His family contends police beat him. He was found in a coma from severe head injuries and died months later.

Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: News, Saratoga County

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