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September 11, 2020 - 5:36pm

City's Police Collaboration Advisory Stakeholder Group is in place; first meeting scheduled for Sept. 24

The roster of an 18-member City of Batavia Police Collaboration Advisory Stakeholder Group is complete and the task of formulating a plan to coincide with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 203 on police reform will begin in a couple weeks.

The Batavia Police Department today issued a press release indicating that the selection process has been finalized, and that the first meeting of the committee will take place at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at the City Centre Council Chambers.

The meeting is open to the public, with all COVID-19 protocols in effect, Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski said.

Per the governor’s Executive Order, “New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative,” municipal police departments must adopt a plan by April 1 to be eligible for future state funding.

Members of the advisory group are as follows:

  • Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski;
  • Police Chief Shawn Heubusch;
  • Assistant Police Chief Chris Camp;
  • City Attorney George Van Nest;
  • City Council Member Kathleen Briggs;
  • Just Kings representative Victor Thomas;
  • Citizen representatives Raelene Christian, Bill Hayes, Francis Marchese, Gregory Munroe II;
  • Batavia Housing Authority Director Nathan Varland;
  • YWCA Executive Director Millie Tomidy;
  • First District Attorney Kevin Finnell;
  • Public Defender Jerry Ader;
  • Batavia Police Benevolent Association President Matt Wojtaszczyk;
  • Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr.;
  • Business leader Brandon Armstrong;
  • Rev. Martin Macdonald, City Church.

The press release notes that “other industry experts have been invited to attend the meetings and participate to assist the group in developing the plan.”

They are the Genesee County Department of Social Services, NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Genesee County Mental Health Services, Lake Plains Community Care, RESTORE Sexual Assault Services, City of Batavia Youth Center and Genesee County Sheriff’s Office 9-1-1 Center.

Jay Gsell and Erik Fix have been appointed as facilitators/moderators.

“We look forward to positive dialogue that will bring this community closer together and foster positive relationships between those we serve and the stakeholders in the community,” Heubusch said.

Cuomo’s Executive Order includes wording that stakeholders should include “but not (be) limited to membership and leadership of the local police force, members of the community with emphasis in areas with high numbers of police and community interactions, interested nonprofit and faith-based community groups, local office of the district attorney, local public defender and local elected officials.”

Tabelski said the stakeholder group will meet on a regular basis to help identify recommendations for more effective strategies, policies, and procedures to better serve all residents within the City of Batavia.

The Sept. 24 meeting agenda includes a review of the Executive Order, presentation by the Batavia Police Department focusing on the evolution of policing, current operations and its policy manual, and a discussion of the police agency’s Policy 300 -- Use of Force.

The three other Genesee County police agencies affected by the Executive Order are at various stages.

Genesee County Sheriff’s Department

Sheriff William Sheron and Manager Matt Landers said the county will be ready to move forward once the renewal of the department’s New York State accreditation is finalized. A review of the sheriff’s office accreditation status is set for the end of the week.

Sheron said that having accreditation status means that “some of the requirements in the governor’s order have already been met.”

“We have a sincere interest in getting public input and involvement,” Sheron said, pointing out the high level of cooperation among county agencies. “We all adhere to the same standards of excellence.”

Landers said that he will be meeting with Sheron and Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein in the near future to put together a plan, following the governor’s guidelines.

“We are ready to move forward,” he said. “We have been waiting until the sheriff’s office goes through the accreditation process.”

Le Roy Police Department

Village of Le Roy Police Chief Chris Hayward said the subject will be discussed at the next Village Board meeting on Sept. 16.

He said the small size of the community could present a challenge as far as filling all of the “slots” outlined in the Executive Order.

“What he is asking us to do is to draft a plan that makes the best sense for our community – it’s a little bit difficult to do that when you may have to bring people in from outside of the community to participate in the process, who may or may not have a lot of knowledge of what goes on in Le Roy,” he explained.

Still, Hayward said his goal is to have a plan in place before he retires on Jan. 8, ending 36 years of service – including the past 18 as police chief.

Corfu Police Department

Village of Corfu Mayor Thomas Sargent said he plans to discuss the Executive Order with the village board in the near future.

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