Rosendale Police Reform Committee announces membership - BlueStone Press
November 30, 2020

Rosendale Police Reform Committee announces membership

Committee seeks public input

Posted

Pursuant to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 203, the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative, Rosendale’s Town Board established the volunteer Rosendale Community Police Reform Committee at their regular August meeting. They’ve been meeting every week, and have rolled out an online survey in which residents are asked to anonymously share their perceptions of the local PD.

Cuomo’s order came in the wake of the widespread protests sparked by the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd in police custody, protests which have continued and flared up on occasion in response to other episodes. Rosendale held a well-attended Black Lives Matter rally and march in June, at which Police Chief Scott Schaffrick was booed by a disappointed crowd after stating that he did not believe there was systemic racism in policing. He has since apologized, saying he misunderstood the word “systemic” to mean “all individual officers” rather than a description of structural issues.

The committee includes Rosendale residents of a variety of backgrounds as well as representatives from the Town Board, the police department, and the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office. Members are Josh Baron (secretary), Jennifer Bliss (chair), Marc Cassidy, Ulster County District Attorney David Clegg, and the assistant district attorney assigned to Rosendale, Dana Blackmon, Ted Dixon (vice chair), Richard Wright, Rosendale Town Councilman Matt Igoe, Terry Johnson, Jessieca McNabb, Rosendale Chief of Police Scott Schaffrick and Rosendale Town Councilwoman Carrie Wykoff. Wykoff is serving as the Town Council liaison to the committee, and Councilman Igoe serves as the Police Commission liaison.

Eleven residents applied to participate, and members were chosen based on those applications and on guidance issued by the state in its Police Reform Workbook, available online by following a link from the governor’s press release on the topic at governor.ny.gov. The handbook includes sections on “smart and effective policing,” “community-oriented leadership, culture and accountability” and “recruiting and supporting excellent personnel,” along with guidance on process, and is 139 pages long.

The group will be reviewing current police department deployments, strategies, policies, procedures and practices as well as addressing any racial bias and disproportionate policing of communities of color. To that end, the committee has been meeting weekly to begin organizing and gathering necessary information, and is working to identify improvement opportunities. They'll hold public sessions over the next three months to hear the community’s concerns regarding trust, fairness and legitimacy in local policing and will develop a plan that reflects community needs.

“We are a highly motivated group from a variety of backgrounds, and each of us is deeply invested in identifying what has worked and is working for our community, and what can be improved upon,” says chairwoman Jennifer Bliss. “We are sensitive to the specific needs of our town, and strive to propose policies that both make the community feel safe and heard, and allow the police to effectively, safely, and without bias, carry out their duties.”

To begin the state-mandated public input process, an online survey for residents has been created at https://tinyurl.com/RosendalePoliceReform, offering online and print-and-mail options. Any Rosendale resident wishing to provide thoughts and insight is also invited to email comments to RosendalePoliceReformComments@gmail.com or call 845-658-0245 to leave a confidential message. The committee will not be responding to each individual email or voice message, but it will be reviewing each one and incorporating public input throughout the process.

“The goal of the survey, which is just one small way in which we are gathering information, is to get a general overview of the community's feelings toward and interactions with the Rosendale Police Department and to note any overarching trends,” says Bliss. The anonymous survey asks whether respondents are Rosendale residents, and Bliss says the committee will be reviewing results in real time, keeping a sharp eye out for “potential abuse or unusual or incongruous trends” that would indicate out-of-towners with axes to grind trying to stack the results. So far, Bliss says, responses have been looking genuine.

“We feel very strongly about obtaining as much community input as possible, and in light of COVID-19, holding frequent in-person open town halls are a challenge, and not everyone can make a scheduled Zoom meeting,” she says. “So in addition to opportunities for virtual or in-person public sessions, we thought a brief survey soliciting feedback and alerting residents to our committee's email address and phone number would help us reach as many residents as possible.”

By Jan. 1, 2021, as directed by Cuomo, the committee will set forth a list of proposed reforms and policies. After soliciting and incorporating further public comments, they will prepare a final proposal to be voted on by the Town Board in March.

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