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Attracting minority candidates, ongoing community dialogue top Batavia PD's list of 'action items'

By Mike Pettinella

The City of Batavia Police Department is committed to implementing “action items” derived from its participation in the Batavia Police Advisory Collaboration Stakeholder Group, especially in the area of diversity in recruitment, BPD Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said on Monday night.

Speaking at City Council’s Business Meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room, Heubusch (photo at left) said his department embarked on a “heavy” recruiting campaign in an attempt to attract more minority candidates to take the police officer exam.

He said that data compiled through a questionnaire that was filled out by 90 of the 100 or so people that took the Civil Service exam on Sept. 18, 2021 showed that “a more diverse population came out to take our exam.”

While 84.4 percent of the participants identified themselves as White, 3.3 percent were Hispanic or Latino, 2.2 percent Black or African American, 1.1 percent Asian and 1.1 percent Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.

Heubusch said that the data collected will be used to establish a baseline for future exams.

The department also conducted a physical agility test last week at Genesee Community College, Heubusch said, where “we definitely saw a more diverse group of people come out for that.”

The Batavia Police Advisory Collaboration Stakeholder Group, consisting of citizens from various public and private sectors, was formed in compliance with former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 203 that called for community policing reform throughout New York.

It met several times during the fall and winter of 2020 and 2021, resulting in the creation of a list of action items that was submitted to Albany. Batavia’s plan is focused on training, community engagement/policing, community liaison, communication, officer wellness and diversity – including Civil Service reform.

“This (Civil Service reform) was a big nugget that everybody talked about across the state,” said Heubusch, who noted that he discussed that subject on a webinar yesterday with the New York State Police Chiefs Association. “(We) continue to advocate for Civil Service reform with elected officials and through professional organizations.”

Other highlights of Heubusch’s presentation to City Council:

  • Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance has decreased by 54 percent on average over the past five years. Crimes such as larceny and simple assault also declined in 2020 compared to 2019. However, Heubusch said, preliminary reports for 2021 indicate a slight increase in those numbers.
  • The BPD will continue community dialogue through neighborhood meetings and National Night Out. Heubusch said the department’s CrimeWatch page has resulted in enhanced communication with the public and includes a link to Division of Criminal Justice Services statistics.
  • The department’s community liaison program is multi-faceted, including regularly scheduling outings at senior citizen complexes and civic groups, continued engagement with minority groups, placement of a school resource officer at Batavia City School District (Officer Miah Stevens) and establishment of a Citizens Academy Program for interested adults. Heubusch also said plans include enrolling Stevens in the next DARE training class.
  • Community engagement/policing efforts include more foot and bicycle patrols, bicycle safety classes, enhanced training through an agreement with Genesee County Mental Health, crisis intervention training, ongoing implicit bias training, and certification of a de-escalation trainer and defensive tactics instructor.
  • Emphasis on physical, mental and spiritual wellness of police officers, with monthly briefings with the police chaplain, participation in wellness program training, debriefing efforts after critical incidents and regular meetings with supervisors to discuss any potential issues.

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