City of Batavia Police Department members raised an impressive $1,500.00 among their ranks to support the Challenger Sports program run by the Batavia Y and supported by the Arc of Genesee Orleans.
It was Police Sergeant Lawrence’s idea to target their fundraising proceeds to Challenger Baseball. “I have a law enforcement colleague in another state that’s involved in Challenger,” the Sergeant said. “We have a lot of new hires on the force. This is a great cause to encourage them get involved in the community,” he stated.
Challenger sports benefits children with intellectual, developmental or physical disabilities and has offered them the opportunity to swim, bowl, dance, play baseball, soccer, basketball and tennis.
Batavia Police department members that contributed to the Challenger fundraiser were: Officers Borchert, Cronmiller, Defelice, Flanagan, Freeman, Girvin, Gombos, Perkins, Rissinger, Chief Heubusch, Detective Hill, Sergeant Lawrence and Parking Enforcement Officer Sheflin.
Y representatives shared the funds will be used for supplies such as adaptive equipment for future programs.
Officers with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office and Batavia Police Department carried the Special Olympics torch today from the Sheriff's Office on Park Road to the Arc Genesee Orleans Center on Walnut Street in support of the Special Olympics.
On March 17th, a ceremony was held in the lobby at Batavia Downs Gaming as they donated $1,463.14 to the Batavia Police Department’s K-9 Unit. The money was left at Batavia Downs and was turned into the police. When the money went unclaimed, Batavia Downs decided to donate that money to the Police Department’s K-9 Unit.
The money will be used to help fund the program, headed up by Officer Quider and K-9 Batu.
“We’re happy to help contribute to the K-9 Unit,” said Henry Wojtaszek, president and CEO of Batavia Downs. “It’s important for our local police department to have the resources they need to keep our community safe.”
“Public support and donations play a key role in the continuance of this worthwhile program," said Batavia Police Chief Shawn Heubusch. “These funds will be used to offset the cost of food, veterinary services, training, equipment and other K-9-related expenses.”
The City of Batavia Police Department announces the launch of CRIMEWATCH, a new website that gives people who use social networks and mobile devices an easier, more effective way to help fight crime and stay informed.
The new Batavia Police Department website was developed in partnership with CRIMEWATCH Technologies and is part of the CRIMEWATCH Network (crimewatch.net). The website is an online tool that gives the public direct access to crime and public safety-related information happening in their community.
“This new website is the perfect entry point for establishing better police and public relationships. CRIMEWATCH gives us the opportunity to communicate with the public and gives residents the anonymity to report neighborhood issues. Several police departments throughout the Northeast region are having great success using this technology”, said Chief Heubusch, City of Batavia Police chief.
The City of Batavia Police Department is the first New York-based police department to go live on the CRIMEWATCH Network; a communications platform developed specifically for law enforcement agencies that allow for geographically targeted information sharing and intelligence gathering.
This resource allows residents to do the following:
Sign up for a free account to receive e-mail alerts;,
Submit a tip to the Batavia Police Department;
View recent arrests and “most wanted” lists;
Get info on local sex offenders;
Share information with others through social media; and
After a passenger in a vehicle stopped by a Batavia police officer bolted from the car at 6:01 p.m., Feb. 25, K9 Batu was pressed into service helping with his first apprehension of a fleeing subject.
Handler Stephen Quider and Batu started patrol duties together earlier this year.
Taken into custody was Dejon. J. Smith, 21, of Rochester. He was apprehended after a brief foot pursuit. Batu reportedly located Smith behind a residence on Ellicott Street.
Crack cocaine and marijuana were recovered at the scene of the traffic stop and police report finding additional crack cocaine inside the storage shed.
Also taken into custody was Germayne D. Session, 27, of Rochester.
Smith is charged with: criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell; criminal possession of a controlled substance, 4th; burglary, 3rd; unlawful possession of marijuana, 2nd; tampering with physical evidence; resisting arrest; and obstruction of governmental administration.
Session was charged with driving a vehicle with a revoked or suspended registration, unlicensed operation, unlawful possession of marijuana, 2nd.
Smith was turned over to Irondequoit Police Department on an unrelated warrant and Session was released on an appearance ticket.
