Westchester County Executive George Latimer announced Monday that he is assembling a working group comprised of various stakeholders to review police policies and procedures in the wake of the George Floyd killing and ensuing riots.
The group will consist of local and county police professionals, members of the county’s Human Rights Commission and Police Board, African-American clergy members and justice advocates who will review in detail all of the guidelines that are used to train new recruits at Westchester’s police academy and in-service training for currently working police officers throughout the county.
Latimer said that a report will be due in a month. It will include any changes and reforms needed to ensure that every officer understands how to avoid implicit racism or bias while discharging their duties.
“We assert that this most recent case must be the end, it must be the last time that this happens,” Latimer said.
The panel will be headed by Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Gleason, Deputy Commissioner Terrance Raynor, Mayo Bartlett, a prominent African-American attorney based in White Plains, and Leroy Frazier, a former prosecutor and investigator, Latimer said.
“Their work will culminate in a report with specific recommendations within 30 days that we would intend to implement that will help us utilize best practices and send a clear message that our law enforcement community will be at the forefront of reform, that George Floyd shall not have died in vain, that his death will have meaning in the change that it fosters,” Latimer said.
In addition, the county’s Human Rights Commission will be holding a series of countywide discussions to talk to various Westchester communities about the issues that has led the nation to this point. The discussions will be held virtually for the near-term future and in person when it is possible.
The announcement came after nearly a week of often violent protests in cities across the United States. There were also multiple demonstrations held in communities throughout Westchester last weekend, from Peekskill to New Rochelle and Hastings-on-Hudson to White Plains. Latimer lauded both the protestors and the local police in the county for handling themselves in exemplary fashion.
While protestors were vocal, there were no major incidents reported. Latimer thanked the demonstrators and for the professionalism of the police/
“They conducted themselves with honor, and the police who worked alongside of them did so as well, with honor,” Latimer said. “I’m proud of that, Westchester.”
Other elected officials in the county came out to condemn the killing of Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25. The officer, Derek Chauvin, put his knee on Floyd’s neck as three other officers stood by.
The Board of Legislators unanimously agreed Monday on sending a letter to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and members of the Minneapolis City Council, to condemn the killing. It called for swift justice by state and local authorities and federal officials.
“We have no legal authority to act on behalf of justice for Mr. Floyd in Minnesota, but there is a moral imperative that we raise our voices,” the letter read in part. “Our ability as a nation to effect the fundamental change that is 400 years overdue, requires all of us to speak out whenever and wherever this kind of injustice and indifference to our common humanity is on display.”
Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D-Ossining) said she will be introducing criminal justice reform legislation and exploring how predominantly minority communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
“Racism in the form of police brutality, disproportionate health outcomes and economic inequality cannot and will not persist,” Galef said.
Latimer pledged that Westchester will do everything it can to make sure there’s justice and fairness in the county.
“We cannot undo the evil that was done in past years, but we can right the ship and do what was right – right now,” he said.