The Town of Woodbury has adopted a state-mandated “reinvention plan” for its police department.
The reform plan notes that the department is one of only seven of 32 in Orange County that is accredited, a voluntary status that recognizes it meets or exceeds standards of professional policing. Officers receive 21 hours of training a year, including how to recognize implicit bias.
While acknowledging that the town has already gone “above and beyond what is required,” the plan says that “there is always room for improvement.” It added that the process was “ongoing” and that the plan would be reviewed and revised.
An advisory committee agreed it “may be worth looking into” enlisting mental health professionals to volunteer their time to be on call to assist police who are responding to mental health crises or to partner with other municipalities to hire staff or a service to answer such calls.
Woodbury, like other county municipalities, has access to a county government mental health crisis team, but there can be long waits before someone shows up. “This puts our officers in the position of acting in the place of mental health professions until Mobile Mental Health can arrive,” the plan says.
Committee members stressed the importance of police being involved in the community. The plan contains a long list of programs that the department has participated in, some for more than 10 years.
Prior to the formation of the advisory panel, members of the police commission had already begun discussing the possibility of implementing a body camera program.
Members of the panel overwhelmingly supported the idea, which would cost about $100,000 a year over five years. Police Chief Kevin Watson is researching grant programs, policies and procedures.
The Woodbury Police Department has 29 sworn officers, of whom three are women, one black and five Hispanic. There was some discussion on the committee about hiring practices, but officials stressed that they are governed by state Civil Service rules.
According to the plan, “the Committee Members upon review now understand that the Town cannot arbitrarily choose employees for police service positions.”
The police reform plan can be reached at https://www.townofwoodbury.com/document-center/police/1373-town-of-woodbury-final-police-reform-plan/file.html
- Jeff Storey