The Town of Warwick has prepared a draft report in response to a state mandate for “reinvention” of all local police departments.
Communities that don’t complete such reform plans by April 1 could lose state aid. In addition, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2021-22 budget proposal provides for the appointment of monitors by the Attorney General, at localities’ expense, to ensure that the reviews are conducted “community voices are heard.”
Warwick’s report was prepared by Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton and Police Chief Thomas McGovern with input from meetings in October and November of a committee of local citizens and public officials and correspondence on the subject.
’Black Lives Matter’
According to the draft report, the committee “recognizes and acknowledges that Black Lives Matter. With a history in NYS of incidents that resulted in the death of unarmed civilians including those of Anthony Baez, Amadou Diallo, Ousmane Zango, Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham, Patrick Dorismond, Akai Gurley and Eric Garner, it clearly is imperative to ensure our community that the men and women of the Warwick Police Department are well trained and perform their duties in a manner that treats everyone fairly and with respect as human beings. It is with this spirit that panel sessions were held.”
Among the report’s recommendations are:
Increased yearly training for all officers and dispatcher in implicit bias, de-escalation of tense situations, procedural justice, community relations and crisis intervention;
Completion of a review and update of police procedures and obtaining state accreditation for the police department, a move supporters say will enhance professionalism and community trust; and
The hiring of a Spanish language interpreter and the inclusion on the department’s website of complaint forms in English and Spanish.
The town will hold a Zoom public hearing at on Tuesday, March 9, at 7 p.m.
Once the hearing is done the Town Board will make any modifications it deems necessary and adopt the final version for the state’s perusal.
Town’s approach criticized
A full-page advertisement in the Feb. 12 Warwick Advertiser with 54 signatures charged that the town’s process for meeting the state reinvention requirement was “entirely inadequate to the goals of identifying and reforming racially biased police policies and practices with community involvement.” It said that important stakeholders had been left out of discussions that “barely scratched the surface” of a complex subject and demanded that additional meetings be held.
Sweeton responded in an interview that the town had “complied with the spirit” of the governor’s order.
He added that there have not been any bias incidents or use of force complaints lodged against the department in at least 10 years.
This “speaks for itself,” he said. “Our department does a great job of keeping our residents safe and does so in a professional, fair and just manner.”
Read it yourself
The report, associated documentation and instructions on how to participate in the Zoom meeting are available at https://www.townofwarwick.org/town-of-warwick-new-york-eo-203-police-reform-reinvention-collaborative-plan/