At the end of 2020, the NAACP Newburgh-Highland Falls Branch, began to express its concern regarding the City of Newburgh’s approach to New York State’s executive order 203, which calls for a police reform plan using a comprehensive review of what is already in place. While the City of Newburgh ratified its plan, Malvina Holloway of the NAACP expressed her uncertainty of how the city approached the entire process.
Earlier in the fall, both Holloway and former chairman of the committee Ray Harvey, called for a more transparent collaboration for the committee, the city government and the public. Additionally, they requested to have a better online presence on the city website that would easily be able to be found. Ray Harvey ultimately resigned from the board in early January after the cancellation of a meeting for what seemed to have no specific reason behind it. He declined comment.
During the Monday, March 22 council meeting, City Manager Joseph Donat described the plan as a “blueprint for how we further reimagine the police department moving forward,” as it was voted on by the council to be ratified.
“I was not a member on this board, but was very much involved between the city manager, police chief and even our consultant Robert McLymore,” said Mayor Torrance Harvey. “I was very much involved in Zoom conferences with the executive staff about the progress, Zoom conferences with the NAACP local chapter, the attorneys from the NAACP local chapter – I was in a lot of Zooms with them regarding this particular police reform initiative to reinvent and collaborate. It was a lot of days and afternoons with this.”
Holloway said it was “unfortunate” that Harvey said that during Monday’s meeting.
“There were certain things said that the mayor met with the NAACP multiple times,” said Holloway. “That never happened. It’s very concerning … this has been a process that certainly has not been open and transparent.”
Despite Holloway’s concerns, Harvey had one of his own, which was that he believes Holloway is not a City of Newburgh resident.
“She’s a non-resident,” said Harvey. “She doesn’t live here. What’s interesting is that I’ve been in conversation with her along with the city manager multiple times. She’s supposedly a member of the NAACP Newburgh-Highland Falls chapter. She doesn’t live in Newburgh or Highland Falls. How is she speaking on behalf of the NAACP Newburgh-Highland Falls if she doesn’t live in either one of those municipalities? Is she doing the same due diligence with executive order 203 where she lives? I bet we’ve done more with our police department than the one where she actually lives is doing.”
Additionally, Harvey said that Halloway and himself did in fact have Zoom calls.
“We never heard of Ms. Halloway until we did the Zooms,” said Harvey. “That’s the only reference I have of her – the letters she wrote to the city manager and the Zooms that she was directly in with me, the city manager, the police chief, Ray Harvey, and Rob McLymore. There may have been one or two council members involved. We had multiple Zooms with Ms. Halloway. I asked her then, and I ask her now, where does she live?”
Halloway could not be reached by email in response to where she lives in the area.
The mayor’s concerns aside, Halloway described that the NAACP would have liked to have seen is a comprehensive review with hard data of the police department (which would be separate from the plan), a look at the budget to see if the recommendations are financially possible, and increased community involvement throughout the process with each meeting put on the city’s online calendar.
“I looked for very specific things that are attached to the executive order,” said Holloway. “One of them was that a comprehensive review was to be performed – deployment, strategy, policy, procedures. I don’t find that that has happened. That is the first box to check to verify any kind of plan.”
Donat reported that the City of Newburgh had a total of four public comment periods on its executive order plan, with the last one being a public hearing on March 8. During the city’s public hearings, there were around 50 people who provided comments, which were incorporated into the plan.
“When something happens and it’s due to policing, or housing, or whatever – you don’t go to the entity that is causing the unfairness,” said Holloway, who is still continuing to urge for a community-first approach moving forward. “You go to your elected officials and ask them for help. You ask them to shed some light on ways to solve these things.”
Harvey said that the City of Newburgh plans to move forward with other police reform initiatives, as it is a “work in progress.” With the recent announcement of the retirement of the police chief, Harvey said the city is doing “restructuring of the police department,” including recruitment of people of color.
With the April 1 deadline passed, Holloway said there should be a timeline implemented for the changes discussed.
“We’ve been working on police reform for quite some time,” said Holloway. “Executive order 203 is one part of our work. Yes, we will continue to work on these things – which means wanting to see the work actually done. Executive order 203 is merely a framework for identifying racial disparities but forward by the governor at the state level to say we want to know what the racial disparities are, and here is a way you can do that.”
Aside from the executive order, NAACP plans to continue its intersectional approach to its work here with the local chapter. Additionally, the NAACP hopes to focus on the legislative side to ensure that “Black and brown bodies have a sense of safety, along with anyone else” across the state.
“We need to start using the reality of the experiences of Black and brown people in policy making,” said Holloway.