While the Woodstock Town Board voted unanimously to send Woodstock’s Police Reform and Reinvention Committee report to Albany, it’s not going to just collect dust on an office shelf.
“I will be appointing, in consultation with the board, a committee of five to review the recommendations and prioritize. We’ll see which ones make the most sense and which ones fit, and also to look at funding and how we’re going to pay for all of this,” Supervisor Bill McKenna said at the March 23 Town Board meeting.
“This is a start. This is not ‘we’re done.’ Now, the real work begins.”
Some recommendations can be implemented rather quickly, like the police department gaining state accreditation, is a “no-brainer,” McKenna said.
“I don’t even think we need to wait for the committee to come back. If you guys are in agreement, we should just instruct the chief to get that ball rolling and at least get an understanding of what we need to do to achieve that.”
The long-defunct website will be revamped and put back online fairly quickly, said committee chair and councilman Reggie Earls.
“I’ll be working with Ashley (supervisor’s office manager Ashley Slovensky) and the chief on the website, so there’s some things that can just happen more quickly, but there are things that are going to take more research and dialogue with the board also,” Earls said.
“I would encourage and hope the Town Board has read this document and you read it and re-read it and make recommendations as we go, even prior to a task force coming back with their own recommendations,” McKenna said.
Among the many recommendations in the 75-page report are availability of police records on the police department website and an online complaint form, as well as biographies of each officer so the community can get to know them.
It calls for a thorough vetting of an officer candidate’s social media posts during the hiring process and a periodic review to detect membership in groups that may become problematic.
It recommends all officers receive Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training by 2024 and a policy to use CIT-trained officers to respond to emotionally charged situations. Committee members allowed several years for the training because of budgetary considerations and the need for shift coverage while officers were in training.
In addition to CIT certification, the report also recommended racial bias and procedural justice training for all officers.
The Police Reform and Reinvention Committee was formed by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order requiring the roughly 500 police departments statewide to review and reform their policies after the police killing of George Floyd and other incidents that gained national attention.
The entire report is available on the town’s website, woodstockny.org.