POTSDAM — Two individuals, the only Black members of Potsdam’s Police Reform Advisory Committee, have resigned after frustrations that the group is not focusing enough on addressing racial injustice.
Jennifer Baxtron announced last week in a Facebook post that she was frustrated Potsdam Police Chief Mark R. Murray did not say the department had a problem with racism, likely stemming from a discussion at the police reform group’s last meeting.
“When the police chief refuses to admit that these problems do exist in his department and refuses to make a public statement condemning it, it’s time for me to move on to the next level. I will continue working with the public on the issues of systemic racism, racism in the communities and what you must do to confront and change it,” Ms. Baxtron wrote on Facebook.
“I can no longer work on the local level in regards to police reform, so on that note, time to concentrate on the state level only,” she continued.
During the exchange, Mr. Murray did not want to make what he called a “blanket statement” and told Ms. Baxtron he was confused as to what he was exactly addressing.
John D. Youngblood could not immediately be reached for comment, but North Country Public Radio has reported he’s also stepping down.
The police reform group has been meeting about every other week since October in accordance with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive order requiring all police departments to review policies, deployments and procedures. The order was made in the wake of calls for racial justice, especially in policing, over the summer following the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Discussions among Potsdam’s police reform committee have expanded into a wide array of topics about mental health care, racial bias, public communication with police and the murder of Garrett Phillips.
Those discussions have, at times, gotten heated, but it’s unclear what tangible recommendations or concrete ideas the group has actually put to paper at this point.