Woodstock’s Police Reform and Reinvention Committee delivered its final report to the Town Board, acknowledging that while the town has an effective and progressive police department, there is room for improvement and changes in policies.
“I am grateful for what we do in this town, but I think we can do better in many ways,’ said co-chair and councilman Reggie Earls.
The committee was formed by an executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo requiring the roughly 500 municipalities with police departments in the state, both large and small, to have a report adopted by its governing body and forwarded to his office by April 1. It’s largely in response to the police killing of George Floyd and many other incidents throughout the country.
“Every single member came from a place of sincerity and earnestness,” Earls said, thanking police chief Clayton Keefe and the many officers who helped with the report. He especially thanked the supervisor’s office manager Ashley Slovensky, who facilitated the many videoconference meetings and helped put together the report.
“One thing we all agree on is this is work that needs to continue,” co-chair Tamara Cooper said.
“We are also very grateful that we have a starting point that we do. That we are starting from a place of being able to move forward without a whole lot of remediation, which gives us the latitude to really move into these kinds of values and re-envisioning our community from many different perspectives,”
Committee members were Tamara Cooper, Anula Courts, Reggie Earls, Vanya Gottardello, county legislator Jonathan Heppner, Clayton Keefe, Rachel Marco-Havens and Robert Nuzzo. Many volunteers also assisted in subcommittee contributions to the report.
Recommendations from the committee
Recommendations include reactivating the police department’s long-dormant website to become a portal for information and a place where people can file complaints electronically. It also recommends all officers receive Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training by 2024 to better respond to emotionally charged situations. It recommends officer wellness programs to make sure trauma experienced in the field is addressed.
A comprehensive code of conduct for officers and all department staff should require professional conduct including personal social media activity and should “ban the membership and participation in hate groups including but not limited to the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, the report recommends.
It also recommends a focus on an officer candidate’s social media presence prior to hiring “to have a full understanding of an officer’s personal affiliations which may compromise their ability to remain neutral and just on the job.”
Supervisor Bill McKenna agreed with the recommendation to appoint a Woodstock Community Police Advisory Committee to continue the work and to carry out and prioritize the recommendations. That committee will be led by Councilman Earls.
“There is always room for improvement and we need to continually look inside and make adjustments and readjustments and continue to do better,” McKenna said.
“We have a wonderful police department. We also have some serious issues within the police department that need addressing,” said Rachel Marco-Havens, who worked on the cultural change and youth recommendations in the report.
“We do have systemic issues and many of those issues point back to municipal design.”
The Town Board will review the 76-page document and vote to adopt it at its March 23 business meeting in time to send it to Albany.
A link to the full report is on the front page of the town website, woodstockny.org.