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Mount Kisco Establishes Community Resource Officer for Trial Period

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The Mount Kisco Village Board last week narrowly approved establishing a community resource officer (CRO) from the Westchester County Department of Public Safety for a three-month trial run starting next month.

Mayor Gina Picinich said the officer will begin the role on Mar. 1, and over the next three months the board will evaluate the services provided and decide whether to fund the position for the full 2022-23 fiscal year, which starts in June.

Police Officer Eddie Ramirez, who served in a similar capacity for the old Mount Kisco Police Department before the village contracted with Westchester County police service in 2015, will be the CRO. He will address quality-of-life matters, enhance interaction with residents and work with the school and business communities. Programs such as Hopes Not Handcuffs may also be introduced.

Ramirez will report to the board monthly as part of the evaluation process, Picinich said.

“If we feel that it’s heading in the appropriate direction and if, in fact, it adds value, then we can include it in next year’s budget,” she said. “If we don’t feel as though goals were met and objectives are achieved or that it’s not heading in the right direction, we could not add it in the next budget.”

The village will set aside $55,776.82 to fund the officer for the next three months. That money will come from an extra $15,000 as a result of the official elimination of the village department, which occurred following a referendum last November, and another $20,000 each from workers compensation fund money and additional sales tax revenue.

Trustee Karine Patino, who worked with Ramirez when he was with the village police force, said there should be a good transition because many in the community are familiar with him. His presence in the role could also help encourage members of the village’s large Latino community to consider a career in law enforcement.

“Right now, the police are reactive; this is an opportunity for the police to be proactive, and though all officers should and do receive cultural competency training and implicit bias training, a CRO would receive additional training to that effect that will further help them carry out all of the activities and all of the programs that we saw in the power point that (the police) showed us,” said Patino, who served on the county’s Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative last year.

Trustee Anne Bianchi supported the trial run, saying she was curious to see how it would unfold and that it could be beneficial.

However, Deputy Mayor Lisa Abzun and Trustee Karen Schleimer voted against the added expense. Abzun said that it appeared that there was likely overlap with some of the goals of Project Alliance, a new county program that is also set to start on Mar. 1, where mental health professionals and social workers in certain crisis situations.

Abzun said she would have preferred to see how the CRO works in Cortlandt before the village funds the initiative. A few weeks ago, the Cortlandt Town Board approved an officer for the remainder of 2022.

“We haven’t received any empirical data about whether this program works because it is a new program,” Abzun said. “There was a lot of people who say that it works in different ways when we had the Mount Kisco police force, but when I asked for that data, I was told that there was none or that it was lost.”

Picinich said she supports a trial period.

“I think if we want to see a change in policing then we have to invest it in and I think the CRO position will be the catalyst for change,” she said.

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