Saturday, June 27, 2020

Reinventing the HPD--When Do We Begin?

On Monday, June 15, when Mayor Kamal Johnson introduced his executive order regarding police reforms, Gossips asked how it coordinated with Governor Andrew Cuomo's executive order, issued three days earlier, requiring local police agencies to develop a plan to reform and reinvent themselves based on community input. Talking about his New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative initiative, Cuomo spoke of starting with a blank piece of paper and creating the police force the community wants. Johnson said his executive order was the first step in the process, but we don't yet know what the second step will be.

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
One question raised by Hudson for Social Justice alleged that Hudson's police force was 18 percent larger than the police forces of both Kingston and Poughkeepsie. Responding to the question, Moore said the size of the department has not varied over recent years. He said he had a c. 1955 HPD roster on his desk that shows twenty-three sworn officers. Moore noted that the size of the police department "has most likely been linked to need and calls for service."      

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.


  1. “the summer [of 2017] Hudson experienced a rash of shootings involving two rival groups.”

    We’ve already had shootings in 2020, so how will reorganizing or renaming departments change bad behavior?

    When human nature and practicality are accounted for, the process may end up close to where it began.

    1. You absolutely correct. There are no unknowns in law enforcement. Crime statistics, demographics of criminal behavior, etc. have been thoroughly understood for decades. Conspicuously absent from the BLM grievance is any discussion of data. It’s too uncomfortable. In reality, people get arrested because someone calls the police on them.

    2. No unknowns??? Until the recent demonstrations, we absolutely did not know about an officers record of complaints or misconduct. Information is not shared from department to department, so a cop fired from one department can easily get a job at another. And when you say thoroughly understood, you mean it fits your narrative. And yes, people get arrested, beaten, and sometimes killed because someone called the police, and instead of the doing their job and assessing the situation, they take the word of some civilian who called 911. That's how you end up with a kid playing in the park being shot immediately upon police arrival!

  2. I applaud Chief Moore for the job he and his department have done in Hudson, keeping the peace with strategic placement of officers in high-crime areas, smart and restrained police presence at the combustible situations like that at the recent memorial for the 18-year-old Terrell Starr Jr at the Terraces, and his openness to the public. This as opposed to our Mayor and several of his aldermen comrades, who won't engage the public and instead take advantage of the covid emergency to push private agendas. Saying that the Police Commissioner can't talk to the public because he isn't paid is ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as having the Galvan Foundation as Hudson's de-facto Housing Commissioner--also "unpaid"? Ha-ha-ha.

  3. Where do we begin? How about with the city Charter and Code in regards to the Police Department. How about chapter C19-2, Appointment of Commissioner of Police: "There shall be appointed by the Mayor a Commissioner of Police, who shall be the head of the Department of Police." Not the Chief, but the Commissioner -- HEAD! Further along in chapter c19-9, Powers and Duties of Commissioner: "The Commissioner shall have cognizance, jurisdiction, supervision and control of the government, administration, discipline and disposition of the Police Department..." As long as there exists a Commissioner of Police, he is in CONTROL of the department, NOT THE CHIEF. If you want to invite graft, dysfunction, malfeasance, even a failed government, don't abide by or completely ignore the rule book and never revise it. My guess is that 30 years ago if the Commissioner of Police were absent from a public meeting, it would have been noteworthy, the exception rather than the norm. Now we have our Mayor excusing the guy who is supposed to be in control of the department, absent from an important, even historic, meeting, because he isn't paid to be there. It's laughable, but it might make you cry. Compared to references of the duties of the Commissioner in the Charter, mention of the Chief of Police is rare. The Chief is supposed to be the Commissioner's subordinate. If the HPD isn't abiding by our charter, do you think any other departments are, even the Code Enforcement Office? B HUSTON

  4. The population of Hudson in 1955 was almost double what is it today. So same amount of police officers, and half the people. In 1955, Hudson was also only 4 years removed from being raided by Dewey and the state police to deal with the gambling, prostitution, and corruption, that the police were involved with.