The Amityville Village police department is proposing a host of reforms to its policies and procedures, including the use of body cameras and posting demographic data on traffic stops and arrests.
Police Chief Bryan Burton discussed some of the proposed changes during a Feb. 16 Zoom meeting. The reforms are in response to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive order requiring all local police departments to come up with a reform plan by April 1 or risk losing state funding. The order came amidst widespread protests over the death of George Floyd, who died in May in police custody in Minneapolis.
An 11-person review committee has met eight times since late October. The committee consists of village and police officials, as well as representatives from the school board and local churches and organizations such as the NAACP.
"We are really starting to rebuild a lot of our policy from the ground up," Burton said at the meeting.
The department has updated its policy on chokeholds and crowd control, and officers will have implicit bias awareness training, Burton said. In an effort to become more transparent, they will use body cameras and the department will now biannually post online all arrest and car stop data, use of force instances and civilian complaint reports.
Resident Katrina Conway brought up the need to hire more officers she described as African American, while Dorothy Santana of the Latina Moms Group urged the department to hire more female officers. The department has 25 sworn members and all are male and 91.3% are white, according to police data. There are two Hispanic officers, one who identifies as white and one who identifies as black.
Mayor Dennis Siry said the department will increase recruitment efforts but that one issue is the village’s residency requirement for officers. He said that the village has given waivers to existing officers but is even stopping that now, as he believes it’s important for police members to live in the community they serve. He said they are considering expanding the residency boundaries to those of the school district, which goes outside village borders.
"April 1st is not going to be the end of what we are doing," Siry said. "It’s a never-ending work in progress."
Village officials are asking residents to view a draft of the reforms and to fill out a survey at Amityville.com. There is another reform meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m., and a hearing is scheduled for March 8 at 7:30 p.m.