CHENANGO COUNTY – As tensions rise over law enforcement in other parts of the United States, local leaders are discussing the future of policing in Chenango County.
When asked about the potential for racial bias and mistreatment in Chenango County, Sheriff Ernest Cutting said neither race nor politics plays a factor when law enforcement receives a call for help.
Cutting said law enforcement needs to continue to improve with the support of its community, and that the vast majority of police around the U.S. are doing the right thing.
Cutting and sheriff’s from Broome, Tioga, Cortland, and Delaware counties spoke at a press conference earlier this month, where recommendations for new laws were made. Many of the ideas were aimed at protecting police officers and increasing the penalties for interfering with police.
Those remarks prompted a response from some community groups who plan on holding a series of marches in different counties, including Chenango, to protest the proposals. A march is planned in Norwich for Wednesday afternoon.
The recommendations the sheriffs had discussed included making resisting arrest a class E felony, which could allow judges to set bail.
The creation ‘a failure to retreat law’ where any person who approaches or remains within 25 feet of a police officer engaged in the performance of his or her duties when such person is ordered by a police officer to halt or retreat and such person fails to immediately do so could be charged with a class D felony.
Another proposal would make it a crime to “dox” police officers.
Also committing any crime against a police officer because of his or her status as an officer, would be a hate crime.
Another idea discussed included making a state holiday for fallen police officers, along with a $500,000 benefit for officers who are disabled or die from injuries occurred on duty.
According to LaToya Jenkins, one of the founders of Unite Chenango, this is a step in the wrong direction. Unite Chenango is a recently created community group working toward racial equality and awareness.
She said communities like Chenango County might be better off if they abolished local police departments.
Jenkins said systemic racism has plagued law enforcement and the criminal justice system worldwide, and encounters with law enforcement cause more harm than good.
“We don't object to defunding, we don't object to community policing,” said Jenkins.
She said employing a mixed approach of community policing, neighborhood groups, and social workers would be better than the current system. .
Asked what a resident should do if face with a possible break-in or violent criminal encounter, she recommended relying on local neighbors for help, supporting self defense laws and the right to own a firearm.
She said the law to keep people away from police, would used to keep witnesses of police abuse away.
“Something we've taught our children, our neighbors, and our friends; if you see an officer please pull out your phone and record,” she added.
Jenkins said individuals have a right to document their own police encounter to ensure their own personal safety.