By Katherine Donlevy
With a deadline of April 1 looming, the Town Board of Marlborough’s committee on police reform is nearly ready to make recommendations to rehabilitate officer policy, though Councilman Howard Baker reported Nov. 23 that changes could be minimal.
Following the death of George Floyd on May 25 and public demand for police accountability, Gov. Cuomo issued guidance for the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. As per the June executive order, each locality in the state is required to adopt a plan for reform by the first of April or risk losing future state funding.
“We don’t have the issues a lot of big cities have in this country that has prompted this exercise,” Baker reported at the Town Board meeting. The committee for reform has been meeting since September to understand the existing policies and to evaluate arrest data from the Marlborough police. The committee is composed of Baker and two other council members, two police officers, a public defender, a District Attorney representative, a representative from the Catholic Church and two town residents.
“We have never had a deadly use of force in this town,” Baker continued. “We have never fired upon anybody. We rarely do tasers, we rarely do pepper spray. We do no-knock searches very rarely. We don’t do chokeholds, we don’t do anything like that. A lot of the issues we hear about nationally don’t exist in this town, thank goodness.”
One issue the Town of Marlborough does have, however, is disproportionately pulling over people of color for routine traffic stops.
Baker said the committee is not yet finished compiling the arrest data records and has not been shared with anyone outside the committee. A new Marlborough resident tuning into the meeting for the first time, David Kurtz, suggested the committee release the information to the public ahead of public participation so that suggestions can be made with complete confidence. Baker and Town Supervisor Apohonso Lanzetta agreed that it can be done.
The recommendations will not be forwarded to the governor’s office until public participation is concluded and approved by the board, though Baker said a large focus will most likely be on modifying officer training.
“That’s really the crux of what we’re trying to do here … We need to do some different training or better training,” he said, also noting that he has received multiple suggestions to implement bodycams, which would be an expensive investment and hopes the state would fund the equipment.”You want us to use body cameras, you’re going to have to help us pay for them.”
The committee is currently accepting public comment on the topic of police reform. Suggestions, concerns and other input can be made directly to the Town of Marlborough, and the board has already taken steps to expand community participation. Ads in area newspapers and fliers posted throughout the neighborhood have already elicited a number of responses.
“The majority of input we’ve had has been very positive about the Marlborough Police Department,” said Stephanie Kaplan, a Ulster County public defender. “I’ve been very happy and relieved to see, number one, the openness of the police and other people of Marlborough on this committee in being open and accepting the idea of looking into what’s going on, having a self review and being open to reforms. That’s made me very optimistic about this.”
In keeping with the theme of supporting its police officers, Lanzetta announced the town would host its annual Blue Light Ceremony in front of the Marlborough Police Station on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. The event, in its 14th year, will honor officers from local precincts and recognize those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
“This is a great time to support your police officers in, especially, the Town of Marlborough,” the supervisor said. “It’s a time for people to come out and actually show their support for our local police department and they really appreciate it.”
In other board business, Girl Scout Emersyn Lazar from Troop 60174 presented her plans to implement agility equipment at the Milton Landing Dog Park. Her plan included weaving posts and an up-and-down ramp, both of which would entice dog owners to utilize the greenspace more and to provide a spot for the animals to get exercise.
“[It would also provide] something to do. Obviously we’re in the pandemic, so a lot is closed, but it’s a lot of fun to spend time with your dog,” said the high school freshman.
The board, after applauding Lazar’s presentation, unanimously approved her plans. The agility equipment was implemented that weekend.