Red Hook Police Department Reforms: Comment Period Open until February 18th

CALL TO ACTION: THE RED HOOK POLICE DEPARTMENT (RHPD) HAS RELEASED A REFORM PLAN. BARD COLLEGE STUDENTS LIVE UNDER THE JURISDICTION OF THE RHPD AND THEREFORE WILL BE IMPACTED BY THE DECISIONS MADE IN THIS PLAN. 

PUBLIC COMMENT IS OPEN ON THIS PLAN UNTIL FEBRUARY 18TH. 

BARD STUDENTS CAN ALSO FILL OUT THIS ANONYMOUS SURVEY. 

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE REFORMS CAN BE FOUND BELOW. 

Executive Order

On June 12th 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued executive order no. 203, which required that “local government[s] must convene stakeholders for a fact-based and honest dialogue about the public safety needs of their community. Each community must envision for itself the appropriate role of the police. Policies must be developed to allow the police to do their jobs to protect the public and these policies must meet with the local communities’ acceptance.”

Over 500 municipal police agencies in the state are examining and proposing reforms to their policing methods to “promote community engagement to foster trust, fairness, and legitimacy, and to address any racial bias and disproportionate policing of communities of color.” These reforms were meant to be done with community input and support, and ratified by April 1st, 2021.

The Red Hook Police Department (RHPD) was one of these police agencies required to implement reforms. Serving both the village and town of Red Hook (which includes the Bard College community), the RHPD is made up of three full-time and seven part-time officers. Their budget is $593,500/year, which composes 26.75% of the village’s budget. 
In response to Order 203, Dutchess County published a report and corresponding plan for police reform within the county. The collaborative group held public hearings in all of the major cities and towns, including one in Red Hook on September 26, 2020.

Reform Plan

Based on the findings of the report and several community forums, the RHPD created a reform plan. The plan is now available to read. A public comment period is open until February 18th, at which time a public hearing will be held on the plan. 

Bard Students are members of the Red Hook Community and are therefore allowed and encouraged to offer comments on the RHPD’s plan for police reform.

The Red Hook Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (RHEDI) group posted on their instagram a series of questions about how to critically respond to the RHPD’s plan:

  • Do you think the description of future acts meets community needs?
  • Do you think the plan best represents the community’s values?
  • Consider your experiences and whether the plan includes what you value.

The report is 5 pages long and is a quick read for those who wish to look at it themselves. However, the major reforms in the report are:

  • Transparency and Accountability:
    • Police must wear body cameras.
    • A periodic report and analysis on police activity to determine how minorities are impacted.
  • Building Trust in the Community:
    • Increase trust by “doing more”
      • Foot patrols through the village is the only way they’re planning on doing this.
      • The RHPD already has a strong presence within the Red Hook School District, Bard College, and public events.
  • Equity:
    • Thorough vetting of candidates
    • Annual crisis intervention, implicit bias, and procedural justice training.
  • Accessibility of Information:
    • All officers must wear blue uniforms with name tags.
    • Complete “migration” of the RHPD website to a new platform at an unknown time.
  • Future:
    • “Create a volunteer advisory committee to the Village Board” to ensure that the RHPD is held accountable.

The report goes into more depth on the current systems in place as well as the changes that are being made. 

Major Problems

The RHPD currently does not have a website and their plan to create is vague in terms of the timeline. The RHPD has to this point made no effort to establish an online platform for concerns or complaints. Only after being extensively pushed during a community forum last week, did they agree to a tentative launch date of June 1st, but this has not been officially confirmed. 

Currently, complaints to the RHPD are made by physically visiting the Red Hook Village Hall (by the Bard Shuttle stop) and completing a paper form. This process is inaccessible, uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous to many people.

Submitting Comments:

To submit a comment about the plan, you can email info@redhooknyvillage.org. RHEDI recommends using the subject: “Comments on the police reform plan” and addressing the email specifically to the Village Clerk Lara Hart. Comments are due by February 18th. 

For those who want to speak in person, there is a public hearing on February 18th at 7pm. Comments are limited to 3 minutes. More information about the meeting can be found here, or by going to redhookvillage.org/calendar. 

Additionally, Dr. Kahan Sablo the Dean of Inclusive Excellence at Bard has created a survey for Bard Students to fill out. “This survey is being administered to help the Red Hook Police Department better understand the needs and experiences of the Bard community in their compliance with Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order #203.” Responses are anonymous and while they may not be brought up during the February 18th meeting, they will be brought to the RHPD during ongoing discussions between Bard and Red Hook. Students can fill out the survey here, 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT BARD/RED HOOK POLICE

Three police agencies have jurisdiction in Red Hook: 

  • Dutchess County Sheriff: Dutchess County agency supervised by an elected Sheriff.  Bard College and Red Hook are located in Dutchess County.  The County Agency is subject to the NYS mandate which is being conducted by the County.
    • Residents of Tivoli note that the Village of Tivoli does not have a village-specific police department. Instead they contract with Dutchess County Sheriff’s office. However, all agencies have jurisdiction throughout both villages and the town. 
    • Those who wish to read the Dutchess County Sheriff Police Reform plan can do so here.
    • Public comments & suggestions about the plan can be made until Friday February 26th by emailing them to dcsopublicinput@dutchessny.gov. 
  • New York State Police: NYS agency supervised by a superintendent who is nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the New York State Senate. Not subject to the NYS mandate. The agency states it is undergoing an internal process.
  • Red Hook Police Department: Village of Red Hook agency. Subject to the NYS mandate.

Red Hook has three local governments:

  • Red Hook Town Board: contracts with Red Hook Village for police coverage. Not mandated to conduct a review. 
  • Tivoli Village Board : limited contract with Dutchess County Sheriff for occasional police coverage. Not mandated to conduct a review.  Village Board held two listening sessions for public comment and reviewing policies related to police contract. 
  • Red Hook Village Board: municipality supervises Red Hook Police Department. Mandated to conduct a review.  

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