ITHACA, N.Y. -- Tompkins County Administrator Jason Molino presented the results of a survey on Oct. 15 to figure out the next steps toward police reform. In June Gov. Andrew Cuomo enacted an executive order that all municipalities in the state must have police reform plans by April 1, 2021. As each individual town in Tompkins County works on those plans, Molino is trying to collaborate and engage with the county as a whole.
In a survey of 140 people, Molino pinpointed a few things that encompass what police reform means to the residents of Tompkins County. These include the redistribution of resources, a focus on fairness and equity in police practices, increased accountability and training, investing in the current system to enhance abilities and meet capacity needs, and to limit the role of police in various situations.
Responses to the survey also highlighted inconsistent practices, bias, racial profiling and cultural insensitivity as main concerns with public safety practices. Other challenges include that fact that oftentimes police respond to calls that could be handled by other professionals and that law enforcement is reactive to crime rather than proactive.
Molino noted that some concerns expressed, such as hiring practices and employment arrangements, are bigger issues that would require cooperation from the state in order to make those changes.
Community members recommended that police departments need to work on the relationships they have with their communities, as well as considering demilitarization of forces and finding alternative services to respond to certain calls, such as ones relating to mental health or addiction issues.
People also suggested a better implemented community policing model, reducing the carry of guns or the presentation of weapons and better informing community members about policies and procedures.
The survey also asked how to address systemic challenges and inequities. Common responses included culturally responsive training ,collaborations with community organizations, more involvement from people of color, increased funding and responsibility for social and mental health services, increased funding of resources for law enforcement agencies and consistent and equitable accountability across the criminal justice system.
To continue community engagement in the reform process, Ithaca Police Chief Dennis Nayor will give a presentation on Oct. 20 at 4:30 p.m., and Tompkins County Sheriff Derek Osborne will give one on Oct. 22 at 4:40 p.m. Additionally the former New Jersey attorney general Anne Milgram will speak about the experience of Camden, New Jersey, a town which disbanded its police force in 2013.
More forums and community engagement opportunities will be available in November on the Tompkins County website.