June 15, 2020
Fellow Ossining Residents,
Your voices these past few weeks have been moving, inspiring, heartfelt, and sometimes heart-wrenching. Dehumanizing acts of violence against people of color have been a systemic part of our nation since its founding. The task of undoing centuries of injustice is daunting. Fortunately there is progress that can be made right here. Village government has an important role to play in working with our community to dismantle institutional racism.
Institutionalizing accountability is an important part of the solution. Did you know that Ossining is the only Westchester community with a Civilian Police Complaint Review Board (CPCRB)? The Civilian Complaint Form is now available online in English and Spanish. Asking for the CPCRB to review an interaction you had with local law enforcement is now more convenient. If you’re interested in serving on the CPCRB, there are open spots for one member and one alternate. Click here if you’d like to apply .
Aligning police policies with practices is an important step in building trust between law enforcement and residents. Thank you to all the community members who have reached out to ask whether Ossining Police practices are consistent with the 8 Can’t Wait recommendations. Fortunately, our practices already are, and our written policies now reflect that. Thank you to Chief Kevin Sylvester for his work in amending general orders for the department to align OPD policies with practices. The below 8 Can’t Wait recommendations restricting use of force are now mandatory Ossining Police Department policy:
  1. Banning chokeholds & strangleholds
  2. Requiring de-escalation
  3. Requiring warning before shooting
  4. Requiring exhausting all alternatives before shooting
  5. A duty to intervene
  6. Banning shooting at moving vehicles
  7. Requiring a use of force continuum
  8. Requiring comprehensive reporting
Community policing needs to be the foundation for all police policies. Chief Sylvester attended training in Washington during the Obama administration to learn 21 st  Century Policing recommendations. The implicit bias training with Dr Marx for the entire department was one of the initiatives that we implemented as a result of that experience. The village board is committed to supporting similar training and additional 21 st  Century Police recommendations going forward.
Last week Albany passed a number of reforms to address institutional racism in law enforcement by repealing 50a to increase transparency and accountability, banning chokeholds, prohibiting race-based 911 calls, and expanding the role of the Attorney General in investigations and prosecution of the killing of unarmed civilians by police. The impact of these reforms will be felt statewide.
In a moment when so many of us are looking for tangible ways to make a difference in our own community, here are some calls to action for Ossining residents:
  • Respond to the Census. The more Ossining residents who are counted, the more accurately we are represented in higher levels of government and the more funding that comes to our community from the federal, state and county governments.
  • Vote every chance you get. Every election matters. In some ways local elections impact your daily life the most. Democrats and Republicans can vote right now in primary elections.
  • Make your voice heard in the Ossining Tomorrow comprehensive plan. Click here to share your feedback on the Ideas Wall and to learn more about how to continue to engage in the Ossining Tomorrow process. A comprehensive plan and zoning laws determine many aspects of what a community will look like in the future, including whether multi-family housing will be encouraged or obstructed. If you want to help shape Ossining for the next generation, your voice needs to be heard now.
  • Take the police test. Part of our commitment to community policing means we hire locally. Click here to learn more about the test requirements. We are only able to hire new officers who take this test and score well. The more applicants we have, the more OPD will reflect the diversity of our community.
We are committed to working with our residents and local law enforcement on continuing to build trust and fostering an environment where all Ossining residents feel safe. Stay tuned for more opportunities to engage on how we can improve the transparency, accountability and connections that are essential for our community.
Mayor Victoria Gearity & the Village Board of Trustees