Procedural Justice Committee Releases Recommendations Regarding Governor’s Executive Order on Police Reforms

The City of Poughkeepsie Procedural Justice Committee appreciates the opportunity to have a role in the city’s response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 203 regarding police reforms.

The Procedural Justice Committee met with the Mayor, Police Chief and Captain Wilson on Oct. 6, 2020, to discuss what is needed from the committee to assist with the police reform plan. The committee, which consists of community stakeholders and police officers, was asked to gather recommendations, suggestions and ideas from the community and discuss among the committee members what should be included in the police reform plan that would be drafted by the Police Department.

The committee hosted a Community Forum on Police Reform on Oct. 27, 2020 and a youth focus group on Dec. 1 (Originally scheduled for November 17 but cancelled due to COVID issues). The youth focus group consist of seven young people between the ages of 14-18 who had some type of interactions with the police.

Based on discussions within the Procedural Justice Committee meetings, community forums, comments sent to the committee, the recommendations to be considered when drafting the police reform plan are as follows:

Create Civilian Oversight: There needs to be an independent board to investigate or review complaints. Complainants should be given a place to voice concerns outside of the law enforcement agency, and the community should be reassured that discipline is being imposed when appropriate. The transparency of the disciplinary process also must be improved.

City officials should continue to work with City Administration and PBA collaboratively on creating such a board that will work for everyone, but operates independently from the police department. A series of questions will need to be addressed, which consist of the following: Should the board review the findings of the Police Department or conduct its own investigation? Other issues that need addressing include what power should the board have to interview officers or other witnesses, to compel officers or other witnesses to be interviewed, and to review documents, recordings, interviews conducted by the police department or other evidence? What authority would it have over discipline and can it formally refer cases to the Attorney General or District Attorney or Trial Commission (which is referred to in the City Charter)?

The Dutchess County’s Police Reform & Modernization Collaborative cites several approaches to consider:

  • The New York City board is composed of 13 members: Five appointed by the Mayor, five appointed by the City Council, and three appointed by the Police Commissioner. The board has power to investigate complaints, including subpoena power, and can recommend discipline. However, the Police Commissioner has final authority over the imposition of discipline.
  • The Chicago board is composed of nine members appointed by the Mayor with the consent of the City Council. The board has investigative and subpoena power, and power to impose disciplinary measures.
  • The Baltimore board is composed of nine voting members nominated by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council, along with five non-voting members from community stakeholders. The board does not have power to investigate or impose discipline. It may simply review complaints.

Other websites were suggested by the committee to review in regards to creating an oversight board:

Bolster Additional Mental Health Partnerships: The City of Poughkeepsie and Mental Health America of Dutchess County have undertaken a pilot program under which a behavioral health professional is embedded in the department to provide case management services to those in need. We understand the initial work has proven promising, and we believe this partnership should be expanded. A behavioral health professional who is trained to handle youth mental health situations should be considered to be part of the team.

Improve the Complaint Form: These forms are used when the public has questions about police procedures and policies. The city has now made the form available online at http://cityofpoughkeepsie.com/police-department, but the city should make the form more understandable and easier to use, including an introduction at the beginning of the form that explains how the form and process work. Submitted forms are to be reviewed by a member of the command staff and assigned to the appropriate supervisor for action. The public needs more information about the outcome of these cases and the rationale for the decision. Until a Civilian Oversight board is created, a mediation between the officer and complainant should be considered as part of the complaint process.

Create More Diversity in Ranks: Police academy applicants are required to have a minimum of 60 college credits. We believe Dutchess County is making the proper move by changing the college credit requirement, giving new officers more time to achieve those 60 credits within five years and complete crisis intervention training within two years. The city Police Department needs more people of color in the ranks and also more bilingual officers. This should be a priority as much as possible during recruitment efforts. We recommend during the recruitment efforts the police department to work closely with organizations that have a close connection to diverse populations. Also, as part of the career law enforcement course held for youths every year, a mentorship component should be considered to help encourage more youths in the area to consider becoming police officers in the city. 

Also, to encourage the police officers to be more invested in the community they serve, it is recommended the officers live in the City of Poughkeepsie or no further than 5-10 miles.  Currently, police officers can live as far as 20 miles outside of the city. What is also recommended is creating a “City Preferred List,” in which officers who live in the City of Poughkeepsie would be considered first to be hired off the Civil Service list. The preferred list should be exhausted first and then move on to the rest of the County list. Also, the police department should carefully evaluate their hiring process to ensure the process does not limit hiring a diverse police workforce.

