Pelham Manor village board unanimously adopts police reform report that calls for few changes in department

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Village of Pelham Manor voted 5-0 to approve police reform report.

The Pelham Manor Board of Trustees voted 5-0 Monday to approve the village’s police reform report and action plan, a step required by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order in June requiring all municipalities evaluate their police departments for structural racism. The plan will now be sent to the New York State Department of Budget.

In its second draft, the Pelham Manor report did not call for major changes in village police operations, instead highlighting efforts already in place inside and outside the department, some of which have little to do with race, including the delivery of Halloween safety brochures to the elementary schools, a new village website, video feeds of trustee meetings, Cub Scout tours of the police department and checks on the elderly.

Before the vote, Mayor Jennifer Monachino Lapey said the report and plan was “the culmination of nine months of work, review and analysis.” She credited Trustee Breda Bennett, who is police commissioner, with putting “a tremendous amount of time and effort into this work” and presiding “over this process with competency and integrity.”

Additional edits as a result of the village’s second public forum on Thursday were made to the draft plan, and the board received the final document over the weekend, Lapey said. She did not say what the edits were, and no other board member spoke about the report during the three-minute meeting.

The review performed by the police department, the village board and Pelham Manor’s stakeholder working group, a committee comprised of residents of the village, was conducted in response to Cuomo’s executive order last June, which stated “following the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minnesota, protests have taken place daily throughout the nation and in communities across New York State in response to police-involved deaths and racially-biased law enforcement to demand change, action and accountability.” Cuomo’s order requires each municipality to adopt an action plan to address racism in policing by April.

Except for a section stating the racial breakdown of arrests by the department, the Pelham Manor report does not once discuss the issues of race or structural racism in the village’s police department.

As a result of the reform process, police started foot patrols at Four Corners in November. Officials are also considering community events such as “Picnic with the Police” to promote communication, the report said. The village intends to lobby state officials to change civil service laws to make it easier to hire more diverse candidates.

Village officials decided not to adopt body cameras, with the second draft of the report saying the village would “revisit the possibility of purchasing body cameras for the PMPD in the future.” The cameras were not covered at all in the first draft of the report, which was questioned by residents during the initial public forum.