Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh and Police Chief Kenton Buckner announced updates to the Reporting Progress web portal demonstrating continuing progress on the Syracuse Police Reform and Reinvention Plan. The Syracuse plan was passed unanimously by the Syracuse Common Council in March in response to Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 203 as part of the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative.
“We are meeting our commitment to residents by both focusing on public safety and making changes to our policing processes and approaches. This new round of updates to our Reporting Progress portal demonstrates that the work continues,” said Mayor Walsh. “I applaud Chief Buckner and the Syracuse Police Department for embracing these changes and doing so with ongoing community input and partnership.”
Key updates made in the last quarter of the fiscal year (April – June 2021) include the finalizing, training, and implementation of key policies and procedures the City committed to updating.
The Syracuse Police Department (SPD) updated its previous Body-Worn Camera policy. The updated Body-Worn Camera Policy now ensures that officers record the entirety of their presence on the scene of a police encounter as called for by Mayor Walsh’s Executive Order No. 1 Action #3. Comments for the body-worn camera policy were gathered during the open comment period for the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Plan.
The Department also updated its Use-of-Force policy using input provided during the open comment period for the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Plan. Comments for policy were gathered during the open comment period for the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Plan. The City’s updated Use-of-Force policy incorporates policy changes requested by the Syracuse community as well as changes in New York State laws.
Other policies that are marked complete include the Department’s discontinued use of the term “Emotionally Disturbed Person” (EDP) in police communications and the ongoing practice of posting all SPD policies online.
Areas of Ongoing Progress
The Syracuse Police Reform Plan presents recommended actions for reform and reinvention into six categories: Transparency and Accountability, Community Engagement and Relationship Building, Policies and Procedures, Training and Wellness, Diversity in Hiring and Advancement, and Alternatives to Policing. Updates to the Reporting Progress portal demonstrate that work has continued across multiple categories of reform and reinvention.
Transparency and Accountability
The City met its commitment to creating an oversight committee to oversee police reform. Visitors to the website can see the names of the committee members and read the Oversight Committee Guidance document online.
The City has also created a new FAQ section of the portal on the Syracuse Police Reform Plan page, as requested by public feedback, to better explain what the Syracuse Police Reform Plan is and includes questions that come in from residents and stakeholders. The FAQ section will be updated with new questions monthly.
Other updates include progress toward creating a public-facing dashboard to publish summary data regarding outcomes of complaints against officers and the resulting discipline. Information from the dashboard is being provided to the Police Reform Oversight Committee from the Syracuse Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards. Data on the public-facing dashboard will be updated on a quarterly basis.
Community Engagement and Relationship Building
The Department completed the procurement of the Voiance App, a professional telephone and video service that provides interpretation in a variety of languages including American Sign Language. Voiance is currently being used by the Onondaga County Emergency Communications Department. The new software led the Department to work with a subject-matter expert on the development of a Communications with People with Limited English Proficiency Policy (LEP policy) to improve methods for communicating with residents of various backgrounds
The Department met its commitment to creating the Syracuse Police Athletic/Activities Leagues. The portal reports that the league’s Summer Clinics are active and plan to add additional clinics and begin recruitment for a basketball league in the fall.
Other areas of progress include active planning to create a youth advisory board to the Chief of Police and the creation of a Community Interview Panel for the process of selecting and hiring police candidates. In 2021, a community panel was initiated as part of the process of selecting and hiring candidates for the position of entry-level police officers during the next round of a police class.
Alternatives to Policing
The Department met its commitment to Develop Crisis Intervention training for officers with less than five years of service. The police now have both a Lieutenant and Sergeant who are fully certified to instruct officers in the 40-hour CIT Training Course. Due to this increase in CIT instruction capacity, SPD certified fifteen (15) officers during its April 2021 CIT Training.
Other progress included the Department’s commitment to convening a workgroup to create and implement a Diversion Response Program in partnership with Onondaga County. The Mayor’s Office and Syracuse Police have been actively working on creating alternative policing strategies since December of 2020. This work predates the New York State mandate and began as part of Mayor Walsh’s Executive Order No. 1 Action 15. The Executive Order Action called for the Syracuse Police to “research and consider innovative, community-based strategies for responding to non-criminal calls, with a goal of shifting the paradigm from primary police response, to response by non-police professionals in relevant fields.”
Since April, Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens has been meeting bi-weekly with a working group to design a diversionary response to implement this fall. Members of the working group represent the Mayor’s office, the Syracuse, Dewitt, and Manlius Police Departments, Onondaga County Mental Health, 911, and Sheriff’s Office, Mental Health Not-for-Profit Organizations, and St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Syracuse Police Reform and Reinvention Plan
In the 76-page Syracuse Police Reform and Reinvention Plan, Mayor Walsh and the Department committed to implementing recommended actions to address how the City and police are reimagining public safety and policing. On the Reporting Progress portal online, the actions are listed with a series of stars next to each one. The stars indicate the implementation phase of each police reform action: Kick-Off (1), Planning (2), Implementing (3), or Completed/Monitoring/Ongoing (4).
Residents interested in signing up for email updates on when police reform actions are updated can sign up at https://bit.ly/syrpolicenewsletter.