A Southampton Town Committee charged with implementing a state mandated review of police department and public safety policies is asking for the public’s input thorough a recently released survey.
In the wake of the killing of George Floyd last spring by police officers in Minneapolis, which sparked civil unrest nationwide and shined a spotlight on police and race relations, Governor Andrew Cuomo crafted “Say Their Name” police reform legislation.
His New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative, established by executive order in June, calls for every police department in the state to submit a local reform plan by April 2021 or lose state aid.
In a letter to state police departments, the governor wrote, “To rebuild the police-community relationship, each local government must convene stakeholders for a fact-based and honest dialogue about the public safety needs of their community. Each community must envision for itself the appropriate role of the police. Policies must be developed to allow the police to do their jobs to protect the public and these policies must meet with the local communities’ acceptance.”
In Southampton, the Town Board convened a Community Law Enforcement Review Committee, charged with examining public perceptions about local police. To that end, the committee crafted a survey aimed at garnering community input.
Dubbed “Your Opinion Matters,” the survey can be found on the town website, southamptontownny.gov, through November 23. It’s offered in English and Spanish, and begins with boilerplate requests for information as to the survey respondent’s residency.
Next the questionnaire asks survey takers what the police department’s principal role is perceived to be. Is it public safety, protection, enforcement, investigative? Should police act as mediators? If the role is different from the perception, what should it be, the survey asks.
Respondents are asked to list, in order of importance, topics pertaining to Southampton Town Police community relations that concern them most. They’re asked if they’re aware of programs the police currently implement and if there are others respondents might like to see.
Should police respond to mental health calls and should they respond to substance abuse and overdose calls, are two more queries in the survey. Calls related to homelessness were also among those survey respondents were asked about. Are there areas where people turn to police that might be better handled by other agencies, is another question.
Finally the survey asks if Southampton Town Police should have a presence in local schools.