Last week the Plattekill Town Board opened a discussion on their new Police Reform Collaborative Committee, which Governor Andrew Cuomo has mandated that towns and municipalities create to address policing issues across New York.
Supervisor Joe Croce said, “In light of recent events we had asked for volunteers to serve on the committee and thankfully we have 7 individuals who have agreed to serve. Thank you for taking this on, the Town Board really appreciates it.”
Croce asked Kelly Nelson to chair the committee, “to get things organized and to keep things moving and organized and she has agreed to do that.” Nelson will share the concerns of the committee with Police Chief Joseph Ryan.
Chief Ryan handed out copies of the Governor’s Executive Order that was issued in June that offered guidance for town committees, aimed at reinventing and modernizing policing policies and procedures. Towns must adopt a plan by April 1, 2021 to be eligible for future state funding.
The Governor notified jurisdictions with police departments in New York State.
“We have to address the tensions and lack of trust between our communities and the law enforcement that serve them,” Cuomo wrote. “I am sending a letter to 500 jurisdictions, explaining that it is imperative that we address this urgent crisis. I understand it’s complicated. I understand it’s difficult, but people are dying. New Yorkers do not run from a crisis – this is a time for leadership and action. Local elected officials must work together with their communities and their police forces to develop and implement reforms for a safer, fairer policing standard.”
Ryan is also a consultant with the American Corrections Association and since 2007 has performed audits around the country for Sheriff’s agencies, police agencies and correctional facilities in Georgia, Ohio, Florida, Texas, Colorado, Virginia and Maine.
“I go into the facilities, I review their policies, I inspect their operations, I look at their practices and I find compliance issues,” he said. “These agencies are all looking for accreditation and one of the things I’ll do, myself and two or three others, is to go through their standards to make sure they’re compliant. That’s why I don’t mind people looking at what I’m doing.”
Chief Ryan also works at the Essex County Department of Corrections, a medium security detention center, located in Newark, New Jersey. That facility has undergone an audit.
Ryan said during an audit or in the follow-up report, he may make suggestions to a facility.
“Even in the facilities I go to I will bring something back to where I work that I think is a great practice or policy and it’s to improve the operation,” he said.
Ryan said he is open to suggestions from the Plattekill Committee, who were in attendance at the board meeting.
“You’re here because your heart’s in it and I know you want to do good for your community. I appreciate that and I think we’re going to work very well together and I’m glad to get to meet you tonight,” he said. “One thing I think is important is to open up my doors, open up my policies, let you see what we’re doing. I’m very transparent and when I became Chief I started a monthly report just to let the community know what we’re doing.”
Croce complimented Ryan’s department, saying, “We have a very good and very diverse Police Department, which I think benefits the community. They do a fantastic job and I think it’s important to keep in mind that we are strictly a part-time police force.”
Croce summed up the presentation.
“I believe the committee is going to do a great job. I think there are a lot of good ideas. As diverse as our town is, I think that’s how diverse this committee is and that’s why I think it’s going to come up with some really good suggestions and recommendations,” he said. “I thank all of you for stepping up and offering to do this.”
Ryan is hoping to hold the first meeting of the committee before the holiday season begins.
“If you want to put a structure up, you start from the bottom on solid rock and work your way up; we’ll get there,” he said. “This will be as rewarding for me as it is for you because you are volunteering for your community. I appreciate it and I’m sure they will too.”