CHATHAM—The Village Board is looking to form a committee to consider police reform. Mayor John Howe said at a board meeting last week that the board wants a core group to review the new policy but he also said the committee would hold public forums on the issue.
At the Thursday, July 13 meeting, held on the Webex online platform, Mayor Howe said the village needed a new police policy by the spring of 2021, according to Governor Cuomo’s executive order on police reform. The mayor said the committee, along with public comments, would address policies that would meet the governor’s order and work for the village.
Deputy Chief Joe Alessi was at the meeting to give the police report for the month and said of the police policy review, “I’m open to it. It’s a good thing.” Chatham has a part-time police force.
In June Governor Cuomo signed the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative executive order. A release from his office at the time said the order requires police agencies statewide “to develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs in their community based on community input. Each police agency’s reform plan must address policies, procedures, practices and deployment, including, but not limited to use of force.”
“The protests taking place throughout the nation and in communities across New York in response to the murder of George Floyd illustrate the loss of community confidence in our local police agencies— a reality that has been fueled by our country’s history of police-involved deaths of black and brown people,” Governor Cuomo said in the release. “Our law enforcement officers are essential to ensuring public safety—they literally put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect us. This emergency regulation will help rebuild that confidence and restore trust between police and the communities they serve by requiring localities to develop a new plan for policing in the community based on fact-finding and meaningful community input.”
‘Each police agency’s reform plan must address policies, procedures, practices and deployment….’
Governor Andrew Cuomo
State of New York
Mayor Howe said the village plans to be “absolutely transparent” with the process. Trustee Lenore Packet suggested that the mayor send letters to local clergy about joining the committee. The governor’s order suggests having members of the faith-based community groups on the committee and the board talked about having a representative from the school as well as other members of the community.
The board will discuss the matter further at the August meeting.
As part of his report Deputy Chief Alessi thanked the local officers as well as the State Police and sheriff’s deputies for their work during the Black Lives Matter protests in the village. He pointed out that there have been “no incidents reported” due to the protests in the village.
Mayor Howe also said that the village clerk is responding to the state Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request from MuckRock, Somerville, MA, for 50 years of Chatham police disciplinary records. Clerk Debra Meyers said that the request had broken the information into 10-year increments and she has recovered the 2010-2020 information.
The mayor also appointed a new Local Law Committee to review the town’s codes, some of which he said go back to the days of “tying up horses” on Main Street. He said the village had made some changes in the zoning code and now needs to review the rest of the village codes. He asked board member Melony Spock to sit on the committee with community members Lael Locke and Patricia Mckeon. He also appointed future board member Jodi Russell. Ms. Russell is running unopposed for a seat on the board. The village elections were supposed to take place in March but were moved to September due the Covid-19 pandemic.
Also at the meeting:
• The board paid about $2,700 in back bills owed to Main Care for fuel. The mayor said, “There were a number of years where we didn’t pay our bills.” Clerk Meyers said the unpaid bills were mostly from 2016-2017. “Why it wasn’t being reconciled, I can’t tell you,” she told the board. Funds to pay the back bills were taken from five different budget lines for fuel
• In the police report Deputy Chief Alessi reminded residents and businesses owners to have the address number visible on their building in case the police need to find the building during a call. He said there had been a lot of alarm activations recently and it was sometimes hard to find the correct property if the numbers are not displayed
• There will be no parking due to street cleaning on July 22 on Kinderhook Street, Woodbridge Avenue, School Street and Thomas Street
• Mayor Howe announced that Ms. Locke had donated $2,000 to the village that should be used for “Covid related” issues. He asked the board for ideas. They discussed signs about wearing masks and a possible hand washing station
• Trustee Spock thanked the Chatham Fire Department for the parade they participated in through the village for the graduating class at Chatham High School
• The board appointed James Borgia-Forster village judge and appointed Ralph O’Mara-Garcia to the Zoning Board of Appeals
The next board meeting will be Monday, August 10 at 7 p.m. There will be information about where the meeting will take place on the village’s website, villageofchatham.com