Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Committee: Recommendations 

The Governor’s Executive Order and the New Castle Council on Race and Equity

On June 12, 2020 Governor Andrew Cuomo signed NYS Executive Order 203, requiring local governments in New York State to adopt a policing reform plan by April 1, 2021. To comply with that executive order, on Tuesday October 20, 2020, the Town Board approved the resolution creating New Castle Police  Reform Reinvention Collaborative Committee (PRRCC) appointing twelve members. We expanded the committee on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 by appointing seven additional members.  

In the Town of New Castle, our work on police reform began prior to the Governor’s Executive Order, and we were fortunate in launching our PRRCC to be able to build on a foundation of activities that started in Summer 2020 with the creation of the New Castle Council on Race and Equity (CRE).  The CRE was formed in the aftermath of the police-involved murder of George Floyd, and also in response to a series of racist incidents in our community. The CRE created an Action Plan to increase racial justice and equity in New Castle by looking across all aspects of our civic life and institutions, including policing. The work of the CRE to develop recommendations to improve community/police interactions was a launch pad for the PRRCC, and several CRE volunteers continued their service on the PRRCC. In addition, the New Castle Town Board held a community forum with Police Chief James Carroll to review police policies and procedures and to engage residents in June 2020.

PRRCC Committee Upcoming Events

Recommendations

Recommendation 1. Mental Health:

Recommendation Statement: Additional Crisis Intervention Training for Mental Health Emergencies, Especially with Marginalized Communities

NCPD Intervention with New Castle community members experiencing mental health emergencies will be guided by the following principles:

  1. Maintaining the health and safety of the person experiencing the mental health emergency and those in the immediate location.
  2. Approaching the situation with the goal of being as helpful as possible.

The full text of the recommendation is available here.

Recommendation 2. Creation of the Office of Community Advocate:

Recommendation Statement: Establishment of the  Office of the Community Advocate to create a more effective avenue to lodge an anonymous complaint.  

The New Castle PRRCC acknowledges that current system for reporting anonymous complaints is  problematic in that it allow a complainant to maintain anonymity when lodging a complaint but fails to provide an avenue to allow the complainant follow-up and closure.

The current system is  problematic for the police as well, in that it does not allow for follow-up by the police in order to conduct an effective and thorough investigation (i.e., key material information is missing, so the investigation stalls).

In order to provide a more effective avenue to lodge an anonymous complaint,  the Town of New Castle will create an independent office of the Community Advocate.

The full text of the recommendation is available here.

Recommendation 3. Creation of the Chief’s Advisory Board:

OBJECTIVE
The New Castle Police Department Chief's Advisory Board serves to improve the image and reputation of the New Castle Police Department (NCPD) and promote transparency and trust between NCPD and the citizens of New Castle.

PURPOSE
The Chief's Advisory Board will consist of members of the community and organizations and should be actively engaged in improving the quality of life in New Castle. Board members should have an interest in assisting the Chief of Police (Chief) and NCPD in identifying best practices and offering advice to the Chief on those matters which will improve transparency and build trust with the community.

Board members are asked to provide their perspectives on the possible impact of certain police policies, practices, training, and programs. This feedback is instrumental in providing NCPD with the type of objective input needed to ensure that its mission continues to focus on the most current policing standards and the cultivation of community partnership. Board’s involvement helps NCPD avoid the implementation or continuation of programs, policies, or initiatives contrary to its overall mission and core values.

The full text of the recommendation is available here.

Recommendation 4. Community Surveys:

The PRRCC believes that periodic surveys would be beneficial in tracking goals, determining trends, and creating new goals vis-a-vis the interactions and relationships between BIPOC,

LGBTQ and other marginalized communities, and the police department.

A useful and effective survey would:

  1. Gather basic data and information in order to identify areas for change and/or improvement;
  2. Aid in determining the success of past strategies, and highlighting the need for future actions in continuing to bring about racial equity; and
  3. Enable the information to be shared among the relevant groups for review. 

In order to accomplish this task, it is clear that surveys must be concise and specifically target the information being solicited from the public. For this reason, and to benefit to the fullest extent possible, the PRRCC has determined that a survey professional would be a valuable, and indeed necessary, tool in creating, designing, and implementing the best survey in order to extract the most essential information from the public.

The full text of the recommendation is available here.

