A statement from Mayor Steve Noble
November 21, 2017
During a Police Commission last Wednesday evening and Community Forum last night, I had the opportunity to hear concerns from local residents about our police department. These concerns ranged from specific complaints which have been submitted for review by the Police Commission to broader concerns about how our police officers interact with our community. After hearing these concerns, it is clear that there are some residents of Kingston who do not feel safe in our city and that this feeling of uncertainty and fear is shared disproportionately by people of color. I think we can all agree that this is unacceptable. It is critical that the public has trust and confidence in those sworn to protect our city. We have the responsibility to identify and address areas in which we fall short of our shared vision for a community in which every individual feels safe, respected and valued.
While the Police Commission will continue to investigate specific complaints that have been brought forth for review, we have also made a commitment to assess and update our policies so that citizens can makes complaints with greater ease and comfort, ultimately allowing the Police Commission to have all of the information it needs to most effectively do its job when reviewing the actions of our police force. In addition, I am proposing that the following measures be put in place, effective immediately:
- In all instances in which force is used, including use of baton, OC (also known as pepper spray), and/or Taser, a report will be immediately generated for the Mayor’s review. In addition, the Police Commission will review all uses of force, regardless of whether or not a formal complaint has been submitted, at every meeting.
- A written decision will be issued by the Police Commission after it has reviewed and deliberated the details of complaints and this decision will be provided to the individual who filed the complaint, the officers cited in the complaint, and made publicly available. Each written decision will include a summary of the complaint and the factors considered amongst the Commissioners.
- An invitation will be extended to the NYCLU to meet with members of the Police Commission and the Kingston Common Council to learn about and consider legislative options, such as the “Right To Know Act”, to instill real and consequential institutional change
I believe in our police department, its leadership, and the officers who come to work every day to serve our community. I know that collectively we have made significant efforts to enhance and improve communication between the department and the public. As we navigate the challenging times ahead and review complaints submitted by community members, know that police misconduct and excessive use of force will not be tolerated. Our community and our police department has worked too hard for too long to let the progress we’ve made slip away and the trust we’ve built fall apart.
Over the next few months, I will be providing updates on new and changing policies proposed by our Police Commission. I know that the processes, both as they relate to reviewing and making decisions on specific complaints as well as our broader goals of making institutional change, can seem unbearably slow. I share that frustration. But these issues are too serious and the consequences far too great- we need to get this right. As difficult and as uncomfortable some of these conversations may be, I am certain that this process of reflection can only improve and strengthen the bonds within our community.