On Feb. 11, SUNY New Paltz announced its launch of the University Police Department (UPD) Advisory Committee, proposed by UPD Chief Mary Ritayik.
In June of last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the “New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative” Executive Order which mandated police departments to develop a plan to reinvent and modernize policing based on community input. UPD was not included in the order, however, the Advisory Committee is designed to be consistent with the mandate.
“I proposed, and the Cabinet endorsed, that an ongoing community advisory group is consistent with the spirit of the Governor’s intent and with multiple campus goals of inclusivity and anti-racism,”Chief Ritayik said.
The committee has mainly been in development since last semester. The committee is made up of Chief Ritayik; Officer Erin Beale; assistant professor of sociology, Tyrell Connor; assistant professor of sociology, Anna Gjika;Student Association representative, Tevin Green; Resident Hall Student Association representative, Matthew Cruz; Edward Lawson, an adjunct professor in the Black Studies department and community leader in Newburgh; and an unidentified African American alumnus who is awaiting approval from his employer.
Committee members were chosen through input from President Donald P. Christian’s Cabinet. The members were chosen because they had the skill-set and perspective to inform the committee and support its mission.
The Advisory Committee is intended to bridge a gap between the New Paltz community and UPD and inspire reform. The group will meet monthly while it’s in early development.
“Primary motivations for forming such a group were the systemic and recently amplified concerns across the country about police reform and police interactions with Black people and other marginalized groups, along with sustaining and growing the best traditions of good community policing on a public university campus,” Chief Ritayik said.
Some of the committee’s responsibilities include identifying opportunities for UPD to fulfill its antiracist commitment, advancing transparency in UPD functions and encouraging public input on policing services, perceptions of UPD and campus safety.
Green joined the committee because it presents an “amazing” opportunity.
“It’s no secret that the tragedies that happened last year and the Black Lives Matter Movements shook the nation. As a person of color and student on this campus, it really hit home,” Green said. “This committee was the perfect way for me to step up and encourage change both systematically and as a voice to the students on this campus.”
Chief Ritayik also emphasized that the committee was created for broader issues. Bias-related issues are an aspect of the committee, but campus safety concerns are also motivation for the development of the group.
Green encourages students to vocalize their thoughts and feelings to the committee so “we can all be in agreeance and towards a solution together.”
The email about the UPD Advisory Committee sent to students said that additional members may be added in the future. Chief Ritayik said that as the committee prioritizes their work, they may look for individuals with different skill-sets or perspectives to join. If you are interested in getting involved with the committee, you can reach out to Vice President of Student Affairs Stephanie Blaisdell at firstname.lastname@example.org.