The City of Batavia Police Department, in partnership with the City of Batavia School District (BCSD), is proud to announce the addition of Officer Miah Stevens as the newest School Resource Officer (SRO). Officer Stevens is replacing retiring Officer Jason Davis who has held the post for the last two years and has served the City for 20+ years as a police officer.
Officer Stevens is a 2013 graduate of Pembroke High School, she went on to attend Genesee Community College and SUNY Brockport majoring in Criminal Justice. Officer Stevens has previously worked for the YMCA – Batavia as a children’s swim instructor and lifeguard, City of Batavia – Bureau of Maintenance as a summer laborer and the City of Batavia School District as a teacher’s aide.
“First, I want to thank Officer Davis for his hard work, commitment and dedication to our district and our school community. He has been an invaluable member of our BCSD family and we wish him well as he enters retirement.” said Anibal Soler, superintendent of the BCSD.
“The role of a School Resource Officer is important in our work supporting our students and families. We are grateful and excited to continue our strong partnership with Batavia Police Department and we welcome the addition of our new School Resource Officer Miah Stevens.”
“I know she will bring new energy, commitment and perspective to our school community. I look forward to the example she will set for many of our female students and I know she will continue the amazing work started by those before her. Welcome to Batavia City Schools Officer Stevens.”
The City of Batavia Police Department established the SRO program with the BCSD in 2019 and has had a successful partnership. The SRO delivers DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) training, is a resource to connect staff and students to community services, and is a liaison between the District and the criminal justice process.
“I wish to express my appreciation to Officer Davis for his service to the residents of the City of Batavia for the past 20 + years and congratulate Officer Stevens in her new role," said Chief Shawn Heubusch. "I look forward to a continued partnership with the BDSD to ensure a safe environment for youth in Batavia. I welcome all residents to join me in congratulating Officer Stevens as she transitions into her new role.”
The City of Batavia Police Department’s main priority is to ensure the safety and security of those that live, work and play in the City. BPD’s mission is to provide comprehensive, effective police services that exceed the expectation of the citizens in a timely and responsive manner.
Photo: Officer Jason Davis, Officer Miah Stevens, Superintendent Anibal Soler
Chief Shawn Heubusch has issued Batavia PD's first annual report in a number of years -- hard to say how many -- and it includes statistics on crime in Batavia and a vision for the future.
"(An annual report has) been on my agenda since 2013," Heubusch said. "I haven’t had the time or staff to do it." ("Still don’t have the time or staff, but I did it anyway!")
The department responded to 20,662 calls for service in 2020. Officers processed 423 criminal arrests. They also conducted 2,772 traffic stops and issued 1,190 citations. There were 417 traffic accidents reported, including 64 personal injury accidents and one fatality.
Among the calls for service were 480 domestic complaints. There were 248 victims in Batavia of domestic violence, up from 237 in 2019 and 209 in 2018.
Officers also responded to 277 alarm calls and 343 9-1-1 hang-up calls.
The highest number of criminal complaints were for simple assault at 291. There were 287 larceny complaints. There were 139 complaints for criminal mischief (property damage).
A total of 32 drivers were stopped for operating under the influence of either drugs or alcohol.
In violent crime, 39 aggravated assaults were reported, 13 rapes, and 12 robberies.
There were no murders in Batavia in 2020.
There were 45 burglaries and 14 vehicle thefts reported.
Twenty-seven people were arrested for possession of a controlled substance.
A highlight of the year was initiating the return of a K-9 patrol to the city with Officer Steve Quider beginning handler duties.
The department also participated in a police reform and reinvention program mandated by an executive order that led to seven meetings with community members for a review of police produces and community relations.
Strategic priorities for the department include a new police facility, the department becoming a NY State accredited agency, implementing the city's deer management plan, and reviewing the comprehensive emergency management plan in conjunction with City Fire.
Goals for the year include updating field training, initiating a new traffic safety program with an emphasis on pedestrian and bike safety, and enhancing community engagement.
Members of Batavia Police Advisory Collaboration Stakeholder Group are ready to keep the momentum going.
Their Gov. Andrew Cuomo-assigned task completed, members last night said they felt like some good things had been accomplished for the community and they want to keep going, if not in the group's current form, at least in focus groups and through its participation in police-related committees.
