FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday April 2, 2021
CONTACT: David A. Banks firstname.lastname@example.org
TROY, NY — Yesterday, after much ado over modest amendments to the initial report from the Troy Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative (PRRC), the Troy Democratic Socialists of America are unsuprised, but nonetheless appalled, at the startling lack of the city’s inability to acknowledge the existence of police murder and the fact that Black Lives Matter.
Two of the four Black members of the PRRC have already denounced the final report. Starletta Smith, Executive Director of YWCA, and Renée Powell, President of the NAACP Troy Chapter spoke to Hudson Mohawk Magazine (HMM) earlier this week. “It was almost written as if it was an annual report for the Troy Police Department versus addressing our community’s issues that we have with systemic racism,” said Smith, who added that she was “unhappy, disgusted, appall[ed]” with the PRRC final report. “In my understanding of a committee you have discussions, you work together to come to a conclusion and this process — this was not a committee, this was a show,” said Powell. Neither Smith nor Powell even know who wrote the final report.
Since that interview, the City Council took it upon themselves to amend the report in closed-door meetings and voted to adopt the amended report that was described in the city council meeting as “98% complete.” That amended, incomplete report was not made publicly available before it was adopted and it is still not available as of 12 hours after the conclusion of that meeting. The simple fact that they voted to adopt a document that was not even finished demonstrates how seriously the city takes this process.
The PRRC was a sham and a failure from the beginning. Now, it is even condemned by its own members. If we, the people, could directly address the Police Benevolent Association instead of going through their middlemen on the Troy City Council, then we could at least have a more honest exchange about what is politically feasible in the present order. Instead, the people of Troy are left with a shameful Jim Crow charade. The people of Troy deserve a process whose results are not determined in advance by the police and their political lackeys.
Between July 29, 2020 and August 31, 2020, we initiated Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests for “[a]ny and all existing disciplinary records for each currently serving officer or employee of the Troy Police Department, including any incident reports, statements, supporting evidence, records of any action taken as a result, or any other disciplinary records.” To date, the city has provided none of these records. These records, despite the TPD’s efforts to intimidate people away from filing complaints, do exist but the city has said they trust their officers more than their residents. In our requests for disciplinary records for Officers Montanino, White, Iler, and Ashe, the city refused to release their records because an unnamed internal investigation found those complaints to be “not well-founded,” and so they withheld them so as to not violate the “privacy” of the accused officers. The city admitted this only after we appealed a decision that stated no such records existed, by showing them Times Union articles stating reports had been filed.
Troy stands in stark contrast to other cities across New York State. Since the repeal of 50-a of the New York Civil Rights Law, the city of Rochester has ended its contract with the police union, reduced its police department’s budget, and set up a public-facing site where residents can look-up police officers’ records with ease.
It is clear that our current city leaders no longer want to maintain the pretense of open, democratic government. The time for meetings is over. Now we must make our own tools, and institutions to protect ourselves and our communities from the police and those that protect them. That is why we are launching the People’s Reporting Project, a system where anyone can file a report about their interaction with law enforcement officers. We encourage everyone to visit https://defundtroypd.org/report/ and report any and all negative interactions they had with local officers in the past, present, and future.
We agreed with PRRC member Powell when she said in the HMM interview, “The trust is gone. We’re not going to believe [the report]. And if the trust isn’t there, then the relationship can’t exist.” Therefore, in the event that the city gets around to doing the bare minimum and institutes a 21st century complaint system, we will, to avoid confusion, encourage people to fill out both the city and ours and we will do whatever is in our power to make that process easier. However, it is clear that the trust which is necessary for governing has been broken and so we cannot rely solely on the city’s system to keep an accurate record of police officers’ conduct.
We will regularly release reports on the information we receive, and be transparent in how well the information has been corroborated. Our priorities are to create a public record by and for the people of Troy about their law enforcement officers, and to keep those people safe through anonymity and information security to the extent we are able.
On the streets of our city, calls for change are echoing. They must be and will be answered.