A Town of Tuxedo citizens committee has produced a draft police reform plan that includes as “paramount” features a return to 24/7 services by local officers and the use of local dispatchers.
The draft is in response to a state mandate that all of New York’s 500 police agencies examine their policies and practices in the wake of racial unrest around the nation.
Tuxedo residents will have an opportunity to comment on the draft report’s 58 recommendations at two meetings next week: in-person from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 29, at the Eagle Valley Firehouse and virtually from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, June 30, through the town’s WEBEX system, which can be reached through the town’s website, https://www.tuxedogov.org. Comments also can be emailed to email@example.com.
“We really want to hear from people,” said Sue Scher, a retired social worker who facilitated the 17-member committee’s work.
After next week’s meetings, the committee will tweak its recommendations and produce a final draft, which will be the subject of a public hearing. Once adopted by the Town Board, it will be submitted by the state.
‘Grass roots process’ rather than top down approach’
The state mandate for its “Police Reform and Revitalization Collaborative” set an April 1 deadline, warning that municipalities that did not meet the deadline could face a loss of state aid. Tuxedo Supervisor Kenneth English said he has been in touch with state officials to discuss the town’s progress.
English said that the town was aiming for a “grass roots process” rather than the “top-down” approach of some communities. In any case, he described the police aid received by the town as “nominal.”
Scher said that the committee was only named in February, and “we worked very hard to get it done.”
It would ‘benefit the town to have its own officers’
Tuxedo pared down the size of its police form in December 2015 and left overnight patrols to the state police. It currently has six full-time and five part-time officers. Units are dispatched by Orange County’s 911 center.
While conceding that the cost would be “significant,” the committee argues that town funds “should be provided for police shifts that are reasonable and adequate to provide enough coverage by full-time officers.” It says it would benefit the town to have its own officers rather than relying on outside State Police “who have no connection to the Town and people of Tuxedo and the Tuxedo Police Department’s policies and practices.”
The report notes that the respondents to a committee survey prefer full-time local policing and dispatching. Scher said that residents would feel more comfortable talking to a dispatcher who is familiar with the area. Also, she said there had been instances of police being directed to incorrect locations by county dispatchers.
The current police department is all-male, and the report recommends that priority be given to hiring female officers in the future. The town has plans to hire a seventh full-time officer.
Other recommendations include:
more training to enhance the ability of the police force to apply “antiracist” practices;
the use of body worn cams by officers;
increased use of county emergency services when responding to mental health, substance abuse and domestic violence calls;
systems of citizen involvement with the police department, including a possible liaison group or citizen review board;
the continuation of efforts to win state accreditation; and
a return to pre-Covid community engagement programs.