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Police Reform Moves Forward In Dutchess County

Mark Molinaro detailing the 2021 Executive Budget.
Mark Molinaro detailing the 2021 Executive Budget. Video Credit: Dutchess County

Emergency mental health services will be expanded in Dutchess County, while Sheriff's Deputies will be assigned and mandated to use body cameras and take mandated implicit bias and procedural justice training per County Executive Mark Molinaro's 2021 executive budget.

“We have a duty here in our community to strengthen what works, fix what is broken, and come together to build a safer and freer home for all," said Molinaro of the measures toward police reform in the 2021 budget. 

"Despite the challenges 2020 has presented us, my Executive Budget enhances our County’s mental health crisis services to be more nimble and responsive to the needs of the community, while giving law enforcement the tools necessary to protect and serve us."

The budget also calls for efforts to expand the officer candidate pool, continued improvements to the county's 24/7 crisis intervention team, an expansion of the Mobile Crisis Team and the collaboration with area partner organizations with the county's Stabilization Center (a mental health clinic) in Poughkeepsie.

The changes are borne of recommendations come from the County’s Police Reform and Modernization Collaborative, a group made up of law enforcement officials, members of the community and county employees.

“Everyone involved in this police modernization process has the common goal to become better and stronger as a community," said Dutchess County Sheriff Butch Anderson. 

"The steps we in law enforcement have taken so far, and the initiatives in the County Executive’s proposed budget will go a long way to improve existing policies and procedures, and foster stronger relationships with our communities."

"I thank the County Executive for his leadership during the budget process and I look forward to the passage of this budget.”

Currently, applicants to the sheriff's department are required to have a minimum of 60 college credits. 

To widen the applicant pool, thereby increasing diversity in the department, new officers will be given five years to complete those credits and two years to complete crisis intervention training, a new requirement for deputies. 

Officers will also be required to choose one of eight eight-hour procedural justice classes offered by the Dutchess County Law Enforcement Center between October and December. 

According to a press release issued by the Dutchess County Government, "procedural Justice training is an evidence-based training program designed to ensure citizens are treated with fairness and respect," while "implicit bias training teaches awareness of and addresses the automatic assumptions made between groups and stereotypes about those groups." 

Mandatory training on these subjects will be taught to all deputies by the Criminal Justice Council.

The department's HELPLINE, which offers mental health and addiction treatment, will be physically moved into the same building as their 911 call center to allow for cross-training and a multidisciplinary approach to dispatch services. 

The Stabilization Center, with help from new employees, brought in from Mental Health America, Astor Services, and PeopleUSA, will be able to take walk-in patients under the new budget. 

Molinaro will release an official budget announcement and address at DutchessNY.gov on Wednesday, Oct. 28, and will host a Facebook Live session on the same day allowing residents to post questions as he details the budget. 

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