"I don't think the conversation ends here," said Victor Thomas, a member of the group and a member of the Just Kings Social Club. "Like I said earlier, with the chief and assistant chief, these are both people that want to have this conversation with or without this group. They went above and beyond, like I said, to form other groups and actually hear the community's voice. So I don't think this is something that's just going to stop here because Cuomo said we had to do this. We actually have a police chief and assistant9 chief that care about their community. So that's huge."
Chief Shawn Heubush said there is no plan for the conversation to stop.
"One of the things that we talked about is actually inviting the community to our policing community policing meeting because it's usually an internal-facing meeting where we try to come up with ways to integrate ourselves into the community," Heubusch said. "We realized, as Detective (Matthew) Wojtaszek had mentioned that we don't have any citizens on this committee. Why don't we have a citizen or two on this committee to help us in getting into the areas that we need to get into and focusing on those areas? So that would be something that I would see to try to keep this conversation going, inviting more people to talk to those types of functions.
"I really look forward to a citizens' police academy. I certainly hope we can make that happen because I think that is a perfect opportunity. You know, just looking at other communities that have done it, a perfect opportunity for us to really serve the public a lot better and have that educational piece that I think we need so, so very badly with our community, the back and forth conversation as well. And the focus group, as Victor mentioned, we're going to keep going with that. I think that's extremely important."
Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski said she expects the city to make community and police relations part of its regular focus in the future, perhaps adding a review process as part of the budget process.
"It is up to myself and the chief to follow up with counsel on an annual basis to see how this is going and how it's evolved," Tabelski said. "The plan doesn't get finished and put on the shelf, is what I'm trying to say. I think both the chief and I are committed to making sure that we are reviewing this and trying to make this into our strategic priorities that come forward to counsel every single year at budget time as well."
The stakeholder's group was charged, by executive order, by reviewing all relevant police policies and procedures and make recommendations for changes. There were no recommended changes in the area of things like arrest procedures and use of force but committee members expressed a strong interest in improving mental health intervention as well as community-police relationships.
The written plan produced by the committee will be presented to the City Council on Jan. 25 and become available for public review at that time. There will be a public comment period and the council will be asked to approve it and send it to the governor's office, to comply with the executive order, on March 8.
Near the top of the meeting, Pastor Marty Macdonald of City Church started the discussion about how far the city has come in the area of community and police relations, especially in regards to people of color.
"Ten years ago, this meeting would have never happened," Macdonald said. "Not with the people that we have on (the committee). I am so grateful for Victor being in this group. Victor, what would you have thought five years ago if you were to be invited to this?
"I'm on the CJAC (Criminal Justice Advisory Council) committee, too," he added. "They approved Greg Monroe to be a part of the CJAC. To me, this is the essence of what this whole thing is about, that to a degree, our community has been, I'm not certain that it's been deliberate, but it's just been there's been no attention to it and we have put attention to it now. And I think we've moved in an incredibly positive way."
Victor Thomas said he was grateful to see progress made.
"I applaud the chief because, from the beginning, before the march, before any of this came down, he was there," Thomas said. "He was willing to hear concerns. He was there the day of the march and he was willing to hear his community's cry. I think that showed even more, like you saying, like this conversation needs to happen even without the governor. Yeah, the governor passed (this order) down, but we took that and we created another focus group to look deeper in once we didn't get the results that we wanted from a survey.
"It shows what's manifesting," he added. "It shows the growth in Batavia, and I'm just happy to be a part of it. I'm happy to have my thoughts and Greg's thoughts and other minority thoughts actually taken it into consideration and actually put down in this plan. Like my friend was saying in the beginning, yeah, it should stand for everybody, but I'm glad that the focus remained where the focus needed to be. And I'm happy to be a part of that. And I'm happy to continue the focus group."
The Batavia Police Collaboration Advisory Stakeholders Group, formed in response to an executive order from the governor, is nearing the completion of its official task but that won't mean the end of an effort to improve relations between police officers and local residents.
A draft resolution and draft report expected to go to the City Council in a few weeks for approval says the city meets all of the state's requirements on a variety of areas the group needed to review, but it also says there will be efforts to increase communication between the Police Department and residents both broadly and individually.
That outcome wasn't explicitly called for in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive order, which was intended to bring community members, local leaders and police officials together to discuss and review policies related to use of force, arrest, de-escalation, dealing with mental health issues, and how police officers are hired and fired.
