Dear Pine Plains,
Since December we have had available the finalized Dutchess County Police Reform and Modernization Plan which was written by a consortium of agencies and experts in Dutchess County with the aid of Town Supervisors with police departments, members of the Human Rights Commission, police chiefs and officers, sheriffs, mayors, and mental health workers, to name a few. All this past fall, we got on weekly calls with the County Executive to work on this, and held public meetings all over the County, and all in the midst of the pandemic. The task was then turned over to individual police departments to adopt the Plan or large parts of it and reform their own policies.
The idea for this came from the State: a mandate to bring police policies up to date and frankly for law enforcement to take a careful look at how they do things and push their departments into awareness of the diverse communities in which they serve. But the hard work of this fell on the department themselves. To that end, Dutchess County made the decision to create a “shared service” among all the villages and towns which would create this Plan which we could all then adopt. It was enormously helpful.
We have three main agencies here: State Troopers, the Sheriffs Department, and Town Police, if a town has a department. Not all do. If they don’t, they pay the Sheriffs Department for policing, even though that agency has a very specific realm of civil service in handling the courts and serving papers. They have also had a different hiring practice, with different requirements, than the Troopers. Most of us aren’t aware that these three agencies are very present in Pine Plains: the white cars are Sheriffs, the blue cars are State Troopers, and the black cars are Town Police. The Troopers wear grey but the Sheriffs and Town Police have black uniforms. People are often confused about who answered their call, so I hope this helps. All are tied into the 911 call center, and if you have a problem that is the number you should call.
Bringing all three of these agencies together under one main policy has been the main mission of the Reform, as well as changing the culture of policing from “force” into “guardianship.” Because with three agencies policing a town, with three different ways of handling problems, and three different criteria for training, you can imagine that it can get a little confusing. It can also get a little competitive. Who controls a situation can be a problem, as can situations where all three agencies have to work together. Our town police live here as well as work here. Troopers and Sheriffs live here too. Their children attend our schools. They are your neighbors. They have a big stake in this town because of that. If someone is speeding through town—or passing a school bus when it’s stopped—or driving while intoxicated—they get stopped. Because one of their kids might be crossing a street; one of their kids might be getting off that bus; one of their family members might be driving the same road.
We convened a Stakeholders Committee, representative of the Town of Pine Plains, to read the Reform Plan and recommend adopting all or parts of it for use in Pine Plains. We met every Wednesday for most of November and December, and each ,member took a section of the Plan, studied it, and brought it back to the committee for discussion and approval. Some of the Plan just didn’t pertain to us as a part-time, small-town department. But much of it does.
Now has come the time to get our version of the Plan out into the public. In the next few weeks, you will see parts of it published here, and it will be available at Town Hall and on our website very soon. Editing is being completed this next week. Comments will be welcome and encouraged. The Town Board needs to pass this Plan in February.
Once again, we need to thank our committee, Brenda Jackson, Lisa Michetti, Keary Hanan, Sarah Jones, and Nelson Zayas for not only thoughtful and diligent work, but for upholding an atmosphere of care and concern for everyone who lives in Pine Plains.
If you want to know how things work in Pine Plains, and what projects are underway here, check out our website and The White Papers which we wrote last year to help people understand how town government works and what’s going on. www.pineplains-ny.gov
Stay informed about the vaccine rollout through the County website. It’s been arduous and jammed, and availability has been an issue. Keep trying. https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/NYDUTCHESS/bulletins/2b5629d
And keep an eye out for your tax bills—Eileen is mailing them tomorrow! I like to joke that people enjoy paying their taxes in Pine Plains because they get to go see Eileen and chat. This year, it would be best to mail your tax checks in, due to the pandemic. But you can always call her.
Stay safe, Pine Plains!