During the City of Newburgh’s January 7 work session meeting, Police Chief Arnold Amthor presented the work that has been done so far by the Executive Order 203 Oversight Committee. Despite concerns from NAACP member Malvina Holloway and president Ray Harvey, who also is the chair of the Executive Order 203 Oversight Committee, about not a lot of progress being made, Amthor presented the progress so far as otherwise.
In December, there were two public comment sessions for members of the community to be involved with the Executive Order 203 process, which works to create a police reform plan that has to be sent to Albany by April 1, 2021.
“Those comments will be included in the final draft report,” said City Manager Joseph Donat.
Harvey thanked the city government for getting an Executive Order 203 website up and running, which was one of the requests they made in the fall to provide easier access for community members to learn about the work they have done so far.
“It’s a lot of other things we need done to add to that,” said Harvey at the start of the presentation.
Police Chief Amthor compiled “what is going to amount to be probably a 35 to 50 page report,” which would outline a complete overview of every conversation that happened from the start of the work until now.
“I’ve talked to chiefs of police throughout the state of New York,” said Amthor. “Believe it or not, despite what may be said, we’ve been used as a bit of an example for other communities as to what we’ve accomplished here.”
Amthor clarified that the work that the committee is doing now is to create a reform plan, not to necessarily start kicking everything into gear – which would happen after the council votes on the resolution.
“We are discussing what needs to be done moving forward, putting it in writing, adopting it as a municipality, instead of doing all of these things at present,” said Amthor.
In Amthor’s presentation, he highlighted what the committee has identified so far which includes: the need to spend more time listening to the community, allow individuals to share their good and bad experiences with police officers, have a face to face dialogue moving forward, be more open and transparent of the activities of the police department, have better usage of social media, and adopt policies that are more in line with policing today.
Different recommendations that the committee has discussed include:
• Conducting a comprehensive review of the use of canines for apprehension and crowd control
• Issuing an annual report of use of force incidents
• Collect data that details racial, ethnic, gender and location related to all police stops and daily blotter reports
• Conduct an annual review of the data collected and publish the information in a Departmental Annual Report
• Make police policies, practices and procedures made public and accessible on the police website and use social media more often
• Create a community opinion survey on the police website
• Consult with various outside agencies with specific focus on utilizing services in dealing with mentally ill persons – a mobile crisis response unit
• Consider realigning patrol sectors to reflect the changing demographics and follow a ward system
•Relocate the police headquarters, while remaining downtown
• Have annual in-service training including implicit-bias training, cultural awareness, verbal judo, de-escalation tactics, impact weapons and less-than-lethal/defensive tactics
• Select members of the community to participate in interviews of potential new hires in the police department
• Continue current practices that promote the hiring of city residents, minorities and Spanish-speaking persons
• Utilize new body worn cameras and other new equipment like police uniforms
•Have general orders that will allow for field interviews, crisis intervention, addressing bias policing, disclosure of status information and internal affairs
• Creation of the online complaint form, with an annual report of the complaints
One thing Amthor drove home was how trust and respect works both ways.
“I want to say this because it is important to me,” said Amthor. “Community members must feel that the police will engage in fair and unbiased policing, but in return police must also feel that the community will respect and support them. It works both ways.”
The committee will continue to meet throughout the spring, and there will be city-run public hearings which have not yet been scheduled.
“There have been times where we haven’t agreed, but we have to continue to move forward,” said councilwoman and committee member Ramona Monteverde. “It’s a lot of work and it’s pivotal that we move through this and get it done by the deadline. My thing is we need to engage the community better and let them know we definitely need to prioritize hearing from them. We’re going to learn from their experiences with their interaction from the police department.”
Councilman Omari Shakur responded to the presentation by stating it was not a Executive Order 203 Oversight Committee presentation but a “Butch Amthor presentation – a white privileged male who came into our community and basically thinks he is going to tell black and brown people how to get along with this police department.”
Other councilmembers and the mayor acknowledged the difficult work for everyone involved in creating a reform plan for the Newburgh police department.