Interim City Manager Rachel Tabelski said at Thursday's group meeting that she was impressed with how the group conducted its business.
"We came together because there was an executive order passed but I think and I'm really proud of this group," Tabelski said. "We've taken it beyond the executive order that we've looked at, the part we got through, all the policies we've got through, all the procedures that we felt that those were up to date, in my opinion, and that they were kept up to date and then we talked about the community and engagement. So the plan really moves us into strategies of community engagement and strategies of increased interaction with our community."
There's already been one focus group meeting -- members of the stakeholders' group, some other community members, and police leaders -- focused on issues related to interactions between police officers and people of color in the community. It's expected there will be other similar meetings.
Chief Shawn Heubusch shared a preview of an app and a website he said will help the department communicate with the public.
There's strong support, too, for increased foot patrols, community events, and the development of personal relationships between officers and community members.
Thursday's meeting started with a review of a recent survey of residents about community and police relations.
Survey respondents seemed to generally have a favorable view of Batavia PD.
About a third of the respondents indicated that their last interaction with the department was at a community event. Almost 80 percent rated their interaction with police officers as being professional or very professional, and only 8 percent deemed the interaction was unprofessional and or very unprofessional.
"Interestingly enough, I was able to dive into that question a little bit," Heubusch said. "As you can see, the respondents who indicated that they were arrested by the department, every single one of those respondents stated that the officers treated them very professionally. I was very proud of that fact just to see, even though it's somebody that we dealt with, unfortunately, in a negative light or had a bad day for them, they still rated the department as very professional."
Respondents said the presence of police officers in their neighborhoods makes them feel safer and said the top three priorities for police should be engaging with the community, assigning more officers to work with youth, and assigning more resources to help people with substance abuse issues.
"I kind of alluded to the fact that the people responding to this survey want to see the officers out of the cars walking the beat, more bicycle patrols," Heubusch said. "They want to see their faces more. They want to have more personal interactions. And that's something that we talked about at the focus group, as well as having those personal interactions with the officers, aside from just the response to a call."
There is a lot of interest among group members for officers to be better equipped to deal with mental health issues, either their training, the ready availability of specialists, or officers on duty with that specific responsibility.
There are officers who currently specialize in responding to mental health situations, Heubusch said, and there is also a group of civilians who are mental health specialists who assist in mental health situations. There is an effort underway in both areas to expand these programs.
"This (program) gives (officers) that added training to de-escalate and really intervene in those crisis mental health crisis situations," Heubusch said. "There's curriculum in the state right now that will certify you as a crisis intervention officer if you go through a certain number of hours of the training. It's a very competitive process. We were lucky enough to put three officers through that training a few years back with a grant that the county received."
The draft resolution and report have not been released to the public yet, but the video below contains a discussion of it and much of it is displayed on the computer screen used during the Zoom call.
The Batavia Police Department is currently investigating the passing of counterfeit $100 bills throughout the area.
The department recommends that anyone receiving a $100 bill use extra caution to check its authenticity.
At left is a copy of the bill which has been circulating.
If you feel that you may be victim in receiving counterfeit bills, please report it to the Police Department at (585) 345-6350.
A few simple items to check for on U.S. Currency that are hard to recreate on counterfeit bills:
Color Shifting Ink -- the bill denomination on the bottom right hand corner has the right color shifting ink.
Raised Printing -- To detect raised printing, take your fingernail and run it carefully down the collar/jacket. You should feel some vibration on your nail from the ridges.
Blurry Borders/printing/text -- significantly blurry borders, printing, or text, it is an automatic red flag. Red & Blue Threads -- If you take a close look at an authentic bill, you will see that there are small red and blue threads woven in and out within the fabric of the bill.
Watermark -- In many of the new bills, the watermark is actually a replica of the face on the bill.
Information on the current counterfeit cases is not being release at this time due to the ongoing investigation.
If anyone receives a counterfeit or suspected counterfeit bill, or has information in reference to the case please contact the Batavia Police Department at (585) 345-6350, the confidential tip line at (585) 345-6370 or online.
