Updated: February 20, 2021 11:40 PM
Created: February 20, 2021 11:32 PM
OGDEN, N.Y. (WHEC) — The Ogden Police Department -- which has 14 sworn officers and about 12 volunteer officers -- just completed a 5-month long reform process.
Police reform has been a major demand on protestors' lists ever since the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota in May of 2020.
Less than three weeks after Floyd's death, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued executive order 203, which required municipalities with their own police departments (like Ogden) to "perform a comprehensive review of current police force deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, and practices, and develop a plan to improve such deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, and practices, for the purposes of addressing the particular needs of the communities served by such police agency and promote community engagement to foster trust, fairness, and legitimacy, and to address any racial bias and disproportionate policing of communities of color."
In September of 2020, Ogden Police Department formed a 14-person committee including members of the Chamber of Commerce, Town Board, prosecuting and defense attorneys, student activists, members of the City of Rochester Forensic Intervention Team (or FIT), and members of the Ogden community to provide firsthand experiences.
"This plan came from the public," says Ogden Police Chief Christopher Mears. "So, it's been an eye-opener for both sides."
During the process, the committee (known as The Town of Ogden's Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Committee) identified five key areas of concern: racial bias, diversity, the relationship between the police and the public, mental health, and use of force.
The conversations about use of force resonated with Ogden resident Eldrie Anderson, who is African American and has been stopped by police before. He says "you know we have to play by a different set of rules because we don't get as many opportunities before excessive force can occur quickly."
"That was what really concerned a lot of people the most," says Mears. "How we use force, why we use force, what we do after we use force... because we don't hear much about that."
Three notable changes coming out of this reform process are:
1) The department will now include demographics in its annual report (something it's never done before).
2) Officers will place more of an emphasis on interacting with and connecting with the community, particularly students.
3) A mandated duty to intervene, which means if an officer sees another officer using too much force, the first officer will now be required to intervene to ensure that the person they're trying to take into custody stays safe.
At the beginning, some participants were skeptical of the process.
"I was nervous at first," says Anderson. "And I remember when I went to sit down, I tried not to sit near anybody who's wearing a uniform."
But by the end of the five-month process, both the Ogden Police Department and members of the community felt one step closer to finding common ground.
Anderson says, "Everyone just felt like law enforcement was there to protect and serve all. Period."
The Town of Ogden Police Department will hold a public forum over Zoom on Thursday, February 25 at 6:30pm to discuss their findings and answer questions about their report. You can join that meeting by clicking here.
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