On March 31 the City Council met to adopt a police reform plan as required by an executive order issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
For an hour and a half the public offered spirited comments that ran the gamut from civil but frustrated to unrestrained anger. Some of the public comments were disturbing, and there were several incidents in which members of the public interrupted remarks being made by the City Attorney.
At the center of the conflict was the refusal of the Council to issue a blanket adoption of the 50 proposals coming from the Task Force.
The language in the resolution states:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council, in accordance with the Saratoga Springs City Charter and Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 203, accepts the identified Task Force recommendations as contained in the enumerated sections of the “Reinvention Plan: Toward a Community Centered Justice Initiative” (A true and complete copy of which is annexed hereto):Council Resolution
The focus of the conflict is over the word “accept.” The advocates for the Reform Task Force want the word “accept” replaced with the phrase “adopt and ratify.”
There are two widely divergent views regarding the Council and the resolution.
The Council saw themselves as in favor of the Task Force recommendations but unwilling to commit to wholesale implementation without in some cases a more careful evaluation and clarification of what would be involved in putting the proposals into effect.
For example, in his remarks to the Council, City Attorney Vince DeLeonardis observed that the recommendation to divert seized criminal assets to non-profits would violate the terms of that program. He also identified elements of the proposed citizen review board that would need to be addressed (video below).
The Task Force And Their Supporters
The supporters of adopting the reform proposals in their entirety exactly as crafted by the Task Force were, to say the very least, suspicious of the intentions behind the resolution. It was clear in their remarks that they saw the language of the resolution as a way to delay and undermine the work of the Task Force.
Social Media Adds to the Problem
Not surprisingly some recent postings on social media have contributed to the environment of suspicion. With stunning speed an edited version of Commissioner Michele Madigan’s remarks appeared on Facebook that evening following the meeting. At the end of this post is a link to a Facebook page called “Peoples [sic] Voice.” The professionally crafted video alleges that “…members of the city council threatened to use police if protests continue in saratoga.”
I encourage the readers of this blog to view Commissioner Madigan’s comments which are included below to determine for themselves whether she used her remarks to threaten people. For me her remarks were an appeal to work together.
Following are video clips of a few of the people who spoke at the meeting that are meant to give the reader a sense of both the arguments made as well as the tone of the meeting.
These are raw videos. I have not gone through the process of writing a commentary about the accuracy of the statements below. I have previously covered many of the problematic allegations in earlier posts, and City Attorney Vince DeLeonardis addresses others in his remarks which are also included below.
The Facebook Allegations
This is a link to the Facebook page with the edited version of Commissioner Madigan’s remarks.