BATH — Steuben County’s Police Reform Plan is a notable accomplishment, meeting all its action items for the past year, with additional item activity planned for the remaining three years of the plan, according to county Sheriff Jim Allard.
Adopted by the county Legislature in January 2021, Steuben’s police reforms include a broad range of uniform best practices for law enforcement officers. They followed a state executive order for police agencies to develop initiative-taking efforts to reach the diverse populations in their jurisdictions.
Steuben’s resolution included policies already in place in 2020 and set in motion other policies to go into effect this year.
The reform plan was developed in coordination with local police departments, the county district attorney, municipalities and other stakeholders along with Corning Inc. consultant Dawn White.
According to Allard, notable achievements in 2021 include:
- Partnering with the Sheriff’s Foundation to award two $500 scholarships to members of a marginalized community enrolled in a pre-employment police academy. Both awardees are currently employed as police officers in the region.
- A 50 percent increase in applicants for the correction officer civil service test after increasing the social media advertisement.
- Partnering with SUNY Alfred and CCC to develop training for entry level police and corrections positions. The process has begun but is still in developmental progress.
- Expanded diversity and bias awareness training to all officers.
- Increase transparency of arrest activities and calls for service, cases, incident types and public interaction as well as monthly statistics on use of force, and arrests by gender and race on both social media and the county website. All published reports were sent to news outlets.
- Quarterly meetings with Non-Commissioned Officers to review use of force and determine training needs.
The 2021 stage saw a strong emphasis on community relations and safety through programs with community instructors, coordinating joint pistol permit safety course instruction with National Rifle Association instructors, coordinating and conducting-multi agency boater safety courses presentation, and kayak safety presentations to youth.
In addition, in line with the plan, police provided:
- Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events and Stop the Bleed programs for the New York State Department Of Transportation and school districts.
- Partnered with local police chiefs in “Coffee with the Sheriff” in Hammondsport, Canisteo, Hornell and North Hornell.
- Created a call for service for “Stop and Talk” wherein a deputy engages a community member in a meaningful non- enforcement encounter.
- Allard is continuing to update all town, village and city boards and councils on the status of the Sheriff’s Office
Other achievements in 2021 included
- Improved selection and promotion methods by requiring candidates to meet additional standards.
- Requiring a standardized background investigation of all new hires including a psychological, polygraph, criminal history and certification check for all new hires and lateral transfers.
- Conducting a personality assessment for all promotional candidates, as well as a multi-stage interview including community stakeholders for selection.
- Initiated anonymous quality assurance feedback channels:
- Set up an anonymous feedback link on the Sheriff’s App, on the county website and on social media.
- Improve collaboration with mental health providers including protocols for better interaction and collaboration with the Steuben County Mental Health Mobile Crisis program and initiating medically assisted treatment for “Substance Use Disorder Opioid” patients in the jail.
Allard reported his office still plans to meet with faith-based youth groups of marginalized communities to encourage law enforcement as a career. An agency wide training on implicit bias will take place following a state Department of Criminal Justice instructor course in Monroe County.
Steuben’s reform plan received statewide commendation shortly after the county Legislature adopted the law setting it in motion.
In a letter to all state law enforcement agencies, the county was noted for tackling social justice and equality head on by working to reduce personnel complaints and adopt a county-wide reporting method and tracking system to identify key behaviors amongst their officers.