Council Proposes Giving Police Chief And City Staff Control Of Police Oversight Boards

On July 2, 2020, the Geneva City Council passed six resolutions related to police oversight and reform. One of those resolutions called for the creation of a Police Budget Advisory Board, and another resolution called for a task force to be convened to review police body camera policy and procedures.

Over five weeks later, on August 17 2020, the City of Geneva published proposals, which were created by City Council, for both of these new police oversight committees, and gave the public just one week to provide feedback.

And rather than provide independent oversight of the Police Budget Advisory Board and the body camera task force, the proposals drafted by City Council state that three unelected officials – the Chief of Police, City Manager and City Comptroller – will “provide direction” to both groups, and that the City and police department will not be required to follow any of the  recommendations made by either group.

RESOLUTION # 30-2020 – Body Camera Task Force (City Council Proposal)

The Body Camera resolution specifically notes that the Geneva Police Department’s current body camera policy is not aligned with best practices for facilitating officer and public safety, public trust, and transparency.

In addition, the resolution notes that Sections 9-2 and 9-3 of the Geneva City Charter vest the City Manager and City Council with oversight of orders and policies of the Geneva Police Department.” The document goes on to affirm that the task force will consist of “no less than two (2) members of City Council as well as no less than four (4) members recommended by the Community Compact.”

It would certainly appear that the spirit and purpose of the resolution is to provide “oversight” of the GPD’s body camera policies and procedures, with a task force consisting primarily of community members.

Yet the draft proposal of the bylaws for the body camera task force seems to be suggesting the opposite.

  • Under the heading of “Purpose,” the proposal states that the task force will  “work in collaboration with the City Manager and the Police Chief to examine (the body camera policy)”, even though the resolution never mentions that any city employees should be part of the task force.
  • Under “Responsibilities,” the proposal states that the task force will work “to foster a deeper understanding of Geneva Police Department(‘s body camera policy),even though the resolution was passed to help provide “oversight,” not a “deeper understanding.”
  • Also under “Responsibilities,” the proposal states that the “City Manager and the Police Chief shall provide direction to the Task Force on which areas it should focus,even though the resolution does not even imply that those officials would be involved with the task force in any way, much less “providing direction.” 
  • Under “Membership,” the proposal states that the task force would “consist of 4 community members, 3 city councilors, Police Chief, and City Manager,” even though the resolution recommends only two city councilors and neither the Chief nor the City Manager on the task force.
  • Under “Chairperson,” the proposal states that “The City Manager shall be the chairperson,” even though the resolution does not recommend that any city employees be members of the task force, much less chairing the group.
Geneva Police Chief Mike Passalacqua

Additionally, the “Membership” section also states that task force members must be:

  • Willing and able to understand the current (body camera policy)-how it was developed, when it was adopted, who was involved in the development, etc.
  • Willing and able to attend ALL meetings
  • Willing and able to have open minded conversations about the policy and not display a bias towards one side or the other.

None of these arbitrary “requirements” were part of the original resolution.

Who will decide if someone is “willing and able” to “understand” the body camera policy, and to attend “ALL meetings?”

Who will decide if someone is “willing and able” to have “open minded conversations” without displaying a “bias?”

And how exactly can the Police Body Camera task force include the Chief of Police among its members if there is a concern about members having “bias?”

Finally, under “Responsibilities,” the proposal states that any recommendations from the task force will be “advisory only and shall not be binding on the City Administration or the Geneva Police Department,” effectively removing any actual influence over the body cam policy by the task force, which was literally created to provide “oversight” and “transparency.”

RESOLUTION # 35·2020 – Police Budget Advisory Board (City Council Proposal)

This resolution requires the city to establish “a Police Budget Advisory Board, for the purpose of examining line item expenditures and associated policy priorities within the Geneva Police Department appropriations.” The board was created, in part, “to drive creative thinking, accountability, and greater transparency in the budgeting process.”

In addition, the board’s membership would be “representative of the demographics of the community at large” and “provide recommendations to the City Council.”

