A couple of young New Rochelle residents got me excited about a concept that meshes well with the Governor’s mandate to reimagine policing and the post-COVID necessity to police more cost-effectively.  It is a successful program that has been around for over 30 years in Eugene, Oregon, where mobile two-person teams – each consisting of an EMT and a mental health professional, both casually attired – are available to respond 24/7 to 911 and police station calls.  Please take a few minutes to read this recent article about them. 

The two stats that jump out at me are: (a) an estimated 20% to 50% of fatal encounters with police around the country involve a mentally ill individual; (b) the Eugene “CAHOOTS” system costs 2% of that city’s police budget and handles 17% of all calls; and (c) total annual savings on police and ambulance runs average over $22 Million in a city with about twice the population of New Rochelle.

I’d like to think we could put together a pilot program in New Rochelle, supported by County medical and mental health professionals, with a view toward creating a shared service with all our cities, towns and villages, possibly organized with geographic lines more compact and efficient than those our often puzzling and downright irrational municipal and fire district boundaries.

I hope we all, including the task forces on policing that are to be set up in all our municipalities and counties in New York State, will be able to engage in dialogue about this concept.  I would like to hear your thoughts on this and other policing and justice matters.

If you still think that discussion of police reform is un-American, please reconsider your position, and please don’t be one of those people who say stuff like what’s on this video [note: youtube terminated her account and the video is no longer available] that a constituent sent me.  

There was so much to unpack in response and, God help me, I did reply… like this (slightly edited):                   

Ah, I’m one of those rare public officials who responds to every bit of correspondence I receive, but where to start with the attached, one-minute video you sent my way.  Well, here we go:

1.       I disagree with the implication that only one end of the political spectrum owns the USA flag or the Pledge of Allegiance, for which our entire County Board of Legislators  — Democrats, Republicans, liberals and conservatives – stand at the beginning of all our full Board meetings.  The option to stand, sit, kneel or do back flips during the Pledge is part of the “liberty” mentioned therein.  The “justice for all” part is our highest aspiration.

2.       So my church, Holy Family in New Rochelle, has been open about five weeks and has alternating pews cordoned off by yellow tape to set the parameters for social distancing, and the masses are shorter to keep people safer, and we all wear masks.  I also attend at least two other worship services at other churches or synagogues via Zoom each weekend, and they are also generally shorter than normal in-person services.  Try it.  Now talking about burning churches down….you really gotta be careful here, given the long history of actual burnings and bombings of Black churches.

3.       Looting and destroying and violence?  I’ve now been to 20 marches and rallies in 8 different municipalities in lower Westchester County in June and July, and various family members have been to more than a dozen others, but the only disorder any of us has seen was when fully armed and armored riot police swooped down on my son in Seattle as he was chanting with the brick-less, Molotov-less, basically defenseless Transit Riders Union.  They were surrounded as the police launched flash-bangs and tear gas at them.  Here’s a fun satirical article from The Onion to get you thinking about who is really looting billions of dollars of value from us all:  https://www.theonion.com/protestors-criticized-for-looting-businesses-without-fo-1843735351

4.       “Graffiti my capitol”?  I don’t know about this.  Has anyone tried to graffiti our State office buildings in Albany?  Does anyone really want to go all the way up to Albany to graffiti?  Is “graffiti” a verb now?

5.       Has someone actually been crushed to death by an old Robert E Lee statue?  Or is she confusing that with the dozens of orderly protesters run down by crazy right-wing drivers (including some who “wear a badge, have a gun and dress in blue”).

6.       Great eye roll about the “magic” of COVID, but there is a difference between people wearing masks outdoors and those cuddled together in large crowds (though not as large as before) indoors and without masks, cheering and emulating their maximum leader.

7.       What a mouth on her!  I certainly never used that last word until I was way beyond T-Ball age.  Somebody does need to get her back to church really soon to be admonished!

8.   I think the point of BLM is that everyone in America should be thinking and talking about racial matters. But they should get educated a bit first. Ya know, read a little about the history of race relations in the country and your own locality….plenty of condensed, digested information in the past two months’ NY Times Sunday magazine sections.

Stay well and stay safe everyone!