Village of New Paltz Trustees recently voted to request the Town of New Paltz Board to make the police commission an independent panel.
At their Feb. 12 meeting, the board voted 3-2 in favor of requesting the commission become independent. Village Mayor Jason West and Trustees Ariana Basco and Rebecca Rotzler voted in favor of the request; Trustees Sally Rhoads and Tom Rocco voted in dissent.
The topic was initially brought up at the meeting by New Paltz resident Amanda Sisenstein. She said she worries the tie between the town board and the police commission could upset the checks and balances system in the town municipality.
“To me it seems like the whole point of having the police commission is to have a little bit of separation between the people, the town board and the police department,” Sisenstein said.
The police department is under the jurisdiction of the town, while the fire department belongs to the village. Despite the separation, Rotzler said she believes the police commission is something both parties can discuss.
The town board designated themselves as a commission on Feb. 3 and are considering the disposal of the panel indefinitely.
Rotzler said despite the departmental belongings between the two municipalities, there is value for the village to voice concerns with the town’s plans and to make sure there is “citizen oversight” within the police commission.
“I feel it is in our interest to express our concerns regarding the police commission,” Rotzler.
She, West and Basco said they were concerned that the amount of work town board members have to put in as both members of the board and police commission would be too much to handle.
West related the scenario to the village board’s relationship with the fire department.
“There are just not enough hours in the day and when you have the confidence in the people working on there, you let them do it,” West said. “They [town board] could do good work … but I’m convinced the town board, almost by definition, will do less.”
Basco agreed with West, and said her experience working with the police commission and as a liason in the past cement her stance on reinstating the police commision as independent of the town board.
“I know very well how busy we all are,” Basco said. “I think an entire police department is difficult for the town board to take on. It’s not that I think they’re incapable of doing so, but I think it’s great to have a dedicated group of people who focus on the one board.”
Rotzler said if the village board were in the town board’s shoes, she is unsure whether or not they too would be capable of juggling responsibilities.
“If the police commission as well as the department were essentially under our board and the police commission were disbanded, I do not feel that as a board we could so readily take on the work that the police commission was engaged,” Rotzler said.
Rhoads said she felt uncomfortable with the village involving themselves in the matters of the town board.
“I think we would be very offended if the town came and told us how we should be running our business,” Rhoads said.
However, Rotzler said since the police operates as the sole law enforcement in New Paltz, their workings are of importance to both governmental municipalities.
“If the police is conducting their business in our community and represent us, they are our business,” she said.