October 23, 2021

Feelings mixed over proposed police reforms

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

A man walks by the Cortland Police Department in this December 2020 Cortland Standard file photo.

After Tuesday’s public reveal of potential police reforms with the Cortland Police Department, members and people active with Cortland’s Black Lives Matter group shared mixed feelings.

“To me, it (the reforms) just sounds like more blanket” statements, member My’Shell Titus said Friday.

Titus said younger police officers would be able to adapt to new changes in policy and protocol, but older officers wouldn’t, making it harder for change to happen.

The potential reforms, first unveiled at the city’s Common Council meeting, included:

  • Having officers who are on road patrol walk for 20 minutes every two hours.
  • Developing clear guidelines for hiring that reinforces qualities the community expects.
  • Having the department do a community survey no less than every four years to review effectiveness.

The potential reforms follow Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 203 in June.

Requiring all law enforcement agencies to review their policies and come up with a plan for changes by April or lose state funding.

See for yourself

The proposals can be found on pages 7 and 8 of the following document on the city’s website: tinyurl.com/4p2gddho.

Cuomo signed the order following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while a Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes despite Floyd saying he couldn’t breathe.

Titus also said community-oriented policing should be expanded.

Melissa Kiser, the group’s lead coordinator, said she has worked as part of a committee with other city leaders such as Mayor Brian Tobin and Police Chief F. Michael Catalano to develop the reforms.

Kiser said the recommendations came from real life experiences that Black and people of color have spoken to Kiser about, and that she herself has had.

She said she hopes these changes help make “sure people don’t feel afraid to come forward and not feel afraid that they will be silenced.”

Darris McDowell, owner of The Squeeze Juice Bar, said he supported the proposal to have police more frequently out walking on the street. McDowell is an active participant in the Black Lives Matter movement, though not a part of Cortland’s group.

“As long as it’s interacting in a positive way, I don’t see much wrong with it,” he said.

“Community relationships are very important, I believe.”

McDowell noted that he hasn’t had many negative encounters with the Cortland Police Department but has been aware of other people who have.

He, too, would like to see community policing expanded and have police interact more with the public.