State says reviews must be complete by spring
In the wake of continued nationwide protests against the use of force by police officers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month ordered municipalities and counties to submit plans for reform in their law-enforcement agencies.
The deadline is April 1, or just over eight months away. That’s a tight timeline on its own but more so in Beacon, where city officials are looking for a new chief following the retirement on July 7 of Kevin Junjulas, a Cold Spring resident who had held the position since 2018.
Juggling the state deadline and a 90-day agreement with an interim chief who was named the day before Junjulas left, the city will be challenged to move forward on both tracks, said Beacon Mayor Lee Kyriacou.
On Monday (July 13), Kyriacou laid out for the City Council a tentative timeline to meet the state requirement. It shows city officials spending much of the rest of the year collecting data and identifying areas for change, and includes two opportunities for public input — during meetings this fall and before the adoption of the reform plan in the spring.
Ideally, the council will have named a new police chief before the fall stakeholder forums, he said.
Cuomo’s order requires cities, counties, towns and villages to review police deployments, strategies and policies, including the use of force, de-escalation training and practices, bias awareness and violence prevention. Police leadership; community members, with an emphasis on representatives from heavily policed areas; nonprofit and faith-based groups; and district attorneys’ and public defenders’ offices must be among the groups involved in the review.
In Cold Spring, Mayor Dave Merandy said at a Village Board meeting on Tuesday (July 14) that Putnam has asked the village to join a county-wide group to work collectively on the reports. “I’m not sure we will join,” he said, noting that Cold Spring may have different areas of concern than other municipalities such as Kent or Carmel.
Trustee Lynn Miller also expressed reservations. “The makeup of our Police Department is probably different than Carmel or Brewster,” she said. “And what we’re dealing with here is probably significantly different.”
At the same time, representatives from three groups — Putnam Pride, Putnam Progressives and Putnam County Patriots for Immigration Reform — on July 13 jointly wrote to Merandy, as well as County Executive MaryEllen Odell, the mayor of Brewster and the supervisors of Kent and Carmel “to request that representatives of the LGBTQ+; Latino; black; Asian; Native American; and Jewish communities, as well as people living with mental illness and physical disabilities, in addition to other underrepresented groups in Putnam, be included in each of the respective groups of stakeholders.” (Odell responded here.)
In Beacon, the timeline Kyriacou shared during the council’s meeting has its reform plan being drafted in December and January, with council and public review to follow before the document is adopted.
One scenario, the mayor suggested, could see the city hire consultants to gather and conduct the initial analysis of some data, while the council would prioritize the areas most in need of change.
While the state order asks municipalities to focus on racial bias and disproportionate policing of communities of color, Council Member Dan Aymar-Blair said it doesn’t address Beacon residents’ more urgent concerns.
“The feedback that we’re hearing certainly extends beyond the stuff that the governor has identified,” he said. “I’d like to fast-track things that are directly related to race. Nine months for racial justice is not what I’m hearing from people.”
Michael Turton contributed reporting.