December 1, 2021

Sheriff’s officials give insight on diversity, bias training

Questions regarding implicit bias training, diversity in recruiting and use of body cameras within the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office were answered by sheriff’s officials Tuesday night following a presentation by the department.

The virtual presentation attended by more than 20 people comes following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 203, which calls for law enforcement departments to review policies and procedures with a focus on addressing issues of racial bias, according to the governor’s office.

The order was signed into place in June following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer and the protests that followed.

Sheriff Mark Helms, Capt. Nick Lynch, Capt. Rob Derksen and Undersheriff Bud Rigg started the forum with a presentation on the Sheriff’s Office, including administrative makeup, divisions and purposes.

This included the functions of the office’s three divisions: corrections, road patrol and civil.

Following the roughly two-hour presentation, members from the public submitted questions for Helms and Rigg to answer.

Cortland County Legislator Beau Harbin (D-Cortland) asked about implicit bias training within the office, as 5.9% of the county are people of color but make up 18% of arrests.

Helms said that he couldn’t confirm the statistics but said members from the office will be going through the training at the end of the month.

Cortland resident Danielle Wimbish asked if the office had considered looking outside of the county to bring in diverse, qualified officers, which she said has been done recently in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Helms responded that the office does recruit outside the county but the person applying would have to take the civil service exam from their county of residence. The office also tries to focus first on hiring people from within the county.

Harbin also asked Helms if he supports the use of body cameras.

“I do,” Helms replied. “And I would love to see us get the funding to do them. I know that’s probably the biggest hurdle.”