Cuomo’s police reform mandates put strain on small departments

WWNY Cuomo’s police reform mandates put strain on small departments

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Governor Cuomo mandated that New York police agencies examine and change the way they approach their jobs. The lengthy reform process can cause difficulty for small departments.

In a matter of 2 weeks, the Black River/Evans Mills Police Department handled 29 complaints, 37 vehicle stops, issued 9 tickets, aided other agencies 18 times, and performed 11 property checks.

The department, which covers the villages of Black River and Evans Mills, is made up of Steve Wood, the police chief.

“I’m just a one man department,” he said.

But when it comes to Governor Cuomo’s mandate that all police departments undergo reform, their size doesn’t make a difference. So Wood has to do everything himself.

“The vast majority of police departments in New York state are small police departments and the chief in these departments wears a lot of hats, and these mandates are quite a strain on small police departments,” said Patrick Phelan, president of the NYS Association of Chiefs.

The reform is focused on giving communities more of a say in how their police department operates. That means departments need to interview community stakeholders about what they need from police, undergo new training, hold public forums, and come up with a written reform plan by April 1.

That plan has to be approved by the community and the state. If it doesn’t get done, the governor says the municipality will lose a substantial amount of state funding.

“We have roughly 120 hours a month that’s budgeted. That includes budgeting, scheduling, paperwork, and patrolling. We’re still on the road and doing all the administrative duties and now we’re going to add this reform package to it,” said Wood.

“There’s a lot of stuff coming out of Albany, a lot of legislation - hot and heavy. It’s a lot of change at once and it’s a challenge to law enforcement. It’s not that were resistant to change, they’re just dumping a lot of things in our lap at once. It’s just that the timeline is tight and municipalities have a gun to their head with the threat of state aid being taken away from them,” said Phelan.

Wood says the small departments of the area are collaborating to get everything done.

“We want to work together. What’s your plan? Can I take something from it? Here’s my plan. Can you take something from it,” said Wood.

Wood says local police departments are happy to be improving and he’s confident they’ll get the reform done in time.

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