We will be participating in the Buckle Up New York (BUNY) and Click it or Ticket (CIOT) annual traffic safety initiative Nov. 16-29th. A reminder to all our citizens, effective Nov. 1, New York State implemented a "Universal belt law." It is now ILLEGAL for ANY PERSON in a vehicle not to be wearing their seat belt while the vehicle is in motion.
Seat belts have been proven to be one of the best ways to save your life in a crash. Yet, many still don't buckle up. Worse still, not wearing a seat belt is a habit that will pass on to impressionable youth who, in turn, will think it is safe to not buckle up.
The Click It or Ticket campaign focuses on safety education, strong laws, and law enforcement support to save lives.
Stay safe this holiday season!
The third meeting of the Batavia's Police Collaboration Advisory Stakeholder Group covered several topics related to the local criminal justice system, including:
Restorative Justice/Genesee Justice;
Implicit bias training;
The juvenile diversion program;
Procedural justice -- standards of conduct, community relations, and biases in policing.
Cathy Uhly, program coordinator for Genesee Justice (top photo), spoke about restorative justice at the meeting on Thursday night at the City Centre Board Room.
In contrast to punitive justice, which doesn't take into account victims and ignores any possibility of rehabilitation, restorative justice gives an opportunity for crime victims to be heard so that criminals might better understand the impact of their actions as well potentially make amends or pay restitution. It also offers offenders an opportunity to reform and become productive members of society.
Genesee Justice was the first county-level restorative justice program in the nation, was started in 1980 by then-Sheriff Douglas Call, former probation officer Dennis Wittman, and former County Court Judge Glenn Morton.
Genesee Justice represents criminal victims, supervises accused criminal defendants prior to sentencing, manages DWI (driving while intoxicated) convicts going through the conditional discharge program, and conducts a judicial diversion program.
Julie Carasone, a certified trainer who will conduct an implicit bias seminar for Batavia police officers in December, gave a brief overview of the training course she will present.
Implicit bias is a bias a person might possess and be unaware of it. The course Carasone teaches involves exercises to help people learn both how biases affect their perceptions and judgments and the roots of such biases.
The course also touches on cognitive biases such as confirmation bias and the halo effect.
A confirmation bias is the tendency of people to seek out information that confirms what they already believe and dismisses information that contradicts their beliefs. The halo effect is attributing abilities or attributes to a person for no other reason than appearance, speech or past performance.
Her training also covers institutional, structural and historic racism.
Paula Campbell, an attorney in the County Attorney's Office who works in Family Court, spoke about current diversion programs designed to help young people from getting caught up in the justice system and learning to cope with any problems they might have.
Programs include PINS (person in need of supervision), youth court, family court, and programs for youths determined to be juvenile delinquents.
What program a youth enters depends on age, the severity of any behavioral issues of criminal conduct, and past record.
Anybody in the community can refer a youth to probation for consideration of possible intervention if that person has had harmed by a youth. Most commonly, referrals come from parents, schools or police.
In youth court, young people act as the judge, attorneys and jury to help deal with minor youthful offenses. It is the offender's peers who decide the best course of action to help correct a wrong or put youth on a more productive path.
Chief Shawn Heubusch spoke about police department policies that deal with procedural justice. These policies include standards of conduct, community relations, and bias in policing. These policies cover ethical behavior, building connections with community members, and avoiding prejudice in professional decision making.
It's now a felony in New York for a police officer to use a chokehold that results in the serious injury or death of a person, but Batavia police officers who have come through the academy in the past 10 years haven't even learned that maneuver, Chief Shawn Heubusch told the city's stakeholders' group at Thursday's meeting.
Since officers aren't trained in the procedure, it isn't even mentioned in the city's use of force policy, Heubusch said.
The Batavia's Police Collaboration Advisory Stakeholder Group was formed in response to an executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandating that all municipalities with a police force form a community-based group that reviews all of a police department's policies and procedures.
Chokeholds fell out of favor more than a decade ago, but their use declined steeply after New York legislators passed a law in the wake of the 2014 death of Eric Garner. He died in New York City while in police custody and restrained in a chokehold. Even while officers continued to restrain him, Garner warned them, "I can't breathe."
As a result, the State Legislature approved the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act, making "aggravated strangulation" by a police officer a Class C felony punishable up to 15 years in prison.
