Following a state directive, Lewisboro Town Supervisor Peter Parsons and Police Chief David Alfano have formed a Police Reform and Advisory Committee.
In addition, Lewisboro’s Antenna Advisory Board has undergone changes in its mission and membership.
In June, following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order directing all municipalities with their own police agencies “to perform a comprehensive review of current police force deployments, strategies, policies, procedures and practice.” It required local governments and police agencies to work with community stakeholders to develop a plan for modernizing police practices by April 1, 2021.
“The real objective is to figure out if policing in Lewisboro is working and if there is a way we can improve it,” Mr. Parsons said of the town’s new committee.
Mr. Parsons said committee members were chosen on the basis of their relevant experience. The members are Richard Sklarin, town resident and an attorney with a background in representing police departments in court; Andrea Rendo, town resident and defense attorney; Patti D’Agostino, co-founder and president of New Dawn Family Resource Center who also runs domestic violence counseling in northern Westchester; Gregory Monteleone, Lewisboro’s town prosecutor; Moira Morrissey, chief executive officer of Four Winds Hospital; and Ronald Ross, town resident and the former superintendent of Greenburgh and Mount Vernon School Districts.
Other members include Chief Alfano, Mr. Parsons, Sgt. Andrew Llewellyn of the Lewisboro Police Department, and Katonah-Lewisboro School District Superintendent Andrew Selesnick.
Mr. Parsons said Mr. Cuomo’s order, in his view, pertained mostly to communities with high-crime rates. Since Lewisboro does not have a high-crime rate, Mr. Parsons said he interpreted the order in his own way to best benefit the town.
“I interpreted it as trying to find people who are representative of the community and who have considerable contact with the police,” Mr. Parsons said.
In an email statement, Chief Alfano said that as a member of the board and the town’s chief of police, his goals are to restore and strengthen the relationship between the community and the police department.
Chief Alfano said these will be achieved through conversations and understanding different points of view. He added that the committee’s collaborative process will include a review and evaluation of the department’s current policies and practices, establishment of policies that allow police to effectively and safely perform duties, involvement of the community in the discussion, and development of policy recommendations resulting from the committee’s review.
“Building trust between citizens and the police is imperative so that all components of a community are treating one another fairly and justly and are invested in maintaining public safety in an atmosphere of mutual respect,” Chief Alfano said.
Mr. Parsons said he felt it was important to include members like Ms. Morrissey and Ms. D’Agostino since the police department is often aiding in issues surrounding mental health and domestic violence.
Mr. Parsons added that one goal he had failed to meet in forming the committee was having Hispanic representation, noting that the Hispanic community is Lewisboro’s largest minority group.
Mr. Ross, who is Black, is currently the only minority on the committee.
Mr. Parsons said the newly formed committee has yet to meet. He said that if members realize a perspective is missing, they will seek to bring in others to join or speak to the committee.“This is a learning experience,” Mr. Parsons said.
Antenna Advisory Committee
Lewisboro’s Antenna Advisory Board has experienced an overhaul in the recent months with longtime chair Ted Sohonyay’s resignation and two board vacancies. Following a town board meeting June 22, Mr. Parsons asked for Mr. Sohonyay’s resignation from the committee after he used explicit language directed at councilmember Jane Crimmins.
Joseph Neu has been appointed by the town board as the new chair of the committee. In addition, two board vacancies have been filled by James Moreo, a resident of Goldens Bridge, and Robert Cummings, a resident of South Salem. Neil Berman and Carl Grossman remain on the board. Mr. Cummings is also a contributor to The Record-Review.
Mr. Parsons said that in light of the recent efforts to build a cell tower in South Salem, he wanted to pause the cell tower review proceedings, appoint a new Antenna Advisory Board chair and other new members, and allow the committee to get up to speed on the project so they can help the town decide on next steps.
In addition to changes in personnel, on Aug. 17 the town board voted to amend the board’s responsibilities to include advancements made in fiber optics and other similar technologies used for voice communication, data services and streaming.
In an email statement, Mr. Neu said he has been extremely frustrated with the town’s internet service, which he stated, “has proven itself inadequate for working from home in competition with countless others doing the same while our children also learn from home via video conferencing.”
Mr. Neu said he was in the process of setting up an advisory committee to help the town address the issue of internet service when the chairman position became vacant. He was asked to chair the Antenna Advisory Board, but Mr. Neu said he would only be willing to act as chair if the town expanded the board’s mandate, which was done during the Aug. 22 meeting.
“With its new mandate, the Antenna Advisory Board can advise the Town Board on a plan to improve our wired and wireless communications and data infrastructure, and I look forward to working with them and other concerned residents to keep the special place that is Lewisboro connected and viable as a place to work, learn and live in the future,” Mr. Neu said.