The Criminal Justice Reform Committee in Pound Ridge is feeling the pressure, with the deadline for its first draft of recommendations just two weeks away. “I know what our deadline is here, but to rush through something as important as this seems ridiculous to me,” said Pound Ridge Police Chief David Ryan. “If this is the crux of what we’re supposed to do, and if we rushed through it just to meet a timeline, I think we’re doing as much of a disservice as not doing it at all.”
Since October of last year, the CJR Committee has discussed its vision for equitable community policing and also set about the arduous and detailed task of reviewing the Pound Ridge Police Department’s 90-plus policies and procedures. In recent weeks, the committee has been reviewing the department’s procedures regarding use of force, pursuit, use of body camera equipment and bias-free policing. However, during a meeting Wednesday, Feb. 17, Chief Ryan and other committee members by and large agreed there was much more work to be done.
To address this quandary, the committee is considering adding the creation of a Police-Community Group or Criminal Justice Review Board to its list of recommendations. This newly formed group would be charged with continuing a review of department policies and procedures; ensuring the CJR Committee’s recommendations are properly implemented; and engaging in a long-term conversation with the police department about areas of improvement.
“There are policies that should be reviewed on an ongoing basis, whether it's annually, or every six months, or as we see wrongdoings in other towns,” committee member Tina August said at this week’s meeting. “It further supports the idea of having a civilian board continuing with the work that we’re doing.”
The CJR Committee was created in fall 2020 at the behest of Gov. Andrew Cuomo as part of the state’s Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative, an ongoing response to highly publicized incidents of police brutality and calls for criminal justice reform. The directive required all 500 jurisdictions with police departments in New York state to reassess public safety in their communities through a dedicated police reform committee. Each committee was also tasked with reviewing local policing practices and presenting a policing reform plan for their town to adopt by April 1.
The Pound Ridge Town Board appointed the following residents to the task: Wilbur Aldridge, Ms. August, Todd Baremore, Alison Boak, Carla Brand, Ted Childs, Burton Geyer, Arthur Del Negro Jr., Amy Fishkin, Alana Fitz, the Rev. Steve Kim, Frank Luis, Bill Harrington, Kristin Raniola, Namasha Schelling, Marisa Sullivan, Judy Troilo, Daphne Everett, Russell Hernandez, Maarten Terry, William Malpica and Chief Ryan.
The committee has already contributed to changes within the Pound Ridge Police Department. Due in part to conversations with his fellow committee members, Chief Ryan announced earlier this month a series of initiatives to help improve his department’s communications and messaging. In an effort to better acquaint residents with police services, Chief Ryan is making himself available one Saturday morning a month for “Coffee with the Chief” in the town house or the library. The first Coffee with the Chief will be held Saturday, Feb. 27, beginning at 9 a.m. in the courtroom located at the Pound Ridge Townhouse. The theme of this month’s meeting will be discussion of the ongoing criminal justice reform process.
To improve transparency, there are also plans to enhance the police department’s website with more information about department policies, procedure and services. This will include publishing a weekly “summary report” on the department’s activities, so residents will have a more detailed understanding of trends in crime, traffic enforcement, accidents and other public safety incidents. There will also be a greater effort to increase community outreach through social media, possibly by establishing a Pound Ridge Police Department Facebook page.
Beginning this spring, officers will also take part in an enhanced community policing initiative, intended to familiarize residents with local law enforcement and also increase their comfort level with the officers.
The CJR committee will meet next on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. before presenting its draft plan of recommendations Tuesday, March 2, and adopting its final recommendations March 30.
For more information about the CJR Committee, visit townofpoundridge.com/boardsandcommissions/criminal-justice-reform-committee.