Schoharie County is promising to be transparent, public, and exhaustive as it reviews its law enforcement policies for a report due on the Governor’s desk by April 1.
And with LEAD, an effort that matches low-level offenders with needed services instead of arrest, as well as a grant-funded look at its policies in place even before Governor Andrew Cuomo’s June executive order, it already has a head-start.
That’s what supervisors’ chair Bill Federice told members of the Law Enforcement Committee as they begin their deep dive into the mandate.
“The public is going to be involved,” Mr. Federice said. “Nothing will be done behind closed doors. At every step…folks will be able to offer input.
“There’s a lot of work involved if we’re going to do this correctly—and we’re going to do it correctly. It’s going to be a very, very exhaustive process. This is going to be a living thing.”
And the public is already listening; four local Black Lives Matter activists were in the audience of Tuesday’s kick-off meeting as a way to follow the process and offer that input.
Saturday the four joined other activists and SUNY Cobleskill students in an ongoing BLM rally in Cobleskill’s Centre Park.
Following the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 and the protests that have followed, Governor Cuomo has ordered all of the state’s law enforcement agencies to develop a plan for addressing things like the use of force, bias, and crime prevention “tailored to the specific needs of the community…based on trust, fairness, accountability, and disparity…to reduce any racial disparities in policing.”
Richard Lape of Richmondville, chairman of the Law Enforcement committee, said the review will likely be done through subcommittees.
Meetings will be live-streamed on Facebook with the next review Tuesday, September 15, 5pm at the new Public Safety Facility in Howes Cave.
Masks and social distancing are required.
“This is going to be a lot of work and we have to keep our eye on the ball,” Mr. Federice said. “April 1 will be here before we know it.”
Long before the Governor’s Executive Order, Sheriff Ron Stevens said, “we were taking the right steps,” beginning with Town Hall meetings on the heroin epidemic that morphed into LEAD—Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion—an effort it joined in January 2019, becoming the first Sheriff’s Office in New York State to do so.
“This program is a model for what Governor Cuomo is talking about in 203,” he said. (See related story in this week’s Times-Journal.
Additionally, again before Executive Order 203, the county was reviewing its law enforcement policies with a NYMIR grant that let it hire Texas-based Lexipol.
Again, Sheriff Stevens said, that review will satisfy many of the 203 requirements with among the policies Lexipol is looking at: attire, deadly physical force, and pursuit.
“For a very small Sheriff’s organization, we are very progressive,” he said. “I personally think we’re on the right track.”
That’s in part, he said, because his officers are “tremendously talented people…who came from the community and live in the community.
“I don’t watch the news at night because I can’t stand the news. We don’t live in those communities.”