SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Springs residents, members of the city police force and Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino gathered Wednesday evening at city hall for a public safety forum — a meeting the commissioner hopes to make a quarterly occurrence.
It was an opportunity for residents to raise questions and concerns on a number of issues and hear an update on the implementation of the city’s 50-point police reinvention plan.
“This is a partnership between the community and the police to ensure the safety of the city,” said police Chief Tyler McIntosh, who was named to the role at the end of May.
Police lieutenants Angela McGovern, Jason Mitchell and Eric Warfield, as well as officers Glenn Barrett and Andrew Streim were also at the forum.
Here is a look at some of what was brought up:
Where does the city stand on its police reinvention plan?
Montagnino said the city has implemented 37 of the 50 points and is nearing state accreditation. The department has not completed the first of the 50 points, which is to acknowledge wrongdoings and apologize. Montagnino also said he doesn’t believe some of the points fit for the city. He has filed a report on where the department stands on the 50 points and it is available on the city website, he said.
Members and supporters of Saratoga Black Lives Matter raised issues with the points not being fulfilled.
“We demand that you implement all 50 points, not just the ones that are convenient for you,” said Diogenes Kaufman.
Will the city implement a Cahoots (Crisis Assistance Helping Out on The Streets) or similar mental health crisis intervention program?
While Montagnino said he felt a Cahoots program would not work for Saratoga Springs, McIntosh said he was open to learning more about how a model that includes a partnership with social workers would work. Kristen Dart, who worked on the 50-point plan and is running for public safety commissioner, said the Cahoots program was only offered as one model.
“I would certainly be interested in looking into some sort of a partnership where we do have some sort of certified social worker working alongside us,” McIntosh said.
What is the Peregrine Platform?
The platform would enable the department to take the various data systems it has and integrate them into one. The department said in a handout that such a switch would enable them to increase transparency and have real-time reporting, among other items. McIntosh said the platform would meet another one of the 50-point plan items and discussions are ongoing about getting the platform.
Where does the department stand on de-escalation training?
McIntosh said that nine officers have received crisis-intervention training. However, he said that de-escalation training is included as part of all of the training that officers partake in.
“Our department is very committed to continuing training,” McIntosh said. “We’re constantly looking for opportunities to get the best training we can.”
Has the city discussed how it responds to protests?
State Attorney General Letitia James recently announced that her office, the Legal Aid Society and the New York Civil Liberties Union reached an agreement with the New York City Police Department to reform how the department responds to protests.
Supporters and members of BLM have raised concerns about how police have responded in the past to their protests. A response by police to a July 30, 2020 protest is the subject of a federal lawsuit against the city by BLM co-founder Lexis Figuereo.
McIntosh said the city has plans in place related to items like a crowd-management plan. He said they are willing to work with groups to ensure they can protest safely.
BLM activist Samira Sangare said BLM will not coordinate with police, due to past encounters with police at protests.
Has the department thought about ways it addresses or references victims in press releases to the community to better ensure their identity is protected?
“I’m concerned, especially as a mother of two children, how we are treating children in this community when they have been subject to a crime,” Erin Leary said during the meeting. She referenced three incidents over the last several months in which the department released information about victims that she felt enabled the identification of the victim.
McGovern said she and Warfield have discussed how the department can improve communications that would still provide information to the public, but balance the privacy of victims.
“Additionally, Chief McIntosh is looking to strengthen the communications that we put out and looking to make sure more of us are trained on these and that we have more communication between us, as well as to this is what we are putting out, this is what we are not putting out,” she said.
What can the community and police department do to protect children from being videotaped or photographed by people with nefarious intentions?
The questions comes as the department issued an arrest warrant earlier this week for Charles Ross, who posted numerous videos of women jogging and walking around the city and Saratoga Spa State Park on Instagram. While the photos were from more than a decade ago, the salacious content spurred new complaints and concerns. Warfield said the law is written as such that taking photos of people in public isn’t illegal. However, he said stalking people is. He recommended community members contact their elected officials to have them review the laws.
Will the city hold more forums?
Yes. Montagnino said they are looking at possibly doing quarterly forums.
Reporter Shenandoah Briere can be reached at [email protected].