Malone Telegram Letters To The Editor
Malone Telegram Letters To The Editor – Franklin County Public Defender Thomas Soucia calls Malone’s police reform plan “abhorrent” and says it should be torn up and replaced. (Contributed photo — Alexander Violo, Malone Telegram)
Malone Police Chief Christopher Premo talks about his department’s progressive approach to police reform at a hearing Monday. (Contributed photo — Alexander Violo, Malone Telegram)
Malone Telegram Letters To The Editor
Calvin Martin, who wrote Malone’s police reform plan, declined to comment in person and did not respond to phone and email requests for comment after Monday’s meeting. (Contributed photo — Alexander Violo, Malone Telegram)
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MALONE – The Village of Malone Police Board reform plan received a large amount of input from the community, most of which called for the township to reconsider its police reform plan, at a public hearing Monday night.
Following the recommendations of community members, the mayor, village commissioners and police reform committee will reconvene at the village office and on Zoom at 4 p.m. Friday to discuss changes to the village plan for police reform.
In June 2020, following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Executive Order No. 203, an order directing municipalities to submit a police reform plan to the federal government by April 1. According to the order, all municipalities in the state were asked to review their police departments and develop a plan to improve deployments, strategies, policies, procedures and practices, while reconsidering the needs of the community in order to promote engagement.
The draft village plan, written by Calvin Martin, a resident and member of the village’s police reform committee, emphasizes the community’s French-Canadian heritage while referring to the community’s minorities as few and “transient” rather than long-term residents.
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“I was just wondering if racism is considered to be what causes black people to not want to be here,” she said. “I was the only black person in my graduating class. I see racism every day, I understand it’s not something most people see.
“But I think it should have been addressed more than it was in this article, to say that they couldn’t find black people to talk to. I would. I have a lot to say. I’m sure the black people in this town have a lot to say. People are at a loss for words not to think that there is racism in this city.”
“That needs to be heard. You have to listen to the people,” Jarvis said, “You don’t let black people speak, and they have to speak. You have to let their voice be heard. They are a small group, but they need to be heard.”
Precious Cain, the daughter of Howard Cain, the only African-American on the police reform committee, described the committee’s report as having little to do with the governor’s executive order.
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She said she did not believe the report’s author had shown any signs of impartiality and should not have been chosen to write such an important report.
“It’s a blemish on the village of Malone. It’s a stain on Franklin County,” she said. “As someone whose family has lived here for decades, whose father is a pastor, who taught at local colleges and now raises her children here, I can’t tell you how horrified I am that we would filed or even considered filing a report that mentions the African-American community as transient, when they acknowledge our presence.”
“What message does this send to communities of color and other marginalized communities?” she said, “What can we do to really get to the bottom of these things instead of just being mad at each other.”
“As far as I can tell, it is racism that is embedded in a culture, and that is pervasive in that culture, that affects the institutions and the people who run the institutions, so that racism is just a matter of course,” Howard Cain said: ” It may not even be intentional or realized by the people who cultivate it, so when someone says, is there racism in Malone? Yes, it’s there.”
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Howard Cain said he sees systemic racism as something the community and police should try to manage.
“We cannot immediately change systemic racism. It’s a cultural process, but what we do is manage it, I think it’s to the credit of our police chief and our shift commanders that we haven’t had some of the things that have happened in other communities,” said Howard Cain, “We have things that we can to do and perhaps these things should be more clearly stated in the report.”
Amanda Day, who works in the Franklin County Treasurer’s Office, advocated for a vetting process for new hires at the rural police station.
“There are a number of problems with law enforcement across the country right now,” Day said. “Oath keepers are connected to the police. It’s a right-wing militia group that was part of the Capitol uprising. It is possible that your police department could be infiltrated by people who have different values than we currently hold.”
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The plan has roughly four pages of recommendations related to mental health support, a police department record-keeping system, a recommendation for the state to adopt community renewable energy subsidies instead of renewable energy subsidies for green energy projects, and a mayor’s reward for officers.
“I don’t think the idea of defunding renewable energy has any place in this report,” she said. “That language needs to be struck. It’s a rift. I know that these are some people’s pet projects, but that has no meaning here.”
According to Prem, he has pushed for reform within the department for years, adopting body cameras before other agencies, including the state police, and rejecting the use of military weapons, while tackling general police reform before an executive order last June.
“For the last 10 years in my department, I have been dealing with reforms,” said Premo. “We are one of the first departments in this area to have body cameras. We started racial diversity training last year. We have no military weapons. We do not allow restraining orders unless it is a violent crime.
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“We have always prohibited suffocation procedures. We never did a stop and search. I always encouraged everyone to communicate with the community. My motto has always been to treat people the way you want to be treated. I’m upset that everyone is upset, and I believe that when this comes to light, it will eventually be done the right way.”
Thomas Soucia, a public defender in northern Franklin County, mentioned an incident a few years ago when a village clerk made a negative comment about a Native American. Soucia credited Prem for taking corrective action and said the officer in question is no longer with the department.
“If anyone knows what’s going on with the arrests and what’s going on after that, it’s me,” said Soucia, “Clearly there are issues with racism in Malone. Clearly, we have a long way to go to correct this. We are aware of this and have been working on it for years, but I am concerned about the report. It is disgusting and reflects very badly on our city. And I know that we have good people here, but I also know that there is racism here.”
“At this point, that report, at this point, needs to be torn up, and we need to come up with something much better than that, that accurately reflects our community,” Soucia said.
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Boyce Sherwin, a community member, said he believes the village plan includes racist elements and large parts should be removed.
Sherwin referred to the plan’s lengthy introduction, which deals not with law enforcement but with the village’s history.
“There is no politics in this; it’s just drama,” Sherwin said, “It’s a disgrace, and what’s being done to Malone’s reputation is disgraceful.”
Sherwin also took exception to the part of the report that said Malone had no problem with discrimination.
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“I would like to suggest that we have a problem with poor people, that we have a problem with discrimination against poor people,” Sherwin said.
The reform committee’s plan and efforts also received some supportive comments, one such comment coming from Matt Molnar, pastor at New Covenant Church in Malone.
“I read the report and I didn’t see the big problem that some people are reporting and sending e-mails about, talking about a complete lack of dealing with the real facts. If anything, I think he dealt with the facts,” said Molnar. “It was looking at what the police department does and has done throughout history and honoring where honor is due.”
Molnar said he believes the report is based on Malone’s history, defending that approach and the importance of looking at the bigger picture.
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“It seems to me that the floor is scrubbed and there is no filth that many people would like to think exists in our society, our community and our department,” Molnar said.
Martin is listed as