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Letter: State should be a leader in community policing

State should be a leader in community policing

I am writing in regard to “Local think tank hosts community-policing forum” in the Nov. 19 News.

The state of police/community relations is in crisis throughout the nation. As a longtime advocate for the philosophy of community policing, I applaud the work of the Partnership for the Public Good in producing its forward-looking report “Collaboration, Communication and Community-Building: A New Model of Policing for 21st Century Buffalo.” The partnership’s contribution will be most helpful to me in my efforts to get the State Legislature to take dramatic action in making community policing central to the state’s strategy for reversing the execrable and worsening state of police/community relations in the post-Ferguson era.

As we head into the 2017 session, I am calling on the Legislature to create a new program to address it head-on. I am seeking sponsorship for a bill that would appropriate funding to the Government Law Center at Albany Law School to coordinate meetings that will bring together community activists, law enforcement executives and academics from across the state to develop a unified and coherent agenda of criminal justice reforms to bring to the state’s executive and Legislature. This agenda will promote community policing and confront the crisis in police/community relations. We have a groundbreaking model that has been developed in Albany in recent years that offers a way forward to all municipalities.

The bill will also give the Division of Criminal Justice Services responsibility for managing a new local assistance program, offering technical assistance and small grants to support the creation of community councils dedicated to creating a relationship of partnership between community stakeholders and law enforcement agencies.

Many in our criminal justice community are anticipating that the kind of appointees President-elect Donald Trump is floating for top public safety posts in his administration are unlikely to be sympathetic to our cause. If Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his allies in the Legislature are sincere in their commitment to keeping New York a bastion of progressive public safety policy, this proposal certainly heads in that direction.

Terry O’Neill

Director, Constantine Institute

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