Letter to Pelham: Police chief ‘disgusted’ by actions of officers in killing of George Floyd, outlines department’s systemic reforms

Letter+to+Pelham%3A+Police+chief+%27disgusted%27+by+actions+of+officers+in+killing+of+George+Floyd%2C+outlines+department%27s+systemic+reforms

Anthony22 at en.wikipedia

Editor’s note: This letter was provided by Village of Pelham Police Chief Jason Pallett.

Dear Pelham Residents and Visitors,

As Pelham Police Department’s Police Chief and more simply a human being I would like to again publicly denounce the actions and inactions of the police officers that caused the tragic death of Mr. Floyd on behalf of our Department.  Every officer in the Department was saddened and disgusted by the callous actions and inactions of the City of Minneapolis Police Officers.  Please allow me to share some of the changes that have been taking place at the Pelham Police Department prior to and after this horrific tragedy.

In recent weeks we have all understandably seen numerous vigils, rallies, protests, and unrest in our Village and around the world as a culmination and response to racial discrimination and police brutality.  The first of which in Pelham, took place in Wolfs Lane Park where I stood in the middle of the crowd, in my police uniform, shoulder to shoulder, with the community, next to one of my police detectives during the moments of silence.

Since the death of Mr. Floyd, the Police Department decided to end our daily first responder parade that we were so proudly honored by our residents during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in silence of Mr. Floyd.  On June 3rd I personally led the 7pm parade being followed by many other dedicated Pelham Police Officers with just our emergency lights activated (no sirens).  We all wanted to express our respect and demonstrate our pledge to serve, protect and treat all people that live and visit our community fairly and impartially.  I can tell you that as Police Chief, every Pelham Police Department employee is expected to conduct themselves in a way that is beyond reproach and shows respect for their fellow colleagues, our community and beyond.  There is no place in our Department for anyone who does not support and respect these principles of equality and inclusion.

Over my 18-year career and in my short two-year tenure as Police Chief, my command staff and I have revised many Department policies and procedures.  The mindset and culture of our Department has progressively transformed by holding officers strictly accountable for their actions and behavior.  Since my tenure, I have continuously promoted community policing and improved police training

In 2019, the Pelham Police Department started embracing systemic police reforms.  Our Department adopted the New York State Municipal Police Training Councils Use of Force Model Policy.  Furthermore, our Department has prohibited the use of chokeholds years prior to the recent events in our nation.  The Pelham Police Department already practices the concepts of the “8 Can’t Wait” campaign and they were implemented into Department policy since June, 2019.  The “8 Can’t Wait” topics include: banning chokeholds, requiring de-escalation, requiring warning before shooting, require exhausting alternatives before shooting, a duty to intervene, bans shooting at moving vehicles, require a use of force continuum, and requires comprehensive reporting.

Pelham Police Officers are trained annually in de-escalation techniques, use of force policies and we require in-depth reporting and internal investigations when force is used (thankfully it is seldom) by any member of the Department.  Additionally, we report all uses of force to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services for transparency and state data collection.  Sadly, not all police departments around our nation are held to such standards like the Pelham Police Department.

Since, the death of Mr. Floyd all members of the Department were required to re-review our use of force policies again this year.  The Department specifically, outlined the prohibited use of a technique commonly known as a chokehold, whereby compression to the neck resulting in the interruption of blood and or airflow is prohibited.

The Pelham Police Department is comprised of well-trained and intelligent police professionals.  Most of our officers are graduates of the Westchester County Police Academy, hosted by the Westchester County Department of Public Safety or the New York City Police Academy.  During their six months of learning in the academy officers receive over 150 hours of instruction, role playing and practical exercises on the following  topics: de-escalation and professional communication, Principled Policing model of procedural justice and implicit bias, cultural diversity and sensitivity,  mental health and crisis intervention, law enforcement response to persons with disabilities and LGBTQ cultural competency training.  Throughout the academy program for new officers and in-service training for veteran officers, we are all trained with a guiding principle and mindset knowing that the best outcome to a situation is one that achieves voluntary compliance, without the use of force.

Lastly, please know that the Pelham Police Department is committed to providing safety to every human being that resides and visits our community.  We have made strides and continue to seek strategies that promote justice and equality. I hope the information above helps you understand the measures we have taken and are continuing to make to help ensure the safety, well-being and fairness for all.

Sincerely,

Jason Pallett

Chief of Police