Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Shared Services and Community Policing

At the last Common Council meeting, the resolution to renew the agreement with Columbia County and Greene County for the Shared Services Response Team was referred to the Police Committee. On Monday night, the issue that got the most attention in the Police Committee meeting, which lasted for close to ninety minutes, was the Shared Services Response Team.

For a bit of background, since 2015, the Hudson has been part of the Shared Services Response Team, made up of select officers from the Hudson Police Department and the sheriff's departments in Columbia and Greene counties. It is a special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team. Prior to 2015, the City of Hudson had a de facto SWAT team for twenty years and an official SWAT team for thirteen years. Soon after Chief Ed Moore took his position with the HPD in March 2013, he suspended the HPD's SWAT team because it was not operating in accordance with New York State regulations for SWAT teams and having a SWAT team that did not meet the state standards would jeopardize the HPD's accredition. The Hudson's participation in the Shared Services Response Team is a way for the HPD to have access to a properly trained, equipped, and commanded SWAT team if and when on is required in the city, and in the past five years, there have been a few occasions when the Shared Services Response Team has been deployed in Hudson. Moore told the Police Committee on Monday that since 2018, there have been three deployments: in 2018, on the 200 block of State Street; in 2019, on Frederick Street; in 2020, on Union Turnpike. Moore stressed that a situation had to meet a certain threshold, typically involving people with a history of violence, for the Shared Services Response Team to be deployed.

Moore noted that although the public is most aware of the Shared Services Response Team in the execution of arrest warrants, they are also involved wilderness rescue and mass crowd security, and it would be the Shared Services Response Team that would go in if there were ever an active shooter situation anywhere in Hudson. 

Moore explained that Hudson cannot afford to maintain a SWAT team on its own. If the City did not participate in the Shared Services Response Team, the state police tactical team would come in if the situation required. Moore told the committee, "My concern is the response time." It would take much longer for the state police tactical team to arrive at the scene. Lieutenant David Miller reminded the committee that now the chief and the police commissioner have control of the team when it is deployed in Hudson. That would not be the case with the state police tactical team. Moore add, "Here I have to come before you and defend our actions." He went on to say, "There is an issue with illegal guns in Hudson. We don't want a SWAT team, but there are instances when it's needed for safety." 

The discussion touched on law enforcement issues beyond the Shared Services Response Team. Alderman Malachi Walker (Fourth Ward) asserted, "The need for community policing is huge," and advocated for "officers getting involved and doing different things." Miller told him police officers were involved in the community. "Eight-five percent of us graduated from Hudson High School." Moore said he wanted to publish a list of the charitable acts Hudson police officers do. Alderman Rebecca Wolff (First Ward) wanted to know why police officers were not on foot. Miller said there was an officer on foot patrol every day. Police commissioner Peter Volkmann offered to provide the committee with records of the hours of foot patrol.

Alderman Dewan Sarowar (Second Ward), who chairs the committee, spoke of trucks going off the truck route and asked for more signage. Volkmann suggested a sign with the message: "Don't follow GPS; follow the city signs." The process of getting such a sign is complicated, however, because the truck route through Hudson is a state route. Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), who was in the audience, complained about the use of the boot as a penalty for excessive unpaid parking tickets, arguing, "It makes it extra hard for people with low incomes."

Returning to the topic of the Shared Services Response Team, audience member Claire Cousin spoke of "community distrust of SWAT" and made reference to "a raid that took place when kids were getting on the bus to go to school." She asked Volkmann where he stood on the issue of the Shared Services Response Team. Volkmann told her a SWAT team was a necessary component to community policing. He suggested that the reaction of the community was one of not understanding. "Two days out of 365 days are separating the community," said Volkmann. "We have the responsibility to collaborate better."

Cousin urged, "The reality is [the targets of such police action] are some kids' parents," and said she wanted HPD to be sure "people are talking with kids about what happened." Volkmann promised to work toward better communication. "Let the struggle begin," he said. "Community conversations will lead to community solutions. Let's have these hard conversations."

Walker claimed that, in one of the raids, a little girl had had a gun pointed at her. Miller responded, "What you're telling me now, this is the first I'm hearing it." Volkmann told Walker, "Let's make a verbal contract. If something like this happens, I need to know, the chief needs to know. If it was a tactical error, they need to retrain."

On policing in general, Walker and Garriga had similar recommendations. Walker suggested "training some officers to smile once in a while," and Garriga said she "wanted police officers to be friendlier."

It is unclear what the outcome for the resolution will be. The committee did not take a vote to move the resolution to the full Council.

1 comment:

  1. Graduating from the local High School does not make you involved in the community, it's just where you live. What ever happened to the Police Youth Day?