Social Justice Organizations Call on the Broome County Legislature to Reject Sheriff’s Plan
On Thursday, March 18 the Broome County Legislature is set to rubber stamp Broome County’s Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative plan. The six sentence proposal is a dismayingly inadequate response to widespread community demands to end unjust policing and incarceration directed by the Sheriff’s Department. The Broome County has the highest incarceration rate in the state with Black people overrepresented by six times. In the last decade at least 10 people have died in the facility. This statistics evidence a long history of misusing the criminal legal system to address our community’s most pressing structural problems: poverty, racism, violence, sexism, and mental health. Overincarceration contributes to each of these. The recommendations do nothing to address these issues, indeed they concentrate more power in the Sherrif’s hands.
In direct opposition to the Governor’s recommendations, the reform committee refused to speak to organizations working on criminal legal, adequately collect community input, and fail to meet even the minimal state standards posed. The state’s guidebook clearly states it would be a mistake “to impose top-down solutions” and that reform efforts and meetings should “involve the entire community in the discussion” including interested non-profit groups. Organizations working on criminal justice and substance use issues were systemic shutout. The only opportunities for community input were two poorly publicized meetings where speakers were only afforded three minutes to speak. Rather than the open process called for, the Commission has been composed and imposed by the sheriff and county administration behind closed doors.
The review committee has not considered, as the state directed in its guidebook,
cutting police in schools (p. 18),
demilitarizing police forces (pp. 20, 21),
collecting and making available stop data,
using alternative agencies to respond to substance use and mental health calls (pp 12-13)
ending shooting at moving vehicles (p. 31),
cutting back on racialized facial recognition data (p. 34),
considering alternative investments of public funds in community violence interruption, support to parents, youth development, or addressing trauma and violence at home (pp. 14-16)
The committee’s recommendations? It proposes instead to enlarge yet again the Sheriff’s operations and put under his control even more mental health and substance use treatment. The jail is not a mental health or substance use treatment center. Funding the sheriff’s operations, at $40 million+ year, is untenable in the face of countervailing cuts in public health services in the county. The Sheriff tells us he has a plan to increase diversity, an objective that has been stated year after year, decade after decade, with no result under the current Sheriff–who has brazenly blamed the NAACP for the overrepresentation of white men on his staff.
Before the meeting on Thursday, concerned organizations will hold a press conference at 1pm to call attention to the county plan’s many failings outside the Broome County Office Building in downtown Binghamton. We will also be calling on county residents to attend the Legislative session Zoom meeting (to be held at 5pm and is accessible through this link: https://broome.zoom.us/j/91716981568#success) and hold signs expressing their disapproval of the plan.
The county’s effort addresses neither local community demands nor even the moderate instructions of the state. Its recommendations can only exacerbate tensions between the police, sheriff and local residents. It should be rejected and the state should impose the maximum sanction: cut the funding to the Sheriff and related county operations. There is no alternative.