While the city's use of policy is silent specifically on the use of a chokehold, it does allow a police officer to use any means necessary to protect his or her life or the life of another person if somebody is in imminent danger of being killed.
An officer, for example, fighting for his or her life, could use a chokehold.
"If the officer is in serious peril, you are going to do whatever you can to prevent yourself or somebody else from being killed," Heubusch said.
The use of force policy outlines when a police officer is authorized to employ a reasonable level of force in order to effect an arrest or protect him or herself or another person, up to the use of deadly force.
Reasonable, of course, is a subjective term but a 1989 Supreme Court decision, Graham vs. Connor, provides police with a method to evaluate reasonable use of force.
What is deemed reasonable? Basically, what any other typical officer would have done under a similar set of circumstances with the knowledge the officer had the time of the incident without the benefit of hindsight. In other words, if an officer has substantial reason to believe a subject has a weapon and is likely to use it, an action taken to neutralize the ability of the subject to use that weapon is reasonable, even if it turns out later the subject didn't have a weapon.
"No policy can possibly predict every situation a police officer will face," Heubusch said. "We can't reasonably think of everything and put in a policy when there is so much judgment involved in every single action an officer takes on a daily basis."
While an officer wants to avoid or minimize the use of force, nothing in the law or policy requires an officer to retreat (unlike a civilian in a public place) in the face of a threat.
When an officer uses unreasonable force, his or her fellow officers have a duty to intervene, and a duty to report under Federal law and local policy.
"We've always had a duty to intercede in our policy," Heubusch said.
Use of force can be authorized to try and capture a fleeing criminal suspect but again, sometimes the use of force is reasonable, and sometimes it isn't. An officer wouldn't use the same force to apprehend a shoplifter that he would for a bank robber. The officer must also evaluate whether the subject is a physical threat to other people.
It's never acceptable to fire a weapon at a moving vehicle. Unlike the movies, it's rarely effective and it's a danger to others.
Deadly force is only authorized when the officer or another person is in imminent threat of death or serious injury. Imminent doesn't mean immediate, Heubusch said.
"If you point a gun at me I don’t have to wait for that trigger to be pulled," Heubusch said. "It doesn’t matter if the gun is loaded or not. We don’t have to find out if there are actually bullets in the weapon."
Anytime any level of use of force is deployed, Heubusch said, the officers must complete a report, which is another reason officers, he said, would rather avoid the use of force if at all possible.
The report is reviewed by supervisors. The information can sometimes help identify training needs and corrective measures and in rare circumstances result in disciplinary action.
"Officers hate paperwork and when they use force, they have to report it every time they wrestle with somebody," Heubusch said.
Heubusch said the use of force reports are not public even though New York recently repealed the law, Civil Rights Law 50a, which used to make records private used to evaluation police officer performance.
The reports are apparently not aggregated into any kind of statistical table.
Committee members wanted to know more about how the police department handles complaints about the possible use of force violations, particularly what protections are in place to protect an officer who cites a possible violation by a fellow officer.
Some committee members wanted to know just how thick that "thin blue line" is that supposedly protects police officers from being reported by fellow officers.
Heubusch said the department does have a whistlerblower policy that protects employees who file complaints but also noted, it's a small department -- only 33 officers on the force -- so it's hard to remain anonymous.
That being said, Heubusch added, "supervisors know what their job is. They are not going to put their careers on the line. It's their job and their living on the line. I think our officers are comfortable coming forward if they run into a situation. I have yet to uncover a problem of an officer reporting something to a supervisor."
Public Defender Jerry Ader
Top photo: Chief Shawn Heubusch
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The first meeting of Batavia's Police Collaboration Advisory Stakeholder Group was largely informational, with most of the conversation led by Police Chief Shawn Heubusch on the history of policing, police training, and an introduction to the department's use of force policy.
Some members of the group asked questions or offered a short comment.
City Attorney George Van Ness led off the discussion with an overview of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive order mandating such review committees -- called "stakeholder groups" -- for all municipalities in the state that operate a police agency.
The group is charged with reviewing all local police policies and procedures and making suggestions for possible revisions. The plan that comes out of the group's work will be forwarded to the City Council. The plan will be subject then to public input and comment. The council will be expected to review and potentially approve the plan. Once certified, the plan will be sent to the state's Office of Management and Budget.
