October 25, 2021

City of Cortland holds 2nd police forum

Body cameras and ways to respond to people with mental or other health issues were once again topics of conversation for the Cortland City Police Department during its second public forum Monday on police policy and procedure.

“I think they would sort of shine a light on, or make clear interactions with, city police,” Whitney Hargett, a city resident, said of body cameras.

The forum was the second of three as part of the city’s effort to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order 203, which asks police departments to review department policies and procedures with an eye toward eliminating racial inequalities.

The executive order was enacted after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and protests that followed in cities across the nation, including Cortland.

Police Chief F. Michael Catalano said body cameras were something he would support implementing, but he noted it would be a costly program.

“I think it’s something good to have,” he said.

However, he said a camera costs anywhere from $500 to $1,000 and that doesn’t account for paying personnel to handle all the data from the cameras.

“It’s not just a one-time purchase,” he said. “I’d say it’s be close to $100,000 a year.”

He said a purchase like that would be a huge operating and personnel expense.

Patricia Schaap, who is with the Liberty Resources Mobile Crisis Team, said the leadership in the Cortland Police Department is great with trying to appropriately handle mental health crises in the community.

“They’re very collaborative and really seem to value mental health with everyone,” she said. “Youth, adults, everyone.”

But she said that she’d like to see a stronger collaboration between mobile crisis and the police department and have social workers be more a part of calls. She said perhaps social workers could respond to a call and pending no need for police they would take over the call.

Other residents brought up how various agencies in the community used yellow stickers in the past to communicate that someone had health issues, including physical and mental health issues.

City resident Amy Buggs said the program is less known now, and it may not even still be going on, but it was beneficial to the community.