Recommendation 5. The Role of the Town Board:

The PRRCC finds that improvements in police oversight can benefit the community and the police department itself. Increased cooperation between the community and the police department and heightened transparency regarding the police practices and processes will advance the NCPD’s goal of engaging in community policing.

One way to increase police oversight is by strengthening the role of the Town Board in reviewing NCPD performance. As elected officials, Town Board members are committed to ensuring that the NCPD is accountable to the community. As civilians, the Board can give a voice to the community’s concerns. In addition, as Police Commissioners, the Town Board is engaged in reviewing the details of investigations and disciplinary proceedings.

Recommendation: Hold semi-annual audit review meetings with the NCPD Chief to review departmental performance. 

We recommend that the NCPD develop key performance indicators for the department, for publication on the Town website. Using this as a framework, we recommend holding semiannual meetings between the Town Board and the NCPD Chief to review departmental performance and discuss activity over the past 6 months. Through these public meetings, the Town Board can help educate the community about the responsibilities of the NCPD and to increase the public’s understanding of law enforcement policies and procedures. 

The full text of the recommendation is available here.

Recommendation 6. Tracking Demographics On Traffic Stops:

Recommendation Statement: The PRRCC seeks to obtain demographic information regarding the drivers involved in vehicle stops by New Castle Police Officers that do not result in the issuance of traffic tickets. We seek to gather information to gauge the perception of the officer making the stop, including:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Ethnicity

Based upon the research conducted by the committee and contained in the background document entitled “Traffic Stop Data Collection”, we believe that the Chief’s Advisory Board (CAB) is in the best position to determine the method of data collection. We expect the CAB to use these studies as a guide to engage consultants to determine the process of data collection and once collected, the analysis of this data. 

The full text of the background document is available here.

Recommendation 7. Posting of Key Police Department Policies On Website

The table of contents of the police patrol manual will be posted on the New Castle Police Department website in addition to key chapters which are presently posted, i.e., use of force and traffic stops. The general public may make a request pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to obtain the full text of  any section of the patrol manual to review. 

Recommendations to the County

Creation of 211 Mental Health Resource and Increase the Availability of Mental Health PODS throughout Westchester County. 

We strongly advocate for the creation of a 211 system to provide a centralized resource for the residents of Westchester County for mental health related questions and  issues. This number would provide access to information, services available and assistance to family, friends and individuals experiencing mental health issues. 

Ideally, this 211 resource would work in conjunction with Mental Health PODS. The County has created Mental Health PODS in some municipalities

  1. to provide mental health professionals to respond with the police on appropriate 911calls;  
  2. to provide mental health resources to the community; and
  3. to help divert mental health incidents away from the police. 

Mental Health PODS should be employed throughout the county with centralized locations to allow for effective dispatch to appropriate situations to assist local police when callers identify the emergency as involving mental health issues. Much like ALS services dispatched by proximity to a call, Mental Health PODS would be dispatched to calls where needed.

We recognize the increasing need for mental health professionals to be the first point of contact with police on many 911 calls. We further recognize that despite additional training available to the police in de-escalation other tactics to address mental health issues encountered, police officers are not, with few exceptions, mental health professionals. We believe creation of the 211 system coupled with the increased availability of Mental Health PODS throughout the county will go a long way in properly addressing mental health issues routinely encountered by police.  

Extend the Period of Probation
We join in the county in its recommendation to extend the period of probation for new officers.  

Recommendations to the County / State 

Bodycams
We would support funding to enable our police to have bodycams. We would be looking for funding to cover the cost of the cameras but also the servers to store the information gathered and the software to catalog and access it.

Once we obtained the funding to provide bodycams to all officers, we would promulgate rules for the appropriate use of the cams by our officers (when, if ever, it is appropriate to turn them off/on).  

Education
In addition to the recommendation to extend the period of probation for new officers, it is recommended that the curriculum at the police academy be expanded. We strongly urge the Division of Criminal Justice Services to retain a curriculum specialist to recommend adequate training for additional subjects and the appropriate training time for each. This additional coursework would include, but are not limited to, recognizing and appropriately addressing mental health issues, cultural sensitivity, recognizing bias, and procedural justice.

We further recommend that these subjects be incorporated into ongoing annual training recognizing that this is an ongoing learning process.

Last, we understand that these requests and recommendations have a real financial impact to the local municipalities that bear the cost of both the training at the police academy and the  additional field training days ongoing annual training will require. We will be looking to the County and State for increased funding to make these recommendations a reality.

PRRCC Committee Timeline