GENEVA — The Black Lives Matter Geneva movement wants quick action by the city on police reforms, but it appears the mayor and many council members think a slower approach is better, even while agreeing with some of the proposals put forth.
At a raucous work session Monday night, councilors discussed police reform and how to proceed with nine resolutions up for consideration Wednesday evening. Many said they are not prepared to vote on legislation that has not been vetted or on which they have not received input from residents and key players, such as the police and groups such as the Community Compact and the NAACP.
The resolutions on City Council’s Wednesday agenda were written not by councilors in conjunction with city staff but by members of BLM Geneva. Ward 5 Councilor Laura Salamendra is offering the resolutions at tonight’s meeting, which can be seen on Finger Lakes Television Channel 1304 at 7 p.m. You also can watch via Zoom at https://Zoom.us/join. The meeting ID is 83649293787 and the password 381849.
At-large Councilor Frank Gaglianese said the process to bring about police reform is being done in haste, even though he said it is one of the most important initiatives in the city’s history.
“We’re not giving the community a chance to absorb this all,” Gaglianese said. “We’re doing it on a whim and we’re not involving all entities.”
He said there is a need to involve the NAACP, the schools and Police Chief Mike Passalacqua in the process.
Gaglianese complimented the work Black Lives Matters members did on the resolutions but said that cannot be the final step in the process before a vote.
“I believe there is more information that needs to be sought out,” he said. “We need to look at it and talk together. We do need the PD (input).”
Ward 1 Councilor Tom Burrall agreed that GPD input is needed.
“They need to be part of the process,” he said. “This is not an us-against-them situation.”
Added Gaglianese: “There needs to be time to go over these things.”
Those thoughts were echoed by other councilors as well, including At-large Councilor Anthony Noone and Mayor Steve Valentino.
But others, such as Ward 4 Councilor Ken Camera, believe some resolutions can be voted on as early as Wednesday evening, such as banning most no-knock warrants and a revised use of force policy. Other reform measures need more discussion, he said.
“We have some really good work that was done by Black Lives Matter,” Camera said. “There are some things that need more deliberation.”
Salamendra said the resolutions are on the agenda because a majority of her constituents and BLM Geneva want reforms now. Ward 3 Councilor Jan Regan said Council should put in extra time to pass reform measures in a more expedient manner.
“I don’t want to put it off forever,” she said.
Valentino said he is not a social media regular, but said he’s not happy with what he called “disinformation” being bandied about on Facebook about police matters in the city.
And Gaglianese in particular took some heat for his Facebook posts, including re-posting one by a Geneva firefighter asking the public to oppose police department cuts.
The post suggested that some councilors wanted police to patrol without firearms. There is no such resolution proposed, although one calls for having school resource officers not carry guns or handcuffs while in school and that they be in plainclothes.
As for cuts, there is a resolution on Wednesday’s agenda offered by Camera and Ward 6 Councilor John Pruett to eliminate two police department positions.
Gaglianese’s own post suggested a defunding effort and accused the city administration of not fully backing its police department.
“If you value, respect and expect public safety, then speak up and speak out against the defunding, cutting and not filling of police positions in our city,” he wrote. “This is completely absurd and will happen if you do not stand behind me, be vocal and show support at the next City Council meeting and every meeting in the near future. This needs to be done to ensure the safety of all residents of Geneva.”
Pruett said there is no “defunding” effort going on, and Camera said the reason he and Pruett are proposing the cuts of two police recruits is that the city is in the midst of a budget crisis caused by the pandemic, not because he opposes the police department.