Increase Community Policing: The Police Department has designated two officers to community policing addressing quality-of-life issues around the Main Street corridor. Community policing keeps officers patrolling the same area in order to form a stronger bond with the citizens living and working there. We believe the department should add such patrols to other neighborhoods throughout the city, especially in neighborhoods experiencing high levels of crime where collaboration and trust is needed between police officers and residents to ensure safety.

Keep School Resource Officer: While some may question why there should be a police presence in school, we believe it builds relationships and can help stem violence in and around the schools. The SRO Program has been known to create a safer school environment and bridge the communication and trust gap between youth and law enforcement, establishing a channel of communication that can make all the difference in school and later in life for youth.  Recommend more collaborative programs between the schools and police that involve middle school students and continue programs already established on the elementary school levels such as Cocoa with the Cops program. Young children experiencing more positive interactions with police officers can create better trusting relationships as the children progress toward adulthood.

Safe Passage: The Police Department must continue to work with the School District and community members to come out with better plans to deal with safe passage of students to and from schools. Volunteers should be posted in “hot spots” throughout the neighborhood as kids are leaving school to deter and report potential violence. We recommend reinstating the Civilian Patrol program and provide the necessary training so these civilian officers can assist with traffic control, safe passage, work with neighborhood watch groups, etc.

Continue Training Efforts: The Police Department has completed Procedural Justice Training, which focuses on the way police interact with the public. It also has undertaken Implicit Bias Training, which addresses the automatic association people now make between groups of people and stereotypes about those groups. The department should continue such training efforts, including working with specific religious communities, the LGBTQI community, or those with limited English language skills. It’s imperative for the department to be able to measure the results of the training as well. We recommend officers take a Procedural Justice refresher course/workshops each year to reinforce the objective that the principles of Procedural Justice should be the core of policing.

Body Cameras: Patrol Officers are required to wear body cameras. We recommend that ALL police officers wear body cameras while working in the field and be phased in as funds become available. To help improve trust and transparency, it is recommended that the footage from the body cameras is not withheld from the community during times the community is requesting transparency and accountability in a particular incident. Policies and procedures should be formulated to help show the community that the City of Poughkeepsie police does not stand for “covering up the truth or improper conduct” but stand for justice, transparency and accountability.

Use of Force: Current policy states periodic training will be received. Recommend yearly use of force training. In policy #301, it states a Use of Force Review Board is convened when the use of force by a member results in very serious injury or death to another person. This board will investigate and review the facts of the circumstances surrounding the incident. We noticed that the members who make up this board is left blank. We recommend that the members who are responsible to serve on this board are listed, and the policies of this board to investigate the use of force are clear and transparent.

Finalizing the police reform plan is still a work in process. The Procedural Justice Committee will receive the City of Poughkeepsie Police’s draft reform plan to review and then forward to the City Common Council to review and set a public hearing to get feedback on the draft reform plan. The Common Council will either accept the draft report or send additional recommendations or changes to the report before approving as a final document to be sent to New York State Governor’s office. Deadline for submission is April 1, 2021.

Common Council Member Yvonne Flowers and Bishop Debra Gause, co-chairs of the City of Poughkeepsie Procedural Justice Committee.

Special thanks to the following committee members for their participation in gathering information from the community to be considered in the reform plan:

  • Jason Baker
  • Michael Barbagallo
  • Stacey Bottoms
  • Satara Brown
  • Linwood Burke 
  • Gregory Charter
  • Natasha Cherry
  • Paul Featherson
  • Yvonne Flowers
  • Debra Gause
  • Chris Libolt
  • Debra Long
  • Carmen McGill
  • Tom O’Neill
  • John Penney
  • Marina Tarkos
  • L’quette Taylor
  • Erick Vasquez
  • Matthew Weishaupt
  • Devon Zanin
  • Karen Zirbel

City Holds Public Forum on Police Reform Initiative

City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison and the co-chairs of Poughkeepsie Procedural Justice Committee hosted a public meeting to get feedback to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order pertaining to policing and enhanced training and policies. The virtual meeting took place Tuesday night. The public was given up to three minutes each to share their experiences and make suggestions. 

