One of the recommendations that came out of last year’s New Paltz Police Reinvention Commission was to shift from a mindset of law enforcement to one of public safety. That one was discussed during the September 23 Police Commission meeting, when some of the challenges were laid bare. Chief Robert Lucchesi explained that the Town’s department is already more “guardian” than “warrior,” but listened carefully to suggestions to make that more clear. Some of the efforts to connect in non-threatening ways with residents haven’t received much interest, either.
Esi Lewis, who serves on the Reinvention Commission, encouraged officers to smile at people, and for community members to invite police participation in ordinary events. The idea is to allow citizens to encounter officers outside of when problems must be solved and arrests must be made. While commissioner David Brownstein agreed that officers should make that first effort because of the inherent power imbalance of carrying a deadly weapon, Lucchesi said that smiling in particular is something that can be stressed, but not required. The Chief believes that changes in the State Police training requirements would help.
Meanwhile, police-organized events are failing to get participation. The Citizens’ Police Academy was cancelled due to lack of interest, and the most recent monthly conversation hosted by the Chief or another officer had no attendees. There also haven’t been many applications for the new appointed Police Commission. Commissioners discussed ways to get the word out about these efforts.
Anyone who is interested in serving on the Police Commission should send a letter of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org.