Cuba police training

Cuba town police train in non-lethal force during a September exercise.

CUBA — Police departments in Allegany County are seeking public comment on plans to implement reforms mandated by the state.

The Cuba Police Department issued its police reform and reinvention plan last week, asking the public for final comments before handing it off to the Cuba Town Board for approval.

The Allegany County Sheriff’s Office is also seeking the public’s input in its plan.

Cuba officials said they hope the 28-page plan covers the most frequent recommendations given to the department during public forums and from surveys, including:

  • Make data available regarding police interactions with the public to identify if they are engaging in discriminatory practices (improve transparency).
  • Invest in mental health resources and training for officers.
  • Provide additional information to the public about how to file a complaint in a confidential manner against the police (improve communication).
  • Have more diversity, sensitivity, and implicit bias awareness training.
  • Have the police more visible in the downtown areas.
  • Add policies and procedures to department website.

The plan is available online at www.tinyurl.com/y6lzejz4

On June 12, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order No. 203 requiring each local government in New York state to adopt a policing reform plan by April 1. The order came in the immediate aftermath of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and the ensuing national outcry on police brutality and racial injustice.

Under the order, the plan requires police agencies to engage with the public and stakeholders looking at the strategies, policies and procedures of each agency.

Cuba’s committee includes police Chief Dustin Burch, officials from the Allegany County District Attorney’s Office and the Allegany County Public Defender’s Office; Town Supervisor Lee James, Village Mayor Michelle Miller, First Baptist Church Rev. Lynn Sullivan, Cuba-Rushford Central School District Superintendent Carlos Gildemeister and retired Gen. Arthur Austin Jr.

The county’s committee includes leaders from the Board of Legislators, District Attorney’s Office, County Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, faith-based groups, Mental Health Agencies, school districts and the Sheriff’s Office.

The order also carried a threat for noncompliance — it authorizes the Director of the Division of the Budget to withhold aid from municipalities that do not adopt a plan by the deadline.

ALLEGANY COUNTY Sheriff Rick Whitney is also seeking public input on the plan for his department.

“The Sheriff’s Office prides ourselves on our presence in our community, including programs like child car seat safety, shop with a cop, TRIAD and the Yellow Dot program,” Whitney said. “We look forward to solidifying our relationship with the community as we move forward with our plan.”

Whitney said the effort not only includes the appropriate role of the police, but “also allow the police to do their jobs and protect the public.”

The public comment period will be open until Feb. 15. The comments will assist the Sheriff’s Office and the committee with drafting our plan. To submit comments, email policereform@alleganyco.com or mail them to:

Allegany County Board of Legislators Police Reform Committee, 7 Court St. Room 213, Belmont, NY 14813.

(Contact City Editor Bob Clark at bclark@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)

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