On Monday, June 22, there was a Common Council Police Committee meeting. This was the meeting that Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) wanted to hold outdoors so that more people could attend. Despite the call for a gathering in riverfront park, the meeting happened on Zoom, with 59 attendees.
Much of the meeting was taken up with Alderman Rebecca Wolff (First Ward) asking a series of twelve questions which had been submitted by a group calling itself Hudson for Social Justice. The questions had been sent to the Common Council, and Wolff had forwarded them to Police Commissioner Peter Volkmann. Since Volkmann was not present at the meeting (Mayor Kamal Johnson excused his absence by reminding people Volkmann was not "a paid employee"), Chief Ed Moore, with the approval of the commissioner, provided answers to the questions. Some useful information emerged.
Responding to questions about the number of police officers in the Hudson Police Department, Moore explained that the city charter allows for a maximum of twenty-six officers. There are currently twenty-four: a chief, two lieutenants, four sergeants, one detective sergeant, four detectives, and twelve patrol officers. Of the twenty-four, one officer has been on extended sick leave and will probably be retiring soon; one sergeant will be retiring in July; one officer is recovering from shoulder surgery; one officer is a cadet in training and is expected to graduate in July. Regarding race and gender, there are three African American officers--a patrol officer, a detective, and a sergeant--and there are five female officers. Later in the meeting, in response to a question from Garriga, Moore acknowledged that "recruiting is where we could do better," indicating that "folks go on to other agencies, like the state police."
|Hudson Police 1959--PhotobyGibson.com|
He also compared Hudson's officer-citizen ratio with that of Kingston and Poughkeepsie. For Kingston, it is 1 to 333; for Poughkeepsie, it is 1 to 304; for Hudson, it is 1 to 300. Moore commented, "Contributing factors to HPD's size may be our crime rate, week-long tourist population not reflected in the census, and calls for service." He also cited a study published in 2019, based on FBI crime data from 2017, which ranked the 30 most dangerous cities and towns in upstate New York. Hudson was ranked 13th, Poughkeepsie 22nd, and Kingston didn't even make the list. The entire list and the methodology for creating the list can be found here. It must be remembered that the data was from 2017, the summer Hudson experienced a rash of shootings involving two rival groups.
Yesterday, it was reported that the City Council in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed by a police officer on May 25, had unanimously approved a resolution that would alter the city's charter to eliminate the police department and create in its place a "Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention." As proposed, the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention can include a division of law enforcement services made up of licensed police officers, but the director of the Community Safety and Violence Prevention department must have "non-law enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches."
The proposed amendment to the Minneapolis charter begins (italics added for emphasis): "The City Council must establish, maintain, adequately fund, and consistently engage the public about a department of community safety and violence prevention." What's needed now in Hudson, as we move ever closer to the April 1 deadline, is more community engagement on the issue. We need a calm and dispassionate analysis of our expectations for community safety, an informed and unbiased assessment of how our police officers carry out their duties, an accurate understanding of how mental health and substance abuse issues are currently dealt with, and a shared vision for how we want the police to partner with social services in volatile situations. That will take lots of meetings and discussion, which is difficult to do while social distancing is required but not impossible. April 1 is just 277 days away. It's time to begin.
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