As Mayor, I will create a Civilian Advisory Council
Why does the City of Poughkeepsie have one of the highest violent crime rates in New York state? It has to do with our location. We are a city of 30,000 residents within our 5 square mile boundary – but we are also part of a greater weapons and opiate trafficking network in the lower and mid-Hudson Valley covering the Bronx, Newburgh and Poughkeepsie – a one-million-person region.
In Poughkeepsie, our 500 vacant and abandoned buildings provide convenient places for illicit activity. And with so many of Poughkeepsie’s youth having no place to go after school, crime networks prey on our young people and breed violence. To combat the rising rate of crime, the City has increased its number of police officers. But because we lack real community policing practices, we continue to fail. The five year rise in violent crime is beyond troubling. There has been a fundamental leadership failure in the glaring absence of any long-term plan to get our young people off the streets and out of harm’s way.
Community policing is a collaboration between the police department and the community, working together to identify and solve community problems. But right now, communities of Color are living in fear of the police: some because of historic and systematic discrimination; others fear the deportation of family members; while still others have experienced deeply traumatic personal interactions with the police. Viral instances of police aggression inflame this tension between the police and the community they serve. This is no way to live.
So, where do we start?
In a community as diverse as Poughkeepsie, we can’t implement effective community policing if the police are not residents of our City and don’t reflect the demographic makeup of our City. Diversifying the police force requires mayoral leadership. My Administration will prioritize the training and recruitment of Poughkeepsie residents to be our first responders. With a homegrown force recruited from among our families, our officers will be better able to build and maintain relationships in the community where they both live and serve.
Next, we need to build trust and confidence in the police force. Without trust, effective community policing is impossible. As Mayor, I will create a Civilian Advisory Council to advise my Administration and review all policing protocols – including the failure to de-escalate and the arrest of minors. We need to implement best practices in policing, not cause further trauma and division. Using best practices, the entire police force will be integrated into our neighborhoods - building connections with families, businesses, churches, and schools to sustain the long-term partnerships needed to keep us safe.
For community policing to work, the police department needs to develop positive relationships with the community they serve. Because 90% of our Police force live outside of the City, I believe officers need to spend more time in our neighborhoods out of uniform. I will initiate an annual minimum of 40 hours of plain clothes community engagement for each officer on the force. This will give officers the chance to talk with local business owners to help them address public safety concerns and meet with families in their homes to offer advice on security and neighborhood patrols. Families need the opportunity to get to know our officers, and officers to get to know our families. Achieving this long-term cooperation with all parties is what we need to prevent crime, de-escalate tensions, encourage investment, and revitalize our neighborhoods.