Geneva Police Department Patrol Officer Travis Farmer, president of the union representing Geneva Police officers, recently wrote a letter to City Council in which he called the proposed local law creating a Police Accountability Board “a scheme that can only be likened to the measures that were taken by the Nazis in Germany in the last century.”
Farmer, who moved to Geneva two years ago when he joined the GPD, also blasted the proposals for a police body camera task force and a Police Budget Advisory Board, saying that city council wants to “deprive the public of law and order” and that the prospect of civilian oversight of the police is “terrifying.”
Welcome to Geneva, Travis Farmer!
On August 26 2018, Travis Farmer joined the Geneva Police Department after transferring from the Saranac Lake (NY) Police Department.
Farmer was born and raised in the village of Saranac Lake. The village has around 5,041 residents, and the total population is 96.87% white and 0.75% black.
He studied criminal justice and history at the State University of New York at Brockport, where he prepared for his future as a small-town cop (as an expert on policing in Nazi Germany).
The City of Geneva recently posted all of the public feedback they received as of August 26, related to two police reform proposals:
Among the dozens of pages of feedback is a letter to City Council from Local 3471, the union representing Geneva Police officers.
Speaking on behalf of Local 3471, union president Travis Farmer said this about the proposed Local Law 2-2020 creating a Police Accountability Board in Geneva:
“Not only is Local Law 2-2020 both shocking, and appalling, it is also a scheme that can only be likened to the measures that were taken by the Nazis in Germany in the last century.”
So, are they any parallels between the actions of the Nazi state and a civilian-led police oversight board in Geneva, NY?
Policing in the Nazi state
According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
“When the Nazis came to power in January 1933…Adolf Hitler posed as a champion of law and order, claiming he would uphold traditional German values. The police and many other conservatives looked forward to the extension of police power promised by a strong centralized state, welcomed the end of factional politics, and agreed to end democracy.”
The Nazi state “alleviated many of the frustrations” the police had previously experienced.
Under the Nazi state, German policing was radically changed.
- “The Nazis centralized and fully funded the police to better combat criminal gangs and promote state security.”
- “The Nazi state increased staff and training, and modernized police equipment.”
- “The Nazis offered the police the broadest latitude in arrests, incarceration, and the treatment of prisoners.”
- “The police moved to take “preventive action,” that is, to make arrests without the evidence required for a conviction in court and indeed without court supervision at all.”
Under the Nazis, the German police were a well-funded, well-staffed and well-equipped organization, where officers were allowed to routinely violate the human rights of citizens, including arresting anyone they wanted without any evidence.
Under the Nazis, the German police were accountable to no one.
“Conservative policemen were initially satisfied with the results of their cooperation with the Nazi state. Crime did indeed go down and the operation of criminal gangs ended. Order was restored. But there was a price. The Nazi state was not a restoration of the imperial tradition. It was at its core thoroughly racist. The Nazis took control and transformed the traditional police forces of the Weimar Republic into an instrument of state repression and, eventually, of genocide.”
The German police were soon fused with Hitler’s SS and Security Service (SD).
“The SS, SD, and police were among the primary perpetrators of the Holocaust.”
What exactly is Travis Farmer trying to say when he compares a civilian-led police accountability board with the actions of Nazis in Germany?
Police in Germany worked in an environment with no accountability, and were allowed by the system to abuse and violate the rights of citizens, and that environment led to those police officers participating in the Holocaust.
Perhaps the police union (and Officer Farmer) should brush up on their world history before smearing the thousands of residents and majority of councilors who are calling for police accountability as acting like Nazis.
Union Letter Blasts Council, Residents and Threatens Legal Action Against All Proposed Accountability Measures
In their dramatic missive to City Council, the GPD officers union repeatedly expressed their position that civilians are either “totally unqualified,” or that their qualifications would be “wholly lacking and far from the level required to be beneficial members of (the Police Budget Advisory Board or the body camera task force).”
The union offers stark warning after stark warning about the possibility of being held accountable to the people they serve:
“Under the guise of police reform, the City Council seeks to disrupt the proper and efficient functioning of the Geneva Police Department and to deprive the public of law and order by placing the future of the Geneva Police Department in the hands of civilians who are neither elected officials nor qualified to handle the responsibilities they are being given. In fact, it is terrifying to understand that the City Council is seeking to hand so much power over to civilians that do not have the requisite level of education, experience or training needed to address such serious law enforcement issues.”
The union further characterizes the proposals as “utterly reckless, with no thought being given to the ramifications or costs of the proposals if they are passed.”
The final paragraph includes a demand that the city allow the police union to assist in crafting the three police reform measures, or else they will “take every measure” to stop the proposals.
“If these three proposals are pushed forward for adoption in their current form, the City Council will be openly demonstrating their intent to not include Local 3471 and others as a stakeholders as they ignore and dismiss our input. The City Council can accomplish their goals if they are willing to sit down and discuss these matters in good faith. Otherwise, we will have no choice but to take every measure available to us to stop the implementation of these proposals if the City Council proceeds to adopt them as they are.”
These are the words that the Geneva Police officers union is using to describe common-sense measures that would provide accountability and oversight of a police department that has lost the trust of so many in the city and has shown that they cannot police themselves.
- Contact City Council and let them know that you support civilian-led oversight of the Geneva Police Department, and that the opinions of less than 40 police employees (the overwhelming majority of whom don’t even live in the city) should not be given any more consideration than the opinions of the other roughly 13,000 residents of the city.
- Review the three current police reform proposals on the City’s “Police Reform” page and provide your feedback to the City Clerk as soon as possible.
- The next regular monthly City Council meeting is Wednesday, September 2, 2020. Check the calendar on the Geneva NY City website for details.