With statistics showing no use of force, no complaints against its Police Department, and no racial disparities in its policing, the Village of Schoharie will focus on the positives in its state-mandated law enforcement review.
Members of the village’s Citizens Advisory Board were on hand last Tuesday to begin the required review, due April 1.
The village expects to hold a public hearing on steps it’s already taken on things like use of force, bias training, and body cameras at its March 9 meeting.
But with just five part-time officers and a part-time Officer in Charge, Brian Rossi, the Schoharie PD is unique, said Mayor Larry Caza.
Most of the calls officers answer are quality of life issues, he said, something statistics bear out:
According to a report from Officer Rossi, in 2020 there were no complaints of officers using force—in fact there were no complaints at all against officers—and no reports of racial disparities, arrests, or detainments—all things Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 203 is requiring Police Departments to track.
In 2020, Officer Rossi said, the Village PD had 155 calls and issued 89 traffic tickets.
Of the 155 calls, 34 were criminal complaints resulting in three arrests.
There were also two domestic calls and 11 calls for mental health issues.
The mental health calls, Officer Rossi told Mayor Caza and trustees, point to the importance of continued training there.
Other issues being looked at, including how to best deescalate situations, “we’ve been doing our whole careers,” he said. “We just didn’t have a name for it. None of us wants to go out and get hurt making an arrest. It doesn’t make sense and there are better ways.”
Members of Schoharie’s Citizens Advisory Board include Pastor Colleen Quirion, Jennie Flagler, Suzanne Graulich from the county’s Assigned Counsel program; OIC Rossi, and Officer Jason Temple.
They’ll be meeting to go over the policies already established through the village’s contract with Lexipol and decide what else needs to be addressed or needed.
“I’d like to think accountability is our specialty,” Mayor Caza said, with the thing residents look for most traffic enforcement.
“Christmas Day, this village was almost flooded again,” he said.
With Bridge Street and Route 30 closed, “We came very close to having to evacuate people. Our fire department, our Police Department, they’re just there.”
Mayor Caza, several trustees, and members of the PD, including Officers Rossi and Temple, took part in procedural justice and implicit training offered through the Sheriff’s Office in December.
As additional training becomes available, Mayor Caza said, they’ll also take advantage of it.
“This isn’t the end of the process,” he said. “It’s the beginning.”
Pastor Quirion called the 600 pages of policies put together by Lexipol comprehensive and because they’re new, don’t need to be changed.
“A great deal of the work has been done,” she said.
Like Mayor Caza, she stressed the importance of ongoing training and also to students “who have been bombarded by images of George Floyd.”
The village needs to consider ways to show kids who their local officers really are, maybe through visits to the church-sponsored Summer Day Camp, Pastor Quirion suggested.
Already, Officer Rossi said, when officers spot kids riding bikes and wearing helmets, they stop them—with smile and a card for a free ice cream.