By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
With April 1 a few weeks away, it’s crunch time.
Following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last spring, Governor Cuomo issued an order requiring all 330 communities in New York State with police departments to form Community Advisory Boards to review “policies and procedures” by that date.
That covers three governments in Otsego County:
• The Village of Cooperstown: Monday, Feb. 22, the Village Board approved its “Police Reform Plan” more than a month ahead of schedule, having completed the review and taking it to public hearing. The findings can now be forwarded to the Governor’s Office.
• The County of Otsego: Wednesday, March 3, a forum is planned at the end of the monthly county board meeting where findings covering the county Sheriff’s Department will be reviewed. The public can watch proceedings on the county’s Facebook page, and raise issues by mail or e-mail over several subsequent days.
• The City of Oneonta: Its Community Advisory Board cancelled its Tuesday, Feb. 23, meeting, so Biama Charles, Hartwick College’s director of diversity, can begin compiling inputs of four committees prior to a Tuesday, March 16, presentation to Common Council.
Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch said the critical issue to address was the “use of force” policy, pointing out that “every situation” has the potential of developing into a “use of force” incident.
Both the new “use of force” policy and the “Police Reform Plan” may be viewed at the village website, cooperstownny.org
One outcome: The trustees are planning to include funding for two Tasers and training to use them in the 2021-22 budget, to be approved in the next few weeks.
At the county level, county Board Chairman David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, expressed satisfaction.
“We’re doing very well,” he said. “There’s always room for improvement. You can have all the policies in the world, but you still have to leave room for human error.”
And county Rep. Dan Wilber, R-Burlington, who chairs the Public Safety & Legal Affairs committee, said, “Anytime you have an agency that has authority over the public, it’s a good thing to review procedures to ensure there are adequate checks and balance. We’re happy we’re doing it.”