City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison and Police Chief Tom Pape released the city’s preliminary response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 203 on police reforms today for further public comment.
The city also has set a public meeting for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10, to obtain more feedback before the report is forwarded to the Common Council for consideration. To register for that meeting, visit bit.ly/pokpolicecollaborativemeeting.
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 to be eligible for future state funding.
Mayor Rolison asked the city’s Procedural Justice Committee to first review the governor’s order, to gain public input and to make recommendations for the Mayor and Common Council to consider and act upon. The Procedural Justice Committee was formed in 2019, and Common Council member Yvonne Flowers and Bishop Debra Gause have been serving as co-chairs since October 2020. The Committee, which includes police officers, other city officials and members of the public, made their recommendations in December. The Committee’s suggestions touched on a host of topics, including creating a civilian oversight board, bolstering additional mental health partnerships, improving the police department’s complaint form, creating more diversity in the ranks, increasing community policing and other matters.
The city also created a webpage to keep the public informed about the progress, to provide pertinent information about the governor’s executive order and to offer ways for the public to give feedback.
“The Procedural Justice Committee’s efforts were instrumental in compiling this report,” said Mayor Rolison. “They worked diligently to prepare recommendations for us to consider and implement, and the city owes them a debt of gratitude.”
Mayor Rolison said the city’s plans not only meets but exceeds the tenets contained in the Executive Order. Specifically, he cited the department’s training in progressive policing strategies and techniques. 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. 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.
Chief Pape said he was pleased the city was asked to enter into an intermunicipal agreement with Dutchess County to have the city’s Police Department conduct Procedural Justice and Implicit Bias training to aid other municipalities in answering the governor’s executive order.
“I’m extremely proud our department is leading the way on reforms,” Pape said. “I’m grateful our officers have embraced these new techniques and training concepts and are willing to put them into appropriate use for the benefit of the community.”
Pape said the department will continue to get updated training and intends to bolster other initiatives, such as its recent collaboration with Mental Health America of Dutchess County (MHA) to address mental health crises and provide accessibility to professional services and programs.
The city also is committed to increasing diversity in the police ranks, and to that end will partner with Dutchess Community College and the Poughkeepsie City School District to design a “Pathway to Policing” Program. The pathway will begin in high school when students are invited to participate in the Careers in Law Enforcement Program offered by the city. Students who successfully complete the Careers in Law Enforcement Program will then be given the option of taking college coursework for credit toward a criminal justice degree at Dutchess Community College concurrently with their senior year of high school. When the students are near degree completion at DCC, they will be offered an opportunity to take a free civil service test preparation course by the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department.
The city administration and Police Department also have expressed their willingness to work with the Common Council, appropriate stakeholders and the public to devise a Civilian Review Board to address civilian complaints against city Police Officers.
Mayor Rolison and Chief Pape are in favor of a review board but believe the city must carefully weigh all the options, including ensuring such board has qualified members who receive adequate training to handle the task. They said discussions regarding the makeup of a review board and its authority should continue among the administration, police union, Common Council, stakeholders and the community at large.
“This comprehensive police collaborative report not only highlights the significant leadership roles the Police Department and city are taking, it points to the positive direction we are heading. We are looking forward to gaining more public feedback before forwarding our report to the Common Council.”