St. Lawrence County sheriff outlines plan for policing redesign

Sheriff's redesign plan

CANTON, N.Y. (WWNY) - Police and sheriff’s departments across the state will have to redesign their police forces by April 1 of next year.

If they don't, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says they could lose state funding. The governor ordered reforms in the wake of protests against racism and police brutality after the death of George Floyd.

St. Lawrence County Sheriff Brooks Bigwarfe says some of that funding could be for county programs. He talked about it during a county Legislature committee meeting Monday night.

“I don’t want to see certain of funds not come into the county, millions of dollars,” he said, “so I am taking a hard look at this and for sure we are going to comply.”

Bigwarfe says that complying with the plan will come in four steps. His office has started meeting with the other police departments, colleges and their police, as well as elected officials. Meetings will continue with other stakeholders, too.

“We really don’t have that far to go to get this done,” Bigwarfe said.

However, one big step is getting accredited. The state will visit the sheriff's office later this month.

Bigwarfe says during and after that process policies and procedures will be reviewed. “It’s quite the process to be accredited, rightfully so, because you want that standard to be high and I don’t mind having the standard high because it checks a lot of boxes,” Bigwarfe said. “When you have the high standard, you are doing a lot of things right. Not only do you meet a lot of the police reform standards, you go above those standards.” Bigwarfe says his deputies are already getting a lot of the training required for the reform.

That includes things like bias training, diversity and inclusion, and mental health, but they're working on some additional courses.

The sheriff hopes to have a public comment session and the plan adopted by January.

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