COOPERSTOWN, NY - After the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers last year, and the ensuing, sometimes violent, protests that followed, many communities are now taking a long hard look at law enforcement and racism.
On Wednesday, the Friends of the Cooperstown Village Library presented a panel discussion on that topic and how it pertains to the village.
The panel consisted of Frank Cavalieri, Cooperstown police chief; Richard Devlin, Otsego County Sheriff; Joseph Popcun, Director of Policy and Practice, Rockefeller Institute of Government; Ellen Tillapaugh, Mayor, Village of Cooperstown; and Bryce Wooden, EOP counselor, SUNY Oneonta.
They discussed what steps have been taken, and those that still need to be taken, to combat racism in law enforcement.
"Racism still exists in our community and across this nation,” says Chief Cavalieri. “There absolutely is a problem. There is a problem in policing. We know that. We've seen it. We need to rectify those things".
"It's a hard job. It's traumatic,” says Wooden. “There’s a lot of work to it so I have that respect, but sometimes it's hard. From that historical context, history involving minority populations and police there is a lot of distrust. Distrust because of what happened."
Wooden knows firsthand about that distrust. When he was younger his parents, an inter-racial couple, were held at gunpoint by State Police who were investigating drugs in the vicinity of his home and had gone to the wrong address.