The executive order states municipalities that fail to follow through by April 1 could lose state funding.
For more on the composition of the group, which is comprised of city officials, community members, and subject-area experts, click here.
The Evolution of Policing
Recalling policing's evolution, Heubusch started with officers walking the beat on night patrol in big cities checking that buildings were secure and dealing with vagrants and drunks. Soon, officers took on the job of investigating crimes. Then when cars became common, police officers were charged with traffic enforcement, with a later emphasis catching people driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.
In the 1990s, there was a big push for officers to deal with domestic violence, including mandatory arrests in some situations. Modern departments also employ officers to deal with juveniles. In the late 1990s, the war on drugs started and officers put more emphasis on finding people selling or taking drugs and arresting them. Now, officers put more emphasis on getting drug users into rehabilitation.
In Genesee County, police officers assist Genesee Justice with curfew checks.
Community policing has always been a part of a police officer's job, Heubusch said. Since he became chief in 2014, he started a community outreach committee in the department that looks for ways to connect police officers with community members. Programs include shop-with-a-cop, coffee-with-a-cop, and foot patrols.
Police officers also need training in dealing with mental health issues and conflict de-escalation.
More recently, police officers are called on to enforce pandemic-related regulations and quarantine violations.
And nearly all those police activities have corresponding paperwork for the officer to complete.
"That's kind of what modern policing looks like," Heubusch said. "It's a lot. It's one of the reasons going through the academy these says is so long, because there's so much to learn."
Heubusch went through the academy more than 20 years ago when the required training took 600 hours. Now it's 800 hours.
Once an officer graduates from the academy, the officer is required to have 640 hours of field training.
Body Cams, Use of Force Policy, Job-related Stress
A member of the group asked about the use of body cams and Heubusch said since 2014 all officers are required to wear a body cam. Activating the device requires the officer to click a button twice and they are supposed to turn it on for every interaction with citizens with exceptions for emergencies that require quick action from the officer.
Asked if there is an issue with officers forgetting to activate the camera, Heubusch said there have been very few times where the department has needed to investigate a complaint or needed video footage for evidence and supervisors discovered the camera has not been activated.
While the chief discussed the policy briefly, group members are asked to read it before the next meeting, which will feature an in-depth discussion of the policy.
Heubusch noted that decisions about use of force are often split-second at best and in that time the officer must assess the threat level and what the legally appropriate amount of force is necessary to neutralize the threat.
"They have to use reasonable force given the circumstances right in front of them at that moment in time," Heubusch said.
To help officers be better prepared in stressful situations, they go through from eight to 16 hours of reality-based training every month.
Batavia PD puts officers through more reality-based training than most small police departments, Heubusch said, because the training carries some small risk of officers getting injured since it's a physical activity.
Community member Billy Blackshear asked about stress levels police officers faced and where that factored into training.
Heubusch said in recent years, there's greater awareness about job-related stress in law enforcement. The things they see, the situations they deal with, can take a toll.
"That's one reason 20 years is long enough to be on the job," Heubusch said. "That stuff compounds."
When officers are dealing with stress, either because of something that happened on the job or in their personal life, they are taken off of street patrol, Heubusch said.
The Rigors of the Hiring Process
In response to a group member's comment, Heubusch said because of retirements, the current police office is comprised of nearly half of the officers being hired in the past two years. Some of those officers had prior experience, but the average age of the force now is somewhere around 24 or 25 years old.
YWCA Executive Director Millie Tomidy-Pepper asked if officers are subjected to a background check before being hired. That started a long discussion about how officers are hired.
The state's civil service law will only allow the department to consider the people with the top three scores on the civil service exam.
There are exceptions that allow the department to consider a lower-scoring candidate, such as a candidate withdrawing an application, but those exceptions are few. Only in recent years has a police chief had the option of passing over a candidate who failed a psychological exam.
There is a criminal background check but only a felony conviction is disqualifying.
The candidate must complete a 28-page background check questionnaire.
"You would be surprised how many candidates omit things that they don't think we'll find," Heubusch said.
A detective interviews each candidate. The background check includes contacting former employers and references as well as locating people the candidate didn't name as a reference. The neighborhoods where the officer once lived are canvassed for people who can share relevant information about the candidate. Former spouses and boyfriends or girlfriends are interviewed.
