Hudson submits police reform plan to state

HUDSON—Columbia County and the City of Hudson each has developed its own police reform plan, as required by the state. Between the county plan and the Hudson plan, “there are some similarities and some glaring differences,” Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson said March 11.

The Hudson plan has more in-depth policies toward body cameras and protocols toward children impacted by raids and arrests. But the Hudson and county plans each have leeway for further development.

Hudson’s plan was developed only for the city’s Police Department. The county’s plan considered changes for the county Sheriff’s Office and the Greenport, Philmont and Stockport departments. Like Hudson, the Village of Chatham conducted its own review.

The county plan calls for purchasing and requiring the use by police of police body cameras after developing a policy by studying the experiences of other places. The City of Hudson has already “looked at what other places are doing” and studied the camera to see what it records at various settings, seen how it can be used and abused, and incorporated these findings into its police reform plan, Mayor Johnson said.

The mayor said he has sent Hudson’s program to the state ahead of the April 1 deadline and would like to see the County adopt something similar. But he acknowledged, “It’s up to the county” to decide what to do.

Hudson developed its protocols for safeguarding children of arrested parents based on nationwide practices, Mr. Johnson said. He guessed it would be one of the easiest parts of the plan to implement, because “that’s something everybody agrees with.”

‘If they’re better supported, they can better support us.’

Mayor Kamal Johnson

City of Hudson

Joan Hunt, who leads services for Children of Incarcerated Parents, helped Hudson draft the protocols, Mr. Johnson said. She has also participated in the panel developing the county plan.

County officials have described the county plan as a springboard for further development. The implementation subcommittee of the county Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee will work out and monitor the details.

Likewise, Hudson’s police reform program “is going to be a process that will take a few years,” said Mayor Johnson. “Police reform is not something you can do in one shot.”

Hudson’s Police Advisory and Reconciliation Committee, which worked on Hudson’s Plan, will continue that work and is looking for more members.

In addition, a Transitions and Treatment Committee will look at mental health and substance abuse issues to see how responsibility for those matters can be transferred to another agency instead of the police.

“People don’t want to see the same person arrested many times because they’re sleeping on the street,” Mr. Johnson said. “We need resources to call someone other than the police.”

In developing the Police Reform Plan, “We looked at recommendations from police officers,” said the mayor. “They’re risking their lives. One thing we made sure to put in place is an Employee Assistance Program” for police officers. “If they’re better supported, they can better support us.”

For the first year of police reform, Hudson’s official website lists several goals. These include:

• Implementing the programs and protocols mentioned above

• Increasing transparency between police officers and the community

• Clearly defining “use of force” and “deescalation”

• Affirming the ban on choke-holds

• Collecting data on certain police actions and civilian complaints.

One challenge described by Mr. Johnson will be adapting to current and future changes in society and expectations. Another will be “breaking down the wall of distrust.”

But over all in the police reform project, he said, “We hope we can have something we can be proud of.”

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