College-Community Partnership for Racial Justice holds virtual Town Hall on criminal justice and police reform

"The racial justice movement has given us a chance to improve public safety for everyone in the Mohawk valley," said Frank Anechiarico, Hamilton College Professor of Government.

Posted: Feb 11, 2021 11:55 PM
Updated: Feb 12, 2021 10:04 AM

WKTV - Thursday night, members of the College-Community Partnership for Racial Justice, which includes all six colleges in Oneida and herkimer counties, held a live and interactive broadcast on WKTV CBS-Utica and community4justice.org to present results from local public opinion surveys on criminal justice and discussed law enforcement reforms in order to help police agencies come up with the final versions on refrom plans to present to the state. 

The racial justice movement has given us a chance to improve public safety for everyone in the Mohawk valley. The Partnership and the Levitt Center at Hamilton College are working with local governments to provide evidence-based solutions to problems of equity and effective law enforcement,” said Frank Anechiarico, Hamilton College Professor of Government in a press release.

“Too many people, too many people of color especially in the black community across New York State and across this country do not feel that they are treated fairly by law enforcement officers,” said Patrick Johnson, Director of Safe Streets.

This Town Hall, a result of nationwide civil unrest following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, WI in May, 2020 which was followed by an Executive Order by Governor Cuomo for every locality to adopt a plan for police reform.

The college-community partnership created and received results from 3 different samples of a survey with diversity amongst race, gender, education and income about community wellness, interactions with police and thoughts on alternative forms of policing:

  1. Levitt Center at Hamilton College commissioned by Zogby Strategies, Oneida and Herkimer County adult residents – 500 respondents. Gender: 50% female, 50% male; Race: 87% White, 13% Non-White; Education: 31% Bachelor’s Degree of higher, 44% some college or Associate’s Degree; Income: 65% $60,000 or less.

  2. 211 texting option publicized by the United Way, Oneida County Sherriff’s Department and public platforms – 150 respondents. Gender: 64% female, 36% male; Race: 85% White, 8% Non-White, 7% declined to answer; Education: 55% Bachelor’s Degree or higher, 39% some college or Associate’s Degree; Income: 66% $60,000 or more. 

  3. Paper survey option (door to door, passerby) in Cornhill Region of Utica – 94 respondents. Gender: 47% female, 51% Male, 2% Non-binary/Other; Race: 84% Non-White, 8% White, 8% declined to answer; Education: 3% Bachelor’s Degree, 36% some college or Associate’s Degree; Income: 34% between $10,000 and $40,000, 52% $10,000 or less.

Such as, the question of if one has ever been treated inappropriately by the police. 18% of the Zogby sample and 21% of the 211 survey asserted that they have been inappropriately treated, while 56% of Cornhill residents affirm the same.

“There was some response fall-off because if you really haven't had interactions with the police you may not respond to this question but of those who responded a majority of Corn Hill residents responded affirmatively that they have been inappropriately treated by the police,” said Gbemende Johnson, Hamilton College Professor.

“There was a lot of agreement across these survey samples even though there was a great deal of disparity on racial/ethnic identity, on education and on income in many cases and that there’s a substantial agreement across the survey samples that racism and ethnic bias are problems in our area in general as well as in the police treatment and court systems,” said Veronica Tichenor, SUNY Poly Professor. “And that there's a great deal of support for trying to find other ways to deal with problems in the neighborhood like domestic violence, misbehavior due to mental illness and that would suggest that we should be showing some attention on those areas.”

Community residency also discussed in community and police relations.

“Our community, is 41% non-white and yet our law-enforcement agencies locally are 6% non-white and that creates an issue and that tells us that there is an issue with diversifying the police agencies that serve our community,” said Bernard Hyman, Utica College Professor.

Hiring solutions discussed were cluster hires, as hiring a group that more adequately reflect the community its serving along with conviction best practices.

“There are many good police officers I will say that again there are many good police officers don't and date them all because you had a bad experience with some,” said Patrick Johnson.

Localities must adopt a plan for police reform and submit it to the state by April 1. Oneida County presented its proposed plan for public review, the panel added that the City of Utica, along with several other towns plan to do so in the coming days.

“What should we as citizens look for in the police reform plans that are proposed?” asks Anechiarico. He then goes on to list: transparency, oversight, racial justice, community orientation and coordination.

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