Letter to the Editor: Cortlandt Issues Police Reform Report

Cortlandt Town Board Member James Creighton

Cortlandt’s Police Reform Task Force formally submitted its final report and recommendations to the Cortlandt Town Board on March 16, 2021 to help improve local policing in our community.  The Town Board received and filed the report and is now forwarding the committee’s eighteen recommended policy changes to our partners at Westchester County and New York State for their review and action.

Following the death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, Governor Cuomo (through

Executive Order 203) directed all communities with a police department across New York State to begin the process of reevaluating law enforcement issues with community input in an effort to improve emergency services in their communities.

While the Town of Cortlandt no longer has its own police department (after it was disbanded in the 1990s saving Cortlandt taxpayers millions of dollars), the people of Cortlandt sought to have their voice heard by Westchester County and New York State as those entities were doing a review of public safety policies.

Cortlandt’s public safety services are provided on a 24 hour basis by the New York State Police along with contracted services with Westchester County’s Department of Public Safety to supplement State Trooper patrols for two shifts per day.

Supervisor Puglisi appointed me to chair Cortlandt’s Police Task Force in October 2020, and a diverse committee made up of community residents (including community activists, former police officers, attorneys, educators and other concerned individuals) was empaneled shortly thereafter.

A series of eight public committee meetings (via Zoom during the Covid-19 pandemic) initially focused on recommendations set forth in a memo prepared by Supervisor Puglisi in the summer of 2020 as a starting point for discussions and then the committee delved into a wide range of issues for discussion and possible action.

The committee also received reports from the parallel Westchester County Police Reform & Reimagining Task Force and forwarded Cortlandt’s draft comments to the County to ensure that Cortlandt’s recommendations and inquiries were addressed while the County worked through its reform and reimagining process.  A public comment and listening session was also held in February.

It has been an honor to chair this task force and work with these amazingly dedicated residents who spent countless hours researching, discussing and finalizing the various recommendations with the invaluable input from our community.

Special thanks to Deputy Supervisor Richard Becker who nearly all of the meetings and provided many thoughtful recommendations and comments as the committee explored difficult issues.

We believe that the Task Force’s proposals will help make our unique policing program in Cortlandt even better while improving community communication and relationships with our emergency services personnel.

While there have been calls this year from some elsewhere in this country to ‘defund the police’, we are proud of our police here in Cortlandt.   The job police do is not easy, and while change is often difficult, we know that honest discussion often leads to good solutions.

We trust that our calls for the County and New York State to improve and properly equip our law enforcement and emergency services professionals will be heard and acted upon favorably.

James Creighton
Councilman
Town of Cortlandt

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