GENEVA — Dozens of residents implored City Council Wednesday night to begin the process of bringing police reform to the city and, in particular, set in motion the process for ushering in a police accountability board.
More than 50 people registered to speak during Council’s public comment portion of the meeting, which was held via Zoom. Most of those who spoke urged councilors to take action and not delay a number of measures that would reform the way police operate and are overseen.
The night was led by Adam Fryer, who has become a spokesman for the Black Lives Matter Geneva movement, which penned a number of resolutions related to police reform that were on Wednesday night’s agenda. Because of time constraints — public comments lasted over two hours — Council discussion and votes on the resolutions were unavailable as of press time. Check back for updates on www.fltimes.com and in the Times‘ Weekender edition, which publishes Friday.
Fryer said the proposals before Council were hardly revolutionary, and he urged councilors to begin the reform process.
Others said that process needs to slow down.
Don McGuigan said in a message read by City Clerk Lori Guinan that Council must get back to public meetings and away from Zoom sessions and that a committee representing all facets of the community should be created to discuss the issues. He said the matter cannot be driven alone by Black Lives Matter.
He also took aim at Ward Five Councilor Laura Salamendra for what he said was her anti-police rhetoric, and he assailed some of the resolutions, which include removing guns from school resource officers (that measure was pulled from the agenda).
Jess Farrell criticized some members of City Council, whom she said were not happy with BLM Geneva writing the resolutions. She said they could have gotten involved earlier by reaching out to the group.
“The people of Geneva have been speaking,” she said. “I know you’ve heard us.”
Fryer said a police accountability board is a top priority.
According to the proposed resolution, the board would be a “civilian-controlled process to fairly investigate and make determinations respecting complaints of misconduct involving sworn officers of the Geneva Police Department. The Police Accountability Board shall be the mechanism to investigate such complaints of police misconduct and to review and assess Geneva Police Department patterns, practices, policies, and procedures.”
Fryer said such a board is the “number one demand of the people.”
Other police-reform resolutions proposed include revising the police department’s use of force policy; creating a police budget advisory board to examine appropriations; expanding the Community Compact’s racial, age and socioeconomic diversity; and revising the police department’s body camera policies.
Fryer said that with a number of police misconduct complaints “settled for thousands of dollars,” with no repercussions for officers, it’s imperative the city have a board to review complaints and mete out discipline if deemed to be appropriate.
Creating the board would require a city charter change as well as a public hearing before it can be adopted by Council. Having a public hearing provides an “open and transparent discussion,” but does not mean approval, Fryer said.
“There is no excuse to vote no to table (the resolution),” he said.
Fryer also urged Council not to table the other resolutions related to reform, saying they are common-sense changes that ultimately benefit both police and the community they serve.
“Let’s lead the way for police reform and stop kicking the can like we always do,” he said.
Virgil Slade said City Council “has an opportunity to make history. This is an opportunity created for you by the People’s Protest,” he said.
A resolution that would have school resource officers not carry guns or handcuffs in schools was pulled at the request of The People’s Peaceful Protest group, which issued a statement Wednesday saying some of their proposals have been misrepresented by City Council and the media, including a proposal to eliminate two police positions held by recruits. The Finger Lakes Times noted in a story on Tuesday that the resolution pertaining to police force reductions was made by councilors Ken Camera and John Pruett.
Additionally, City Attorney Emil Bove issued an advisory on the resolutions. He stated that they would not abide by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order for police reform.
“It is our opinion that resolutions on the agenda which address police reform and accountability without consultation with the stakeholders described in Gov. Cuomo’s executive order, including members and leadership of the Police Department, the local office of the district attorney, the local public defender; and local elected officials, are premature. ... The city attorney strongly recommends that, prior to taking any action on police reform and accountability, the city create and initiate the process for consultation with the enumerated stakeholders on relevant reform and accountability issues, including those set forth in the resolutions.”