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Forum next week to offer info on police review board

Forum next week to offer info on police review board

Event will inform citizens of board's purpose, allow a chance to suggest improvements
Forum next week to offer info on police review board
Schenectady police officers at Mont Pleasant Middle School in 2013.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY -- Community leaders are holding an information session next week to spread awareness about the city’s Civilian Police Review Board.

Rev. Phil Grigsby, executive director with the Schenectady Inner City Ministry, is pushing for a fresh awareness campaign to educate citizens about the board’s purpose and to gather feedback on potential changes.

“The purpose of it is largely just informational,” he said. “Hopefully we can get some dialogue because there are people who maybe don’t know how to file a complaint.”

The forum is intended to provide information to citizens who either are unaware of the review board or are unclear on the services the board offers, Grigsby said. Some board members and Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford will be on hand to interact with attendees.

The Schenectady Inner City Ministry, the Civilian Police Review Board and Mt. Olivet Missionary Baptist Church are hosting the forum, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Jan. 24 at the Parsons Memorial Church of God in Christ, located at 5 Catherine Street in Schenectady.

The city’s Civilian Police Review Board was created more than a decade ago as a mechanism to improve communication between the community and the police department and as a way to create an impartial review process for citizen complaints.

Grigsby, who is not a member of the review board but has for years advocated for the body, said he learned through a couple of community forums last year that many people either didn’t know about the board or had forgotten its purpose.

“In the best of situations, it’s a win-win because it provides a way for civilians to file complaints, and it also provides a body that can provide some oversight and make recommendations for improvement,” Grigsby said.

Over the years, legislation pertaining to the Review Board has evolved, allowing for improvements and alterations. One change Grigsby is still hoping to see is the addition of an investigator to work with the panel, he said.

A provision exists to allow the addition, but Grigsby said the position hasn’t been funded in recent years. The information session could provide an opportunity to address that again, Grigsby said.

The timing for the forum seems right, Grigsby said, given the need for another boost in awareness and the fact that a new police chief has settled into the job.

Richard Homenick, chairman of the review board and executive director of the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority, will also attend the forum.

“We’ve talked with the chief, and he seems very supportive of the board, as evidenced by his willingness to be on the panel,” Grigsby said. “Not that things have been bad in the past, but with a new chief, somebody can take a fresh look and hopefully continue the conversation.”

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