By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA — The discussion of the Community Advisory Board Review Committee’s recommendations of “best practices” for the Oneonta Police Department, as per a mandate by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, led to some heated debates and questions concerning the language in the proposed document Tuesday, Sept. 7.
The document, which was supposed to be open to a public hearing Tuesday, Sept. 21, will likely be postponed as council members agreed to hold a special session, tentatively Tuesday, Sept. 14, in order to resolve some of the issues councilmembers were having.
Mayor Gary Herzig said the role of police in the community is not easy to define because the original Community Advisory Board met to address the needs of a minority who didn’t necessarily trust the police or had different experiences to the white majority in Oneonta.
“We have heard clearly that some minority members don’t have the same trust level of the police,” Herzig said. “Just because they’re in the minority doesn’t mean their views are not important.”
Councilmember Luke Murphy, D-First Ward, said he was “impressed” with the process of developing the CAB document and thanked Councilmember and mayoral candidate Mark Drnek, D-Eighth Ward, for leading in CABRC.
“It’s definitely been a labor of love,” Murphy said. “I think the folks involved really care about the community.”
However, Councilmember Scott Harrington, R-Sixth Ward, had questions about some of the language in the document, specifically as it related to a portion of the document on “removing threatening language” around false reporting on filing a police report online.
Drnek responded people may not report a crime because of fear of retribution. However, Councilmember Kaytee Lipari Shue, D-Fourth Ward, said that the document “doesn’t address the real issue which is the fear of retribution.”
“I felt the language was a little soft,” Lipari Shue said.
Murphy threw a wrench into the discussion by saying the recommendations came from people of color who feared retribution for reporting a crime committed by a police officer. Herzig confirmed that this was a part of the original discussion by CAB.
Multiple councilmembers acknowledged this changed the meaning behind the recommendation.
Councilmember John Rafter, D-Seventh Ward, was particularly disapproving of the document, who argued the language was unclear.
“I will not approve things that have questions involved,” Rafter said. “The website having all the police procedures. I don’t know what that does.”
The CAB document has recommendations for the OPD website, which include making legally releasable crime and arrest statistics available as well as a search feature.
Murphy said that it was important “not to lose sight of the purpose of this report which is to listen to the community.”
“It would be a tragedy if something were to happen where this report will be tossed away,” Murphy said.
Herzig clarified if the CABRC document wasn’t approved, then the council would either have to work on it again or accept the original CAB document as is and it would have to be implemented by OPD to the best of its abilities.
Drnek pushed back on the criticisms of language. “There’s not a whole lot of lazy language here,” Drnek said.
The CABRC had worked on the document for six months and, during that time, the language in every section of the document was scrutinized from various different perspectives including legal and accounting for the views of CAB and its subcommittees.
Other matters from the Common Council included:
- Appointments for Christopher Yacobucci as Publics Work Director and Jonathon Williams as Deputy Public Works director, replacing the position of City Engineer previously held by City Administrator Greg Mattice.
- Various appointments for auto mechanics and maintenance workers.
- The construction of a taxiway at the airport using a grant by the Federal Aviation Administration of $343,171.
- The purchase of a Kubota tractor for $41,970.72.