A few city residents spoke out against the Rome Police Department reform plan Wednesday night during a specially held Common Council meeting, with some stating the proposal did not go far enough.
Four residents — and a Clinton man who said he has had interactions with Rome police — spoke during the hour-long hearing on a proposal of draft reforms for the Rome Police Department. This special hearing was held an hour before Wednesday’s regularly scheduled Common Council meeting.
“This is not what the governor had in mind,” said Jacqueline Nelson, head of the Rome NAACP branch. “If you read this, it looks like there is no problem in Rome at all.”
Nelson said she spoke on behalf of a Rome NAACP focus group. She said the group was formed because the Rome NAACP could not initially get a seat at the reform planning table.
There were almost 40 times where the draft reforms said there were no additional actions needed, though there was discussion on those issues in the meeting minutes, Nelson said.
Nelson further questioned the training aspects listed in the reform package. The training was not spelled out she said, asking where and when this would take place.
In June, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order — along with a package of police reforms — that requires local governments and police forces to enact their own reforms by April 1, 2021, to continue to receive state funding.
The order requires the groups to come up with plans to address use of force, crowd management, community policing and bias awareness training. It also includes de-escalation training and practices, community-based outreach and a citizen complaint disposition procedure.
Per Cuomo’s order, the reform plan is being offered for public comment and then will be presented to the Rome Common Council to adopt the plan no later than April 1. A certification of the law or resolution will be transmitted to the New York State director of the Division of Budget.
Common Council President Stephanie Viscelli said the board would take up the proposal for consideration at its next meeting Wednesday, March 10.
The city of Rome’s Community Advisory Committee published the 100-page draft proposal earlier this month. Its recommended actions include introducing body-worn cameras, further work on crisis intervention and increasing diversity in recruitment — specifically among Spanish-speaking individuals.
Other residents Wednesday night spoke about a need for mental health help, recruitment and a belief that the reforms did not go far enough to include those who feel disenfranchised.
“People feel they don’t have a voice and the process isn’t there for them,” said Robert Angelicola, a member of the NAACP focus group, who said he was speaking for himself and not the group.
Several members of the city’s Common Council spoke about the hearing during the subsequent council meeting. Third Ward Councilor Kimberly Rogers spoke about the draft reforms being a living, breathing document.
Rogers said it was not a perfect document and noted others would go about it in a completely different way. However, just because the council was looking to possibly adopt it at its next meeting does not mean it cannot be updated, she said.
“We update all kinds of plans,” she said. “There will always be opportunities to do better.”
Ed Harris is the Oneida County reporter for the Observer-Dispatch. For unlimited access to his stories, please subscribe at the top of the uticaod.com homepage or activate your digital account today. Email Ed Harris at [email protected]