How could Saratoga Springs improve police and community relations and address any racial disparities in policing?
Those are two of the many questions tackled by a task force whose recommendations are available for people to question during a Zoom meeting Wednesday. The recommendations and meeting registration are on the front page of the city’s website. Here’s the link to read the report and register for the meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 1.
After public input (provided in writing and at the online forum) is gathered, the task force will polish its report and submit it to the City Council. Municipalities across the state have until April 1 to adopt (and begin to implement) a plan to improve police department policies, practices and community relations.
I watched the task force’s most recent meeting, when recommendations prepared by its subcommittees were voted on for inclusion in the report that I, for one, intend to read. Task force members have invested a lot of time and effort.
The creation of the task force was ordered last June by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, spurred by the need to do something concrete in the wake of the May murder of George Floyd in Minnesota and the nationwide protests that followed in response to that and other racially biased and needlessly deadly law enforcement (including more than a half-dozen in New York state).
The governor’s order spells out the rationale, goals, requirements and deadline and leaves it to locales (a sensible and politically expedient assignment) to tailor a plan best suited for their community. The carrot for meeting the deadline is continued receipt of state money (and federal money funneled through the state) to local governments. However, I’m not clear how the multitude of municipalities’ plans with be measured for both content and implementation. No one benefits from a report gathering virtual dust.
Fresh pairs of thoughtful, informed eyes can improve just about any operations, including police departments. That said, many desirable policies regarding police procedures and accountability already exist; more transparency would show how diligently they are followed.
How is racial and other bias recognized and addressed? What are Saratoga Springs’ policies regarding use of force, including chokeholds; no-knock warrants; and penalties for misconduct? How are those terms even defined? What alternatives exist during and after calls that involve someone who appears mentally ill and dangerous? Those are among the questions that I’ll have in mind as I review the recommendations and the rationales for them.