Police Reform & Modernization Collaborative Public Meeting – October 27, 2020

Earlier this month, Mayor Rolison named Common Council member Yvonne Flowers and Bishop Debra Gause co-chairs of the Procedural Justice Committee and asked the committee to review the executive order, to obtain public input and to make recommendations to the mayor and Common Council. City of Police Chief Tom Pape was among those listening to the participants in the forum, in addition to members of the Procedural Justice Committee.

In mid-June, Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order No. 203 — the “New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative” — requiring local police agencies to develop a plan and address policies, procedures, practices and deployment, including but not limited to the use of force. Governments with police agencies must adopt a plan by April 1, 2021, to be eligible for future state funding.

Mayor, Procedural Justice Committee Co-Chairs to Facilitate Public Meeting on Police Reforms

City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison and the co-chairs of Poughkeepsie Procedural Justice Committee will host a public meeting to get feedback to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order pertaining to policing and enhanced training and policies.

The virtual meeting will take place from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27. People can register to speak and/or listen at http://bit.ly/pokpolicereform. The public will have up to three minutes each to share their experiences and make suggestions. Those who would like to participate in the virtual forums must register prior to the event’s start time.

Earlier this month, Mayor Rolison named Common Council member Yvonne Flowers and Bishop Debra Gause co-chairs of the Procedural Justice Committee and asked the committee to review the executive order, to obtain public input and to make recommendations to the mayor and Common Council. City of Police Chief Tom Pape will be among those listening to the participants in the forum, in addition to members of the Procedural Justice Committee.

“We are greatly looking forward to this forum,” said Mayor Rob Rolison. “The Procedural Justice Committee is in a great position to listen to the public’s concerns and views about policing and help the city as we formulate our response to the governor.”

Last year, the city formed the Procedural Committee — which includes police officers, other city officials and members of the public — to address community concerns related to police issues.

In mid-June, Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order No. 203 — the “New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative” — requiring local police agencies to develop a plan and address policies, procedures, practices and deployment, including but not limited to the use of force. Governments with police agencies must adopt a plan by April 1, 2021, to be eligible for future state funding.

To keep the public better informed about these matters, the city has created a webpage that provides pertinent information about the governor’s executive order and offers other ways for the public to give feedback, https://cityofpoughkeepsie.com/policecollaborativeplan/

Mayor Rolison Names Council Member Flowers, Bishop Gause as Co-Chairs of Procedural Justice Committee

City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison announced today that Common Council member Yvonne Flowers and Bishop Debra Gause will co-chair the City’s Procedural Justice Committee, which is reviewing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 203 pertaining to policing and enhanced training and policies.

The city also has created a webpage to keep the public informed of the committee’s progress, to provide pertinent information about the governor’s executive order, and to offer ways for the public to give feedback, https://cityofpoughkeepsie.com/policecollaborativeplan/

Last year, the city formed the Committee — which includes police officers, other city officials and members of the public — to address community concerns related to police issues. In August, the Mayor tasked the committee with developing plans to address the governor’s executive order and to make recommendations for the Mayor and Common Council to consider and act upon.

“We have a truly vibrant committee,” said Mayor Rolison. “It’s an excellent and diverse mix of community leaders, police officials and others who are willing to talk through any concerns and improve communication between the police and the public.”

In mid-June, Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order No. 203 — the “New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative” — requiring local police agencies to develop a plan and address policies, procedures, practices and deployment, including but not limited to the use of force. Governments with police agencies must adopt a plan by April 1, 2021, to be eligible for future state funding.

Over the years, the city Police Department has undertaken an array of training, including in procedural justice, which focuses on the way police interact with the public. The training, in part, emphasizes that treating people with dignity and respect and giving citizens a voice during encounters promotes community trust. City Police also have undertaken implicit bias training, which addresses the automatic association people tend to make between groups of people and stereotypes about those groups.

The Mayor said he has the utmost confidence in Councilwoman Flowers and Bishop Gause to guide the Procedure Justice Committee through this process, pointing to their strong history of community ties and service in Poughkeepsie. Flowers is serving her second consecutive term of the Common Council, and Bishop Gause is the Senior Pastor of Holy Light Pentecostal Church.

 “I have had the pleasure of serving on the Procedural Justice committee for almost a year and enjoy working with the police officers and community stakeholders on the committee as we strive to continue to improve community and police relations in the City of Poughkeepsie,” Council member Flowers said. “I am looking forward to working with the committee in reviewing the Governor’s Executive Order on police reform and discussing how we can implement additional policies and procedures within our police department that will continue to promote community trust, transparency and accountability.”

