Poughkeepsie, NY … Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and Sheriff Adrian “Butch” Anderson announced today the release of a comprehensive report by the County’s Police Reform and Modernization Collaborative (the Collaborative) outlining a wide range of law enforcement reforms to eliminate racial inequities and address community needs. The report will serve as a guide as local municipalities create reform plans required by New York State. The report, which follows a series of public meetings, research and community input, can be found online at the Collaborative’s webpage: dutchessny.gov/policereform
“This was a highly constructive process that produced great areas of consensus,” said County Executive Molinaro. “People from diverse backgrounds came together and found a substantial amount of common ground. The Collaborative has created a strong menu of options for municipalities and police departments to consider as they enact their own reforms. We are fortunate to have dedicated police officers throughout our community, who sacrificed and serve us every day. Their commitment to our residents and this process cannot go unnoticed…
The Collaborative’s report follows Governor Andrew Cuomo’s and President Donald Trump’s executive orders for local police review and enhanced training and policy. Local governments with police agencies must enact plans to reform and modernize police procedures, strategies and tactics by April 1, 2021 or risk losing State funding.
County Executive Molinaro and Sheriff Anderson established the Collaborative with a twofold purpose: 1. to develop a plan to help guide local municipalities with police agencies in these efforts; and 2. to create a framework for the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office to complete their own reform plan.
The report covers a wide range of issues, from law enforcement accountability and transparency, to modern policing strategies and diversion programs. The report cites best practices and provides guidance for police training, building community trust, developing diversity within the police ranks, and creating citizen advisory boards or other oversight committees, among many other topics.
Among the potential initiatives outlined in the report is the recommendation for the use of body cameras by law enforcement agencies. In 2021, the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office will join the City of Poughkeepsie in requiring the use of body cameras, and the County is encouraging their use throughout all law enforcement agencies in the county.
“We are grateful to be part of this process and are committed to continually evaluating ways to improve public safety and our connections to the community,” said Sheriff Anderson. “The Dutchess County Police Reform and Modernization Collaborative has provided the community with keen insights, and we look forward to making use of this comprehensive report as we respond to the Governor’s executive order.”
To help guide the process, two workgroups were established as part of the Collaborative – the Community Stakeholder Workgroup, composed of members of the community and County Government, and the Municipal Leaders & Police Chiefs Workgroup, composed of elected officials from municipalities with police agencies and the leaders of those agencies. Both of these groups have been meeting over the last several months, and the Collaborative also held seven public forums and created an online comment forum to gain input from residents on their ideas for reform.
Collaborative Chair Ken Roman, who serves as the County’s Deputy Commissioner of Emergency Response and has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience with the Town of Poughkeepsie Police Department, said, “The Collaborative did the hard work and has developed a thoughtful and thorough list of realistic solutions. While some of these reforms will require financial investments, many are low or no cost, which should be a particular benefit to our smaller municipalities.”
Over the years, Dutchess County has invested heavily in diversion programs and mental health services, with many nationally recognized best practices already in place. The County continues to adopt recognized reforms, with the recently approved 2021 County budget including several police reforms and other improvements, with funds for localities to undergo police training, an expansion of the Mobile Crisis Intervention Team and the addition of community partner organizations to run the Stabilization Center’s day-to-day operations. County Executive Molinaro noted these investments are a key component to carrying out reforms to improve public safety and mental health, and make the community stronger.
The report has been distributed to Collaborative members for their review as they begin to put their own local reform plans in place. Local officials can then solicit further public feedback for their specific municipalities. “The County recognizes that not all the reforms put forwarded in the Collaborative’s plan will fit every community’s needs, and some of the practices may already be implemented in those communities,” said County Executive Molinaro. “The County’s goal is to provide options that are appropriate and to help the municipalities on their path to enacting reforms and to comply with the state guidance. We are fortunate to have dedicated police officers throughout our community, who sacrificed and serve us every day. Their commitment to our residents and this process cannot go unnoticed. We are thankful to them and to all who have participated in this process. Together, we have identified necessary reforms and are building stronger relationships between the community and law enforcement,” concluded the County Executive.