County’s largest city eyes 12 reforms as part of police reform plan

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UTICA — Utica officials, along with Mayor Robert Palmieri, released its Utica Police Reform Report in accordance with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive order from last summer.

The report was developed by an advisory committee comprised of 17 individuals in the community with diverse backgrounds and experiences. The committee explored and discussed key topic categories including use of force related issues, crime prevention and engagement, justice administration and officer accountability.

After 12 meetings and deliberation, the committee recommended a total of 12 reforms, some key reforms include:

Establishing a Crisis Intervention Team.

Making adherence to Procedural Justice part of body camera performance reviews.

Enhancing and increasing implicit bias training.

Improving mental health resources available to officers.

Creating a Civilian Public Safety Board and Auditor.

In addition, the committee’s reform report puts a strong emphasis on Procedural Justice policing which includes the following principles:

Giving residents a voice.

Transparency in police actions.

Treating people fairly and with dignity and respect.

Impartiality and refraining from acting on prejudices and biases.

Utica Police Department is an accredited agency through the state Department of Criminal Justice Services, and these reforms are designed to enhance the on-going progressive efforts of UPD such as implementation of body-worn cameras, making personnel records public and forming a Police Athletic League to facilitate positive interaction between law enforcement and youth.

The report is posted on the City of Utica’s website, http://www.cityofutica.com/. The advisory committee reported it encourages feedback from the community. Any input from the public regarding the report can be sent to policereform@cityofutica.com.

“It was an honor to have been selected to serve as co-chair to the City of Utica Police Reform Advisory Committee. Fortunately, every individual who was on the committee, were committed, dedicated and expressed a love of community,” said Advisory Committee Co-Chair Dr. Reverend Mary Webster. “I offered some words of wisdom when it was necessary to do so. We spent several hours together working on the recommended reforms for the Utica Police Department.”

Webster continued, “Hopefully, the results will have a lasting impact on this generation and many to follow. I believe that our honest hard work will manifest itself in the lives of our citizens. I am proud of the masterpiece that has been crafted, and hope it will make a significant difference in the lives of all of Utica’s residents.”

Mayor Palmieri said the reform policy addresses difficult issues with a goal of building a relationship between the police department and community it serves.

“I want to thank each member of the advisory committee as their insight, knowledge, experience and passion is reflected in this report. We addressed difficult issues with a mission to improve relations between UPD and the community we serve, as well as provide a forum to address the bias and disenfranchisement that is felt by members of our Utica family,” the mayor said. “I’m proud of the reform plan and what the advisory committee accomplished.”

In the coming weeks, the advisory committee will attend three meetings hosted by local partners to receive feedback on the report and its findings. All the meetings will be conducted via Zoom and will be held on the following dates and times:

Black Leadership Coalition: Feb. 25, 6-7:30 p.m.

Mohawk Valley Community College: March 1, 7-8:30 p.m.

Resource Center for Independent Living: March 8, 1:30-
3 p.m.

Those interested in viewing and participating in the discussions should contact the respective agencies or organizations for participation details. Once all the community feedback is received, the report will be presented to the Common Council.

“I applaud the mayor, Chairpersons Marquis Phillips and the Rev. Dr. Mary Webster, and the entire committee for their work. This plan shows a commitment toward equity while providing a comprehensive approach toward justice and community policing,” said Councilman and Advisory Committee member Delvin Moody. “It is a historic leap in the right direction. I look forward to supporting it on the common council and working with law- enforcement and the community to implement its recommendations.”

Oneida County Legislator & Advisory Committee Member Evon Ervin also said the report is a step in the right direction.

“I know that there are still problems that we must solve, but the good news is we have dedicated people working towards a solution for more transparency and consistency,” said Ervin.

The Utica Police Reform Report is due to be submitted to the state by April 1.

“Working in conjunction with police reform advisory committee members, the reform plan will build on the progressive services provided by the Utica Police Department for our city residents,” said Police Chief Mark Williams. “Procedural justice policing is an important aspect of the plan is it will help strengthen the department’s relationship with the community.”

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