Dutchess Sheriff’s Office reimaging plan presented

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POUGHKEEPSIE – A special meeting of the legislature’s Public Safety Committee on Thursday evening was held so that lawmakers could learn about Sheriff Butch Anderson’s proposal for modernizing the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office.  The proposal is a requirement of Executive Order 203 signed by Governor Cuomo in June of 2020.

Cuomo’s order requires all law enforcement agencies, except for the State Police, to submit plans outlining their response to changing times, to the state by April 1.  Cuomo issued the directive, saying an “urgent and immediate action is needed to eliminate racial inequities in policing, to modify and modernize policing strategies, policies, procedures, and practices, and to develop practices to better address the particular needs of communities of color to promote public safety, improve community engagement, and foster trust.”

Sheriff Anderson, a 50-year veteran of law enforcement, explained that times have changed but his philosophy hasn’t.  “Treat others as you want to be treated,” is Anderson’s core value instilled upon every cadet that goes through his agency’s academy.

With a cadre of veteran department officials at the ready, the seasoned crime-fighters addressed the various aspects of evolution that the agency, in existence since 1717, is embracing.  From adjusted “Use of Force” policies to the development of a Civilian Review Board, Anderson’s top brass explained the policies to the legislators.

Of particular note was the revelation that Anderson’s command staff meets on a weekly basis to adjust department policies based on experience and technology.  The sheriff’s office is also exploring the creation of a civilian review board that would be a subcommittee of the county’s Criminal Justice Council to design reports, appraisals, and policies used by the DCSO and made available to the public to meet the transparency requirements from the state.

“I am proud that during this mandatory, but absolutely necessary, public review of policing procedures that it was reaffirmed that the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office is by far ahead of most police agencies,” said Legislature Chairman Gregg Pulver. “The events of this past summer, at a particularly emotionally vulnerable moment for this nation, were a true catalyst for this plan. I think we need to remember to always keep our eyes open and be sympathetic to other perspectives in order to learn and develop community bonds.”

The stoic Sheriff Anderson, described by many as a modern-day John Wayne, told the committee that his office reform and modernization plan “is a comprehensive package emphasizing training, recruitment, citizen review board, academy, officer accountability, community policing, and body-worn cameras. This comprehensive plan addresses all of what was requested of law enforcement in Executive Order 203. We look forward to implementing our plan and becoming even better than we are today. With our commitment to this plan, we ask our elected officials and members of the community to do the same. With all of us making a commitment to be better our plan will be very successful.”

Democratic Legislator Giancarlo Llaverias, representing the Town of Poughkeepsie and a critic of law enforcement told Mid-Hudson News that the 42-page plan is lacking.  “This is incomplete. There are no real projection numbers nor any ideas on how they plan to engage people of color and LGBTQ,” said Llaverias, who admitted that he had not read the entire plan.

The plan also references the implementation of body-worn cameras.  Lieutenant Steve Reverri is tasked with implementing the program to put cameras on all patrol deputies. The plan will be finalized by 2025.  The City of Poughkeepsie Police rolled out their body-cams in January of 2020 after months of research and are credited with being at the forefront of transparency in advance of Cuomo’s directive.

The full legislative body will consider the plan on March 8, 2021.