SARATOGA SPRINGS — City of Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim is expected to announce a new chairperson for its Civilian Review Board, which was created earlier this year to provide additional accountability for the city’s police department.
Kim said Thursday that while he had originally selected The Rev. Michael Bell of the Dyer-Phelps AME Zion Church to be the chairperson in September, Bell moved away shortly after for personal reasons.
“That slowed the process,” said Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino.
The city established its first-ever Civilian Review Board at the recommendation of the city’s Police Reform Task Force, which was created in response to a 2020 executive order issued by then-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. The order required all local governments in New York state to adopt police reform plans.
After the mayor selects a chairperson, Montagnino said, he and his fellow commissioners on the City Council will begin announcing the individuals they would like to have on the board.
The board will consist of five members, none of whom can be an employee of the police department nor an elected official, according to the city code.
Montagnino said there is a rule that at least one of the board’s members must be between 18 and 25 years of age. Anyone convicted of a felony within 10 years prior to their submitted application cannot serve, although that measure can be removed if the person has a “Certificate of Relief issued pursuant to the Executive Law or a Sealing Order issued pursuant to the Criminal Procedure Law,” according to the city code. Individuals convicted of crimes involving fraud or “moral turpitude” 10 years prior to applying are also prohibited from serving.
Montagnino said he has a couple of people in mind at the moment and that Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi has also indicated she has selected someone for the board.
“Once the mayor picks a chair, I think everything else will fall into place fairly quickly,” he said.
Under the city code, the review board’s purpose is “to receive, process and, whenever possible, amicably resolve grievances regarding the conduct of employees of the [police] Department.”
“The CRB shall also act as a vehicle for generating and expressing informed opinions relating to public policy regarding law enforcement in our City,” the city code states.
As for the Nov. 20 officer-involved shooting on Broadway, Montagnino said the board may not necessarily take up the issue although the unidentified woman involved in the shooting plans file a notice of her intention to sue the city, the police department and the police officers she alleges shot her in the arm.
“They can take up any complaint that’s formally filed within 90 days of its occurrence,” he said.
However, Montagnino said, the notice of claim would not constitute a complaint.
“The mere filing of a notice of claim doesn’t equal a complaint directed at police misconduct, so there would still have to be some individual filing a complaint,” he said.