“Syracuse Police Reform & Reinvention Plan” is Approved by the Common Council: Mayor and Police Chief Respond

Statement by Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh and Chief Kenton Buckner on the Common Council’s approval of the Syracuse Police Reform & Reinvention Plan

Commitment by the Syracuse Common Council, Mayor Walsh and the Syracuse Police Department to implement substantive change that is transparent and accountable to the people of Syracuse

 The voluminous 261-page report includes details and methodology on how to change policing in our community

This past year has been tumultuous to say the least, COVID-19, the campaign for Social Justice and the Presidential Elections created an environment where anything could happen, and it did. Multiple stakeholders spent their time in an aggressive over 30 day initiative to bring attention to Police policies. Sparked by the death of George Floyd, how civilians are policed has matured into a global effort.

Directives from the Governor to all law enforcement agencies to review their policies; local governments on the city and county level have begun to implement these new initiatives. Those requiring legislative approval were before the Syracuse Common Council for their review on behalf of city residents. That approval came yesterday March 15, 2021.

Community Mobilization

On June 12, 2020, community organizers, advocates and activists issued a statement urging the passage of the Syracuse Right to