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Medina will embrace more community policing

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 September 2020 at 8:51 am

Village holds first forum for residents to comment on police reform

Photos by Tom Rivers: Cheryl Brady Thompson speaks during a public meeting today about police reform in the village of Medina. About 30 people attended the session at the Medina Theater. The trio on stage are members of the Committee on Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. They include Jacquie Chinn, Scott Robinson and Pastor Jovannie Canales. Thompson said she would like to see more diversity and viewpoints on the committee which includes 14 members.

MEDINA – The Medina Police Department needs to do more community policing, where officers build relationships with residents outside of responding to complaints, a committee was told on Wednesday during a forum on police reform and reinvention.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state have mandated all police departments engage the community about reform and department policies, as well as community resources devoted to policing.

Medina Mayor Mike Sidari said the village is committed to “due diligence” in a state-mandated process looking at police reform. He addressed the group at Medina Theater on Wednesday evening. Sidari holds a manual that must be completed by Medina and submitted to the state by April 1.

Medina’s committee was told the Medina Police Department should reflect the racial makeup of the community and officers need to build more trust with residents.

“We’re not anywhere where we need to be,” Cheryl Brady Thompson said at the forum at the Medina Theater. “We all need to feel safe in Medina.”

She said she worries for her Black sons and biracial grandchildren that any interactions with police could escalate with her family being shot.

She said she was pulled over one time in Medina, and the officer responded by walking up to her car with his hand on a gun.

She said she has been depressed over the incidents of police brutality, which have resulted in nationwide protests, including in nearby Rochester.

“I need to stop watching the news because I see so much hatred out there,” she said. “This has been so heavy on my heart. I talk to God daily about it.”

Scott Robinson is one of 14 members on the committee for Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. He said the group is the early stages of reviewing Medina PD policies and perhaps offering recommendations for changes. He expects a survey will be available for residents to share their views on what they want in a police department.

Robinson said he has no doubt there is racism in Medina, and didn’t dispute claims from Black residents that they are often treated differently by police.

The committee needs to complete its plan by April 1 and submit it to the state. Cuomo is requiring all 500 law enforcement agencies in the state to go through a review of department policies, engage the public in the process and submit a plan – or risk having state aid cut off to their municipality.

Village Trustee Owen Toale, left, said the Medina Police Department has tried to do more community policing in recent years, but officers need to make more effort to connect without residents.

Cuomo said many departments may already be meeting expectations in a community and don’t need to make any significant changes. They still need to send a plan to the state, going through the process of engaging with the community.

Village Trustee Owen Toale said he has been on the board for 10 years and community policing has been discussed often. He said Medina officers do car-seat checks, give away bike helmets and try to connect with residents at community events.

But Toale said the department needs to do more.

“We need a solid plan that incorporates everyone in the community,” he said.

Betty Garcia Mathewson of Albion said Medina could be leader for the county and state in how the police department serves its community.

She urged Medina’s committee to look a best practices for departments around the country. She said the village and county may need to shift some resources from police to mental health services. She urged the group of about 30 at the forum to acknowledge everyone carries some racism or sexism that should be acknowledged and worked on.

Committee member Scott Robinson began the forum by saying this was the first of several meetings with the community. Residents will have plenty of chances to comment about Police Department policies and possible changes. Pastor Jovannie Canales is at right.

Garcia Mathewson has lived in Orleans County for 35 years. She said there are many “beautiful people” in the county but it is also “the most racially hostile place I’ve lived in.” She said Western New York has been compared by some experts to the Deep South for racial attitudes.

“We need a long-term plan but it starts with us first admitting the mess we are in,” Garcia Mathewson said.

She urged Medina to expand the committee to include more diversity and “be more reflective of the community so it can be a successful process.”

Mayor Mike Sidari, a member of the committee, said the Village Board would be open to adding more members. He would welcome more events in Medina to foster good relationships between police officers and residents. That include include a community day at the State Street Park.

Sidari said the village is committing to doing “its due diligence” with police reform.

“We are going to do our part as a community to make this work,” he said. “We all have a voice in the process.”

Public comments can be sent to the committee at medinaprrc@gmail.com.

Committee members include Daniel Doctor, Jacquie Chinn, Scott Robinson and Pastor Jovannie Canales, Mayor Michael Sidari, Jacquie Chinn, Lt. Todd Draper, Scott Robinson, Sherry Tuohey, Chief Chad Kenward, David and Cynthia King, District Attorney Joe Cardone and Public Defender Joanne Best.

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