ONEONTA – Common Council is expected to hire seven new police officers – the largest class in memory – when it meets by Zoom at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Mayor Gary Herzig confirmed today.
After a one-year hiatus due to COVID, “we had one of the best and most successful recruitments, the highest-quality candidates,” the mayor said. “…While we only have five openings, we know some of our officers are being looked at by the state police, who can provide much higher pay and state benefits.”
ONEONTA – Following the murder of George Floyd in May of last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo instructed the implementation of Community Advisory Boards to help reform police departments across the state.
The Oneonta CAB consists of four subcommittees: What Functions Should the Police Perform, Employing Smart and Effective Policing Standards and Strategies, Fostering Community Oriented Leadership, Culture and Accountability and Recruiting and Supporting Excellent Personnel.
With the input of community members, these committees are in the process of compiling recommendations for OPD reform – among them: redirecting funds, redirecting various calls, the continuation of the board after April and its assistance with potential hires and other items, better-utilizing community resources and, perhaps most widely discusses, a clear path for community members to issue complaints and/or compliments.
Recommendations are due to the CAB on March 22 for finalization and ultimate submission to the governor’s office in April. Collectively among the committees, dozens of pages have been written.
In light of recent national and local events, I feel compelled to speak out regarding the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
As I’d like to believe most civilized people would be, I was horrified and appalled to watch the barbaric treatment of Mr. George Floyd as he was being arrested by the Minneapolis police department.
Police officers take an oath to protect and serve ALL members of their community and to treat citizens with respect and dignity. The video of the death of George Floyd that went viral clearly showed that Mr. Floyd was afforded neither.
In recent days my heart has been filled with hope as I have watched thousands of people across our country taking to the streets in peaceful protest in response to the horrific treatment of Mr. Floyd and other instances of police brutality against people of color.
The Justice for George Floyd protest in Muller Plaza recently drew over 500 people – one of the largest crowds for any protest in recent years. This speaks volumes of the caliber of people in our region who wish to demonstrate their dedication to improving their community by helping to ensure that people of color are treated equally under the law.
Following the protest in the plaza, many have questioned on social media, “What next?” and “Were we even heard?” I would like to offer assurances that your Oneonta City Council members have been listening, but we also know that listening can become meaningless if not followed up by action toward areas of identified concern.
Our mayor and the leadership of the Oneonta Police Department have met and will continue to meet with our local chapter of the NAACP to continue the dialogue to discuss ways in which to improve relations and interactions with people of color.
My colleagues and I have reached out to our police chief in order to discuss areas which may be improved, such as a review of ongoing education and training in the proper use of force and updating policies and procedures for police officer conduct.
This is a good start and I am not naïve to think that this is the totality of the work that we will do in the coming days.
I believe that Oneonta has made progress in race relations in the last 20 years but we must never rest on our laurels. The day that we do is a day that we allow those voices of bigotry
and prejudice to slowly overshadow and stain our community once more.
Those of us on the Common Council are dedicated to working with our police force and our local chapter of the NAACP to ensure that ALL citizens of Oneonta are safe, secure, and feel that their voices are equally heard.
We need to continue to hear from the people in our community and hear your stories. Thank you for peacefully protesting and helping to move us forward to a better, more equitable society.