POUGHKEEPSIE – An agreement between Dutchess County and the City of Poughkeepsie is currently providing procedural justice training to law enforcement agencies throughout Dutchess County, except for the Town of Poughkeepsie which is doing their own training.
According to the State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), procedural justice focuses on the way police and other law enforcement professionals interact with the public and how those encounters shape residents’ views of law enforcement. It has four key principles: treating people with dignity and respect; giving individuals a voice during encounters; being neutral when making decisions; and conveying trust during interactions.
State officials say that research has shown that procedural justice fosters trust and police legitimacy, engages communities, and contributes to making communities and officers safer.
Poughkeepsie Police Lieutenants Sean McCarthy and John Zeltman are master instructors for procedural justice in New York and their methodology is being used by departments throughout the state. The two have been training law enforcement in Dutchess County at the Dutchess County Law Enforcement Center. Last week, the two veteran cops provided their eight-hour class to cops from around the county.
The training includes a module that addresses some of the major stress factors in the lives of police officers including “the street,” “family life,” and “the department.”
Zeltman told the cops, who agreed, that “Family is our number one priority but all of our time is at work, which leads to issues.” The former leader of the Dutchess County Drug Task Force indicated that police typically work long hours to provide financial security for their families but the added stress at work can cause strife in their personal lives, with those issues resurfacing in their work lives. Nationally, more officers die from suicide than shootings and car crashes combined, on an annual basis.
The instructors also explained that cynicism is a trait possessed by law enforcement because of their typical daily reactions. McCarthy said that 94 percent to 97 percent of residents in communities are law-abiding citizens. Police typically interact with the three percent to six percent of the people that tend to break the laws. Those constant interactions with that segment of society contribute to police becoming cynical. The procedural justice program seeks to address that issue by incorporating implicit bias training, including the principle of “treating others as you wish to be treated.”
Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison praised the two lieutenants and their efforts to spread their department’s progressive policing efforts to other agencies. “The City of Poughkeepsie Police Department has been a leader in police training and embraced procedural justice along with implicit bias as an important part of how we interact with our community. I appreciate Dutchess County’s commitment to helping that go countywide. Lieutenant Sean McCarthy and Lieutenant John Zeltman are to be commended for this important aspect in policing.”
In addition to training law enforcement agencies throughout the state, McCarthy and Zeltman have also given a presentation on the training to members of the New York Conference of Mayors.