New Paltz’s Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative will have a report completed in time for it to be reviewed by members of the public and then ratified, town council members believe. Dan Torres, who serves as liaison between the two groups, shared that view at the February 4 joint town council and village board meeting in response to concerns raised by attorney Michael Sussman. The civil rights attorney has asked Governor Cuomo to push back the deadline and provide more oversight during the process in a letter that touched upon the varied ways leaders throughout the Hudson Valley are attempting to complete the requirements laid out in executive order 203.
According to Esi Lewis, spokesperson for the collaborative, the meetings to various stakeholder groups are nearly complete and the drafting of the report and recommendations has begun. Lewis said that collaborative members “are starting to get a real feel for what our community is looking for” in terms of the role police play in New Paltz. That’s in spite of the fact that some residents find the process to be too opaque for members of the public to know who’s been consulted, and what’s been shared at those meetings. Lewis said that a next step would be to meet with town and village board members “in small groups;” open meeting law would not require that these discussions be conducted in public if there is not a majority of either of those elected boards present at one time.
Torres also repeated a previous characterization of remarks Cuomo made, which praised the way that this process is unfolding at the county level in Ulster, by saying that in New Paltz, “We have gone above and beyond that.” The governor’s executive order that calls for a review of police practices in the context of systemic racism only targeted local law enforcement and did not include a similar review of state, DEC or university police.