Public weighs in on Watertown’s police reform plan

Watertown police reform plan

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - It was the public’s turn to weigh in on the city of Watertown’s police reform plan.

In a virtual discussion Wednesday night, Watertown officials did most of the listening, while city residents did the talking.

“I really think there should be diversity training, and mental health first aid,” one speaker said.

Police Chief Charles Donoghue says he agrees that mental health and diversity training are important for officers, but he says the issue is financial.

However, Donoghue says the department is looking into a private company to do those trainings.

“it is a priority and it was years ago we started doing it,” he said, “but everything does have a price on it.”

The director of community services in Jefferson County, Tim Ruetten, says his department may have a tool for police, a virtual mental health response system, which they hope to launch soon.

“So law enforcement could virtually speak with a therapist or a client that’s in emotional distress into a virtual session with a therapist right on scene,” Ruetten said, “and hopefully alleviate some escalation that can happen.”

Other participants asked questions like: can the neighborhood watch program work closely with police? Will white supremacy be addressed in trainings? Are body cameras on the list of priorities for the city?

All of those things will be considered by the police reform group when making the final plan. The reform plan is mandated by the state to be finished by April 1.

Another public session is scheduled for next Wednesday February 17.

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