Cold Spring Will Ask Residents About Police for Review

Village Board debates who should get survey

After initial resistance from Mayor Dave Merandy, Cold Spring will survey residents about their views on the village Police Department and its officers. 

The initiative will be part the board’s response to an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year requiring municipalities to conduct a review of their police policies and procedures by April 1. Cuomo’s directive emphasized the need for community input.

The board’s meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 26) included a lengthy debate among the mayor and trustees over whether Cold Spring’s survey should be distributed only to village residents or a broader audience. 

The matter was sent back to the survey committee, scheduled to meet on Monday (Feb. 1). The board next meets on Tuesday. The committee consists of Trustees Fran Murphy and Kathleen Foley, and Stephanie Hawkins, a former trustee and the wife of the mayor. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, Merandy, Murphy, Trustee Marie Early and Officer-in-Charge Larry Burke spoke in favor of limiting the scope of the survey, while Foley and Trustee Heidi Bender advocated broader distribution. 

When Bender asked if the survey could include visitors, pointing out that officers interact with them as well as residents, Murphy said the survey committee discussed that idea but rejected it. “At this point, we want to keep this to Cold Spring residents and merchants,” she said. “We need to get this done soon.”

Murphy later suggested that if visitors are surveyed it should be during the busy tourist season. 

Foley suggested a “branch-logic survey” in which residents answer one set of questions and visitors another, an approach supported by Bender.

Bender also drew a distinction between including tourists in the survey who visit once or twice a year and those who come to Cold Spring regularly from nearby communities such as Garrison, Peekskill and Beacon. “It’s an opportunity to gather data from people of color, people who might have a different experience with the Police Department,” she said. 

Foley stressed the importance of reducing barriers that might prevent people from responding, in part by allowing the survey to be anonymous. “Although we are predominantly a white village, we do have people of color, LBGTQIA folks and immigrants; we want to make sure we engage all those people in meaningful ways,” she said. 

Throughout the meeting, Merandy said that the executive order emphasized the need to work with the community but made no mention of visitors. 

Burke said his main concern was the amount of work still to be done by April 1, especially since the governor’s office has rejected requests for a six-month extension. “Let’s get that done and open it up to visitors at a later date,” he said. 

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