Yet, once again, the proposed bylaws for the Police Budget Advisory Board (PBAB) seem to have little connection to the spirit of “accountability,” “transparency,” and the “community at large.”

  • Under “Purpose,” the proposal states that the PBAB will “work in collaboration with the City Comptroller and the Police Chief to examine the Geneva Police Department’s (GPD) budget,” even though the resolution never mentions that any city employees should be members of the task force.
  • Under “Responsibilities,” the proposal states that the task force will work “to foster a deeper understanding of of police appropriations,even though the resolution was passed to help provide “accountability” and “transparency,” not a “deeper understanding.”
  • Also under “Responsibilities,” the proposal states that the “City Comptroller and the Police Chief provide direction to the PBAB on which areas they should focus,even though the resolution does not imply that those officials would be involved with the task force in any way, much less “providing direction.”
  • Under “Membership,” the proposal states that the task force “shall be representative of the demographics of the community at large and consist of 5 community members, 2 city councilors, the Police Chief, and City Comptroller,” even though city employees are not considered a “demographic” and the resolution does NOT mention any city employees sitting on the task force.
  • Under “Chairperson,” the proposal states that “The City Comptroller shall be the chairperson,” even though the resolution does not recommend that any city employees be members of the task force.

Additionally, the “Membership” section also states that task force members must be:

  • Willing attend ALL meetings
  • Willing and able to have open minded conversations about the police budget and not display a bias towards one side or the other
  • Active(ly) participating in the community

Who will decide if someone is “willing and able” to “attend ALL meetings” and have “open minded conversations” without displaying a “bias?”

And how exactly can the task force include the Chief of Police among its members if there is a concern about members having “bias?”

And who decides if a potential task force member is “actively participating in the community?”

Finally, under “Responsibilities,” the proposal states that any recommendations from the task force will be “advisory only and shall not be binding on City Council, City Management, or Geneva Police Department,” effectively removing any actual influence over the police budget by the task force that was literally created to provide “accountability” and “transparency.”


Contact City Council and let them know that the Police Budget Advisory Board and body camera task force should NOT include the police chief or any city employees among their members, and that both oversight boards should reflect the spirit of the original resolutions as they were passed.

Believe!

3 Comments on “Council Proposes Giving Police Chief And City Staff Control Of Police Oversight Boards”

  1. This is a ridiculous proposal. The whole point of Civilian oversight is Civilian Oversight. This should be independent of police control. Not to do so means that it is powerless and merely a window dressing opportunity. It does not fall into any of the guidelines established by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo calling on municipalities to adopt police reform measures. For the Geneva City Council to act in a pro-police fashion means they are not interested in true reforms. The Ontario County Justice Coalition and the Black Lives Matter groups ought to come together and seriously challenge this position.

  2. Why doesn’t the council just start a fire? Simpler, quicker way to total destruction. Never mind, Geneva is going bankrupt, never mind infrastructure shortfalls, never mind $15 million in lakefront covered in RR tracks and concrete, never mind the cash cow (HWS) isn’t pumping cash, never mind no jobs, etc. Putting down another human being bc of their skin color is the priority. What a shitty, small-minded town.

  3. The police chief is and should be an advocate for the department. The chief in nearly all municipalities makes a budget request. That request covers all reasonable desires. It is then up to the elected officials to balance the desires of the various departments and the taxpayer’s ability to pay. It is hard to elected officials to dive deeply into all that goes into every budget line. So in my opinion it makes sense for them to ask for groups of citizens to specialize in some departments and spend time debating the merits of different expenditures, and giving their recommendations to the council. I believe that having someone there to advocate for the programs is important. It is no less important to have someone interested in alternative expenditures, or simply less spending. The entire point of a committee like this is to have an open broad ranging debate. If every one is right in the “middle” what is the point?
    If the chief is “neutral”, who will make the initial budget request? If the chief makes the request, how can anyone believe he has no vested interest in it? Who would try to justify the requested expenditures if the chief is acting as a neutral party?

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