By KEVIN LIMITI• Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA — A committee including mayoral candidates Mark Drnek and Len Carson approved final changes to the Community Advisory Board police review document, which will sent back to the original CAB members followed by a public hearing.
The process should take about a month to complete, according to city officials.
The Community Advisory Board met Tuesday, July 13, at City Hall to follow up on the document, which was prepared in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order for police departments to recommend “best practices” that align with community values. That order and a review Herzig had ordered before Cuomo’s order, were in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020. A Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of Floyd’s murder in April.
Mayor Gary Herzig, who was present at the meeting, praised the members of Oneonta’s review group. He said although he thinks the majority of people in Oneonta approved of the police department, those that didn’t still needed to be heard.
“Even though they’re a small minority, we can’t ignore them because they’re a small minority,” Herzig said, who referenced that people of color felt “dehumanized” during stops with the Oneonta Police Department.
Drnek, chair of the committee, spoke about the efforts needed to create a document that best reflected the views of the city in regards to OPD.
All changes were approved unanimously by the committee with one issue, the use of unwarranted surveillance from Amazon Ring, debated by a representative and the city attorney, David Merzig.
In a previous meeting, Lieutenant Chris Witzenberg, acting chief of OPD, said he didn’t feel comfortable with using video gathered from Amazon Ring.
Councilmember Luke Murphy, also on the committee, praised the committee for drafting the document, which he said “required a lot of out-of-the-box thinking.”
Drnek said he needed to sift through about 24 hours of video footage from when the committee was meeting via Zoom in order to amend the document.
The recommendations on the document include creating policies that address topics related to abuse, mental health and diversity, establishing a standing oversight board and shifting the way OPD approaches substance abuse as it relates to criminal behavior.
Some recommendations, such as not allowing OPD officers to wear anything expressly political when on duty, were considered redundant. However, the committee decided to give explanations to the public for any recommendations they didn’t believe were feasible or necessary.
The next meeting will be Tuesday, July 27, which may include members of the original review committee.