Kingston officials, community meet over gun violence

Police Chief Egidio Tinti discusses the issue with city residents

KINGSTON – City residents and the Kingston Police Department have come to an impasse regarding a series of deadly and reported shootings that have occurred over the past year.

Wednesday evening, city law enforcement and Mayor Steven Noble held a community forum on gun violence and the ongoing investigations into the incidences, specifically the homicides that occurred in October and November of 2019 and February of 2020, while gaining community input and discussing how to move forward.

Although some residents shared beliefs that the violence is isolated and not a major safety concern, most of the speakers, some from Ward four where the incidents occurred, said they felt unsafe; but, more so, that there is a lack of trust between the black and brown residents and the police.

Shai Brown, a resident who had recently joined the Restorative Justice Task Force, said she believes the reason these crimes haven’t been solved is that the people living in the neighborhoods where they occurred don’t feel comfortable talking to police, that it could even put them in danger if they were to do so. “That’s the biggest problem in officer/community relationships; people of color do not trust you all and you all don’t trust us and that’s a real fact,” said Brown.

Law enforcement agreed that getting information is an issue, but that the Kingston police, the Ulster DA’s office, and the State Police have been working overtime, exhausting every avenue looking into these cases.

Police Chief Egidio Tinti pleaded with residents at the forum to give police a chance to help and rebuild trust, or the situation can’t change. “Call me. At least give me the opportunity. That’s how we develop the trust, by giving me the opportunity,” said Tinti. “People will say no. Some of you will leave here today not believing a word of what’s been said, I get it. I understand; but, the rest of you, this is what we need. That is my plea tonight, really. I hope you take that away. It’s difficult, some of you are shaking your heads, but others are listening and we need that,” he said.

Police Chief Tinti

Mayor Noble said the police department is taking the approach to interact with residents informally at times when crimes aren’t occurring to hopefully facilitate that trust so those same residents feel comfortable coming to the police when something does happen, rather than feel intimidated, or confronted. Additionally, the DA’s office is taking seriously the transition to Reformative Justice, rather than incarceration and using trauma-informed prosecution when it comes to trying individuals who may be victims of circumstance. All of these are efforts to promote public trust.

The Kingston Police want the residents to know they are trying their best with the resources they have and despite the crimes being unsolved, they are continuing to investigate locally and nationwide.