On June 12, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Executive Order 203 requiring each local government with a policing agency to adopt a policing reform plan by April 1, 2021.
In response to Executive Order 203, the Greene County Legislature convened a Police Reform and Reinvention Committee of 10 volunteers, representing a diverse range of experiences and perspectives and a common commitment to working with the Greene County Sheriff’s Office to address challenges and support its strengths.
The Committee was composed of:
- Dr. Ronell Cook – Superintendent of the Catskill Central School District
- Rev. Richard Turpin – 2nd Missionary Baptist Church, Catskill
- Mr. Kai Hillmann – CASAC II – Director, Youth Clubhouses through the Mental Health Association of Columbia and Greene Counties.
- Mr. Gary Slutzky – Business Community Member/MTP (Mountaintop Progressive) Member
- Mr. Angelo Scaturro – Public Defender
- Mr. Jeff Friedman – Executive Director of the Greene County Chamber of Commerce
- Pastor Richard Snowden – Community Life Church
- Ms. Katie Oldakowski – Mobile Crisis Assessment Team (MCAT), Mental Health Association of Columbia-Greene, Inc. (MHACG)
- Rabbi Zoe B. Zak – Temple Israel of Catskill
- Mr. Peter Kusminsky – Greene County Sheriff
- Mr. Joseph Stanzione – District Attorney
- Mr. Shaun S. Groden – County Administrator – Committee Chair
It was the decision of the Greene County Legislature not to be represented on this Committee as it was felt that this should be a community discussion as to how our Sheriff’s Office interacts with the residents it serves, with our agencies, and with our criminal justice system.
The Committee met a total of 10 times from September of 2020 through February of 2021 (3 Public Forums and 7 Members Only sessions) both in-person, and virtually due to pandemic restrictions.
The goals for the Committee were as follows:
- Review the needs of the community served by its police agency, and evaluate the Sheriff Department’s current policies and practices.
- Establish policies that allow police to effectively and safely perform their duties.
- Involve the entire community in the discussion.
- Develop policy recommendations resulting from this review.
- Offer a plan for public comment.
- Present the plan to the Greene County Legislature to ratify or adopt.
- Certify adoption of the plan and submit to the State Budget Director on or before April 1, 2021.
“This was not an easy task”, notes Patrick S. Linger – Chair of the Greene County Legislature. “ The time limitations and COVID restraints were complicated further by the fact that approximately forty (40%) percent of all law enforcement calls within Greene County are responded to by the NYS Police, who are not required to be involved in this effort.”
Thanking all members of the Committee for their commitment and thoroughness of their work, Linger went on to state: “This effort has been highly important to Greene County, as we can take pride in the fact that the Greene County Sheriff’s Office serves and protects our communities with the highest levels of integrity and transparency.”
“The most important thing the Committee learned”, Linger continued, “was that there were no citizen complaints related to racial or gender bias, use of force, or mistreatment of any civilian against the Greene County Sheriff’s Office.”
The Report itself is both comprehensive and insightful. It is comprised of 23 pages of findings, supported by over 700 pages of supporting appendices, and delivering 25 specific recommendations to the Greene County Legislature.
“The draft report will be presented to the Greene County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee on Wednesday, March 3rd,” says Shaun S. Groden – Greene County Administrator, “and a special meeting will be held at the County Office Building on March 10th at 6:00 pm, where the full Legislature will meet with the Police Reform and Reinvention Committee via Zoom to review the report and its recommendations.”
Residents can view and download the Draft Report at https://www.greenegovernment.com/greene-county-police-policy-review-committee, where they may also submit comments for consideration.
While the March 10th meeting is open to the public, space is limited due to pandemic restrictions. Residents wishing to comment are encouraged to do so on the county website. All comments will be provided to the Legislature.
Those who wish to attend the meeting are requested to make arrangements by calling 518-719-3270 to reserve a space. Limited seating is available, so to ensure social distancing, persons will be called into the Board Chambers when space is available for public comments. All attendees will be required to wear masks or appropriate face coverings while inside the building.