The Examiner

New Castle Chief Outlines Police Practices, Procedures of Town’s Officers

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By Martin Wilbur

New Castle Police Chief James Carroll

New Castle Police Chief James Carroll provided a glimpse last week into the training and priorities of his department in light of the highly-charged national debate following the killing of George Floyd.

During a June 2 discussion with the Town Board, Carroll, a 27-year department veteran who was appointed chief last summer, said communication and defusing a situation are the most valuable steps an officer can take when responding to calls.

Last year, two New Castle officers were sent to a four-day training session in California to become certified in police de-escalation tactics and have trained other officers in the 38-member department.

“It’s bringing things down, talking calmly, getting to the root of the problem, listening, all those acts,” Carroll said.

“The most important tool a police officer has is communication. Communication is de-escalation,” he added.

Training includes professional communication, procedural justice, crisis intervention, role playing and training seminars, he said.

Carroll said he has revised the department’s policies and procedures where the first attempt in every potential physical-force scenario is de-escalation.

Officers have also engaged in simulated exercises that are evaluated.

“Depending on how an officer handles a situation, if they de-escalate and use proper tactics, it can be resolved very quickly,” Carroll said. “If it does escalate to the point, maybe it was unforeseeable, but it’s reviewed afterward what the officer could have done different or what they could have done better.”

Despite its relatively small size, the New Castle Police Department is highly diverse, the chief said. Its roster includes seven African-American officers, five Hispanics, four of whom are bilingual, five women officers, one Muslim and one lesbian.

Carroll said the department does not employ police bodycams. For a department like New Castle, he said there are more important tools that can be used.

In his 27 years in the town, Carroll said there hasn’t been an incident of police misconduct involving physical force or deadly physical force where bodycams would have been necessary to have. If the Town Board wants to consider bodycams, that should be reviewed at budget time, he said.

Supervisor Ivy Pool said she would like to have discussions about introducing bodycams for the department.

“As we start to gear up for the budget for next year, I think it’s worth additional consideration within the context of the larger town budget and the department’s budget,” Pool said.

The discussion was one of a growing number of discussions in towns across the region. Last week, Westchester County Executive George Latimer announced the formation of a task force examining police practices at the county level.

Several residents posed questions and comments during the live-streamed discussion last Tuesday. Resident Jen Klein said she was concerned about a situation occurring in town similar to the recent occurrence in Central Park where a white woman called the police after a black man asked her to leash her dog.

Carroll said that all citizens are treated evenhandedly in town.

“All our training is about equality and treating everyone the same and respecting people in general, particularly with the same guidelines and training and rules, regardless of race or religion,” he said.

Another resident, Lara Fuhrer, urged the chief to issue a statement denouncing Floyd’s killing, which would be more powerful coming from someone in authority in law enforcement.

“I think it needs to be out there,” Fuhrer said. “People need to see it and it needs to come from you, the police chief. You need to be one of the leaders in our community to actually be advancing it.”

By the next day, Carroll wrote that the department was angry and saddened with the police conduct in Floyd’s death and pledged in treating all citizens equally.

“We’re disgusted that anyone wearing a police uniform would do what we all saw in that video,” he stated. “The actions and inactions of the officers in question are not a reflection on all the hard-working men and women in uniform who serve and protect us every day. Please know that we are more than a uniform, we are ordinary people and we stand with you. “We anticipate and welcome difficult conversations that will result in progressive changes. Our commitment to public safety remains the same.”

Pool said she also plans to reactivate the town’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee in the near future.

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