The town’s Criminal Justice Reform Committee held its first public meeting last week, marking the beginning of a busy five months packed with near-weekly discussions. The committee is on a tight deadline to review local policing practices and deliver a policing reform plan for the town to adopt by April 1, 2021.
On Nov. 4, the CJR committee began this process by adopting a committee communications protocol and establishing some initial core values. Those include transparency, honesty and social justice.
Pound Ridge Police Chief David Ryan also discussed a series of budget requests he made for 2021 which he believes will help improve the department and align it more closely with its goals. One request relates to departmental efforts to prevent violence through the use of a nonlethal tool called the BolaWrap. Viewed as a safer alternative to using a handgun or taser, this handheld remote restraint device deploys a Kevlar cord at a distance, which restricts a resistant subject without risk of undue pressure or injury. Currently the local police force only carries pepper spray, a firearm and a baton. Chief Ryan said he received frequent requests from members of the police department for tasers, but the BolaWrap is a safer option.
Chief Ryan also has requested an additional 16 hours of de-escalation training for each officer in the department next year.
“What law enforcement has gotten away from is their ability to de-escalate with their mouth, and I’ve seen too many times in my career personally where they’ve moved up the use of force continuum solely due to a lack of patience and understanding of an individual,” he said.
This training will help officers feel better equipped when responding to calls, especially those involving individuals with emotional problems, Chief Ryan added.
He also asked Town Supervisor Kevin Hansan for an additional 64 hours of training next year per officer specifically related to criminal justice reform issues, such as officer wellness and cultural competency.
In addition, Chief Ryan unveiled the prototype for a new data collection system specific to the department’s use of force. With the help of Todd Baremore, who serves as part-time coordinator of computer services, Chief Ryan plans to roll out the form next year to “capture data on both our police officers and their conduct and the individuals they interact with in an enforcement capacity.” The form will collect a variety of information from these encounters, including the race, age, sex, gender identity and religious affiliation of both the officer and the contact. This data will help the department spot any potentially discriminatory patterns in enforcement.
This week the Town Board also approved four additional appointments to the committee — Daphne Everett, Russell Hernandez, Maarten Terry and William Malpica — bringing its membership up to 20, in addition to co-chairs Chief Ryan and Councilwoman Alison Boak.
The public is invited to attend a series of public listening sessions aimed at hearing feedback about their experiences with the police, their knowledge of department policies, and their opinions on how law enforcement could better serve the community. The first two sessions will take place via Zoom on Wednesday, Dec. 2, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 5, from 9 to 10 a.m.
Additionally, committee members will also be available to meet members of the public at the Town House individually or in small groups. Two shifts will be held on each of the following dates:
Thursday, Dec. 3, from 10 a.m. to noon, and noon to 2 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 7, from noon to 2 p.m., and 2 to 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 8, from 8 to 10 a.m., and 10 a.m. to noon.
Thursday, Dec. 10, from 5 to 7 p.m., and 7 to 9 p.m.
No appointment is necessary for these listening sessions. As a courtesy, residents can email Ms. Boak at email@example.com to reserve a time.
To learn more about the CJR committee and view a recording of its most recent meeting, visit townofpoundridge.com/boardsandcommissions/criminal-justice-reform-committee.