Communities nationwide are looking for more ways to establish trust between residents and police departments. In Schenectady, a meeting was held to introduce more people to the city’s Civilian Police Review Board.
Rev. Phil Grigsby moderated the discussion Thursday night about the Schenectady Civilian Police Review Board. He had a unique way of describing the committee.
“Mostly, it’s the best kept secret in town,” said Grigsby.
Monthly meetings are open to the public.
The nine-member board was established to independently review complaints of misconduct against Schenectady’s police department, render a decision, review policies, and foster improved relations between civilians and the police.
And part of that effort is getting the word out that the board exists and has had an effect.
Civilians can bring complaints directly to the board or to the police department, which brings them to the board to review. The identities of the officers involved are kept anonymous.
From October 2014 until March 2017, of a total 159 complaints made, 41 were sustained. 32 were not-sustained, 8 unfounded, 1 withdrawn, and 77 exonerated.
But Grigsby admitted there are some limitations.
“There is not always a direct result in the sense of: a person filed a complaint, they would get an acknowledgement that a complaint was filed, but if there was discipline, they would not know when discipline was taken,” said Grigsby.
And that is because state law keeps confidential the personnel records of police officers, firefighters, and correction officers unless there is written consent or a court order.
Review Board member Randy McGough says the effectiveness of the board relies on trust with the police department.
“Based on the trust that we have with the department, we believe that when they tell us that they have disciplined an officer because they felt the officer performed…undertook an action that may not have been within the procedural guidelines in the department, that they do it,” said McGough.
Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford, who was sworn-in last September, attended Thursday’s meeting to say that the police department takes the findings and recommendations of the board seriously.
“Almost every complaint that we deal with, with the exception of ones that are completely unfounded is, we find somewhere in that complaint that we can learn from and we send it back down to the platoon level to train our officers on what they can do better,” said Clifford.
When the meeting was opened up to the public, audience members asked how they could establish more trust between officers and residents and how to get more youth involved in the board and community.
Damonni Farley, Community Relations Coordinator for the Schenectady City School District, said he appreciates the efforts by the police department to attend community events and be seen in neighborhoods.
“It’s very important that our first interaction with that officer isn’t in a time of crisis,” said Farley.
Rev. Horace Sanders Jr., Senior Pastor at Mt. Olivet Missionary Baptist Church, hopes to continue the dialogue on youth and law enforcement at a community conversation on April 20th.
“Because it’s only when we talk to each other that we realize, ‘Hey, he’s not a really bad person. She’s not a really bad person. Or vice versa.’ So we have to make certain that we begin the dialogue with one another and gain the understanding that goes beyond the ideas that we already perceived,” said Sanders.
The Youth & Young People Community Conversation will be held Thursday, April 20th at 7 p.m. at Mt. Olivet Missionary Baptist Church, 1068 Park Ave. in Schenectady