"Anybody we can speak to who can speak to the person's character, we want to talk with them," Heubusch said.
There is a credit history check and a social media check.
Then there is a psychological exam with a specialist in police officer duty in Rochester.
Then a panel interview.
Finally, the candidate must take a polygraph.
"If you don't pass the polygraph, you don't get a job offer," Heubusch said.
The whole process takes several weeks.
Victor Thomas, a community member and representative of Just Kings Social Club, said, "That sounds like a lot. It seems you almost have to be perfect to get a job." Then he got a laugh when he said, "I think you just explained to me why I didn't get in."
Heubusch said, "we're not looking for perfect people. We all have skeletons in our closets. What we're looking for are major issues."
The big problem with the process, Heubusch said, is the state law mandating the department to only consider the top three candidates from the civil service exam. There are often better candidates, including some from our local community, who are not among the top three scorers. He would like to see New York go to a system, like some other states, where the exam is "pass/fail," which would mean, perhaps, if 200 people took the exam, the police department could consider up to 100 candidates, including local candidates.
Community member Michael Henry asked if officers receive cultural awareness training. Heubusch said they do in the academy but he didn't have the curriculum with him.
Anibal Soler Jr., superintendent of Batavia City School District, noted that in none of the material provided to group members nor during the presentation was the issue of race mentioned and he suggested a discussion of race be included in any policy reform, training, and in hiring practices.
City Church Pastor Marty Macdonald took exception to a comment by Heubusch that suggested past behavior was predictive of how a person might do as a police officer. He spoke at length about the ability of people grow, learn and reform.
Heubusch said he agreed and said his comment was meant to refer to references from former employers.
Blackshear commended the chief for his foresight, mentioning he met with Heubusch some years ago, in addressing community issues and trying to reach young people, including trying to recruit young people to a career in law enforcement.
Beyond Diversity -- Doing the Job Correctly with Accountability
Brandon Armstrong, a small business owner and also a member of Just Kings, said he was going to bring up what he thought would be an unpopular opinion: That the big issue was not the diversity of police departments, but the inability of police departments or the justice system to punish police officers who don't do their job the right way. He noted that there have been black police officers accused of acting just as bad as white police officers in other jurisdictions.
"We do need diversity but if somebody isn't doing the job right, they need to better held accountable for it," Armstrong said. "I don't care what color they are."
The opinion wasn't unpopular at all. Other group members said they agreed and nobody disagreed.
As we approach the Fourth of July Independence Day Holiday, Fire Chief Stefano Napolitano of the City of Batavia Fire Department would like to remind the residents of the City of what sparkling devices are allowed by law.
“We want to ensure that our residents enjoy the holiday in a safe and responsible manner,” Napolitano said.
According to the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services "Sparking Devices" are considered, “ground-based or handheld devices that produce a shower of colored sparks and or a colored flame, audible crackling or whistling noise and smoke.”
"These sparkling devices can only be bought and sold from June 1st to July 5th and from December 26th to January 1st in any given year," Napolitano said, furthermore, the law states that “Sales of sparkling devices by certified temporary stands or tents can only occur from June 20th to July 5th and December 26th to January 1st in any given year.”
According to the fire chief, allowable sparkling devices under the law are sparkling fountains, sparklers on wooden sticks (not metal sticks), smoking devices, snakes confetti-filled party poppers and paper-wrapped snappers. Non-allowable and illegal devices include firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles and any other aerial devices.
As a result of COVID-19 canceling many public fireworks displays, Chief Napolitano recommends the following alternatives to celebrate the Fourth of July Holiday without fireworks. Furthermore, these alternatives are pet and children friendly.
Use glow sticks; they glow in the dark and are a safe alternative to a sparkler.
Use noisemakers; they can be found at a local party supply store.
Red, white and blue Silly String.
Outdoor movie night. Set up a television or screen and projector.
Make patriotic crafts with the family.
Lastly, Napolitano says it is important to take the necessary fire safety precautionary steps when using these devices. Last year there were 18,500 fireworks-related injuries reported in the United States.
If any resident has questions regarding what is allowable or would like information regarding safety precautions, they can call the City of Batavia Fire Headquarters at (585) 345-6375.