Municipalities in Northern New York have begun developing their plans for modernizing policing strategies as required by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Protests have been held since spring over alleged cases of police brutality. Demonstrators have said these tragic incidents resulted in the deaths of Black Americans.
Statistics reveal an alarming trend. According to an article published Monday by the Washington Post: “Although half of the people shot and killed by police are white, Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans. Hispanic Americans are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate.
In response to this, Mr. Cuomo announced measures designed to reform policies and procedures affecting how law enforcement agencies operate. He signed bills to provide more transparency of officers’ disciplinary records, prohibit chokeholds, outlawing race-based 911 reports deemed to be false and designate the state attorney general as an independent prosecutor for matters relating to the deaths of unarmed civilians caused by law enforcement agents, according to a news release issued June 12 by the governor’s office.
He also signed an executive order establishing the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. This requires “local police agencies … to develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs in their community based on community input. Each police agency’s reform plan must address policies, procedures, practices and deployment including but not limited to use of force,” according to the news release.
The executive order calls on all police departments to engage stakeholders in a public and open process on policing strategies and tools; present a plan, by chief executive and head of the local police force, to the public for comment; after consideration of any comments, present such plan to the local legislative body (council or legislature as appropriate), which has approved such plan (by either local law or resolution); and have the plan certified by April 1 to ensure the police force remains eligible to receive future state funding.
“Our law enforcement officers are essential to ensuring public safety — they literally put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect us,” Mr. Cuomo said in the release. “This emergency regulation will help rebuild that confidence and restore trust between police and the communities they serve by requiring localities to develop a new plan for policing in the community based on fact-finding and meaningful community input.”
Law enforcement agencies in the north country have started the work necessary to carry out this directive. Canton village Trustee Beth Larrabee summarized the position that many local officials have taken concerning this process.
“We need it to be a collaborative process in which the advisory committee works as a team,” she said in an Aug. 20 Times article.
The issue of developing new policing strategies has unfortunately become a politically divisive one. We certainly appreciate why so many Americans believe that reforms within the law enforcement community are necessary. And we also understand the concerns this raises for police officers.
The outline for undertaking this process offers some hope of common ground. Mr. Cuomo’s mandate emphasizes for need for input from members of the community. They understand how local policing practices affect their neighbors and what measures will make things better.
By working collaboratively with local law enforcement representatives, residents have the chance to strengthen their police departments while ensuring municipal policies bring about the positive changes we’d all like to see. People should strive to become more involved in the reform movement in their respective areas.