POUGHKEEPSIE – The Poughkeepsie Common Council’s first public hearing on the creation of the Civilian Review Board (CRB), limited to one hour Monday evening by Chairperson Sarah Salem, heard from several participants speak in favor of the CRB, including representatives of the Hudson Valley ACLU (HVACLU) and the End New Jim Crow Action Network (ENJAN).
Shannon Wong, a former Orange County legislator and HVACLU representative said, “police abuse is a present reality” and cited several incidents of civilian deaths at the hands of police officers as the foundation for the CRB.
Wong did not note that those incidents had not occurred in the City of Poughkeepsie.
Jonathan Darche, the executive director of the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) called in to give a brief overview of his agency. It has more than 200 people that handle complaints for more than 20,000 NYPD officers.
Darche said that the “subpoena power aspect of the CRB is extremely useful,” when compelling someone that has surveillance video or compelling witnesses to testify. The head of the NYC board said that another important aspect is “mediation.” He said it puts the complainant and the officer in a face-to-face environment so that the differences can be explained by the parties.
Saying that there is not always an apology from either side but it in essence opens dialogue.
Poughkeepsie Police Officer Devin Zanin, who resides in the city, said that the CRB proposal as written singles out the police department. The officer said she welcomes oversight, but it should be for all departments, not just the police. Zanin also pointed out that the CRB members are not required to have experience in law enforcement, and officers are prohibited from serving on the board. “It’s an us versus them board (CRB),” that doesn’t work towards the betterment of the city.”
While some participants do not reside in or own businesses in the city, a few do have a vested interest in the city. Rebecca Lee, owner of Bella Luci Salon on Liberty Street noted that several of the incidents cited by other participants occurred elsewhere and are not an example of what goes on in Poughkeepsie. “Our council should be cheerleaders for our department,” Lee said, encouraging the lawmakers to take an active interest in learning what the officers do for the community.
City resident Kara Bucher told Mid-Hudson News “Just this week, the Mayor and his administration announced they are grappling with a potential $3.1 million shortfall in the city’s budget for 2021. The council’s answer is to spend more money hiring an outside attorney, paying members of a Civilian Review Board and filling it with their friends. As Poughkeepsie’s families struggle, Council Chair Salem and Vice-Chair Brannen remain completely and utterly out of touch. They need to focus on the challenges facing the city and its residents, instead of their extreme New York City agenda.”
Kevin Van Wagner, Poughkeepsie PBA president said, “We have a 21st century police department that has implemented policies and procedures that better serve the officers and the city, long before Governor Cuomo recommended them. “The PBA has never said ‘no’ to a Civilian Review Board even though some council members have never asked for our input or provided an opportunity for us to discuss it together.”
The next public hearing on the creation of the CRB will be held virtually on October 5, at 5 p.m.