“I think it is important for us to come together, sitting at an honest table and speaking truth to each other. We have to look at what is, we have to look at what was, we have to look at both of those to decide where we want to go,” said Bishop Gause. “People are going to have to talk freely, but also listen to each other to get to the bottom of things before we decide what changes may need to be made.”

City of Poughkeepsie Police Form Partnership With Mental Health of America of Dutchess County

The City of Poughkeepsie and Mental Health America of Dutchess County announced a pilot program today under which a behavioral health professional will partner with a police officer during shifts in order to broaden response services.

City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison and Andrew O’Grady, chief executive officer of Mental Health America, said this partnership will bring a significant benefit to the community.

“We recognize that our police officers respond to more than just reports of criminal activity,” said Mayor Rolison. “They are first responders who have to answer all sorts of calls, and many of them involve mental-health issues.”

The Mayor praised City Administrator Marc Nelson for bringing the idea forward.

 “This partnership with Mental Health America of Dutchess County will improve outcomes and provide a gateway to non-police services and help where it is needed, in real time,” said Nelson.  “The program will utilize non-personally identifiable data to actually measure community benefit. The whole idea is to address root problems in order to avoid a cycle of failure that often occurs when people are arrested and incarcerated.”

“We are excited to take this bold step with the City of Poughkeepsie,” said O’Grady. “We believe such alliances are going to grow, as communities look for more comprehensive approaches to how police officers handle cases involving mental illness and drug addiction.”

This partnership augments another one the city created with Dutchess County. Launched in October 2017, the Behavioral Evaluation & Assistance Team (BEAT) is a joint venture between City Police and the Dutchess County’s Department of Behavioral & Community Health. As a result, the city has significantly increased the number of personal interactions with individuals and have rendered more assistance.

“Our department continues to embrace ways to serve the public, to provide safety but also to provide assistance for those who need it,” said Police Chief Tom Pape.

An Intensive Case Manager from Mental Health America will work under the Police Department’s Juvenile Division and will work closely with the BEAT team as well as the Police Department’s Juvenile Division Youth Worker to meet the needs of children and their parents who may be experiencing mental-health-related illnesses. MHA’s social worker also will be able to provide or offer referrals for follow-up services.

Mayor Rolison said he plans to use existing police funds to launch the program at the end of this month and will include more monies for it in his 2021 budget proposal to the Common Council.

City’s Procedural Justice Committee Will Review Governor’s Executive Order on Policing

City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison today announced that the city’s Procedural Justice Committee — which includes police officers, other city officials and members of the public – will be reviewing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order pertaining to policing and enhanced training and policies and will make recommendations for the Mayor and Common Council to consider and act upon.

In mid-June, Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order No. 203 — the “New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative” — requiring local police agencies to develop a plan and address policies, procedures, practices and deployment, including but not limited to the use of force.

Governments with police agencies must adopt a plan by April 1, 2021, to be eligible for future state funding.

“Fortunately,” Mayor Rolison said, “I know the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department is considerably ahead on these reform efforts and with input from others, will continue to enact measures that are in the public’s best interest.”

Last year, the City established the Procedural Justice Committee to address community concerns related to police issues. The Police Department also has completed procedural justice training, which focuses on the way police interact with the public. The training, in part, emphasizes that treating people with dignity and respect and giving citizens a voice during encounters promotes community trust. City Police also have undertaken implicit bias training, which addresses the automatic association people tend to make between groups of people and stereotypes about those groups.

 “The Department has put considerable time and effort into these training initiatives,” said Chief Police Tom Pape. The chief added that as other police departments in the Hudson Valley address the governor’s executive order, the Poughkeepsie Police Department will lend instructors to the county effort to get Dutchess County police officers trained in procedural justice and implicit bias.

The City also has made a significant investment in body cameras for police officers, allocating $510,120 to purchase the cameras and supportive equipment, such as docking stations. The cameras are providing more transparency about how officers operate in the field — and about the situations to which they respond, Chief Pape said.

The Police Department also has enhanced its complaint process by improving accessibility and by developing a new easy-to-use online reporting tool. Forms can be used to file civilian complaints and for commendations for the actions of officers. Submitted forms will be reviewed by a member of the command staff and assigned to the appropriate supervisor for action. The forms are available here.

“We welcome the Governor’s executive order, recognizing that a collaborative approach is necessary to ensure there is trust between the police and the communities they serve,” said Mayor Rolison. “Our police officers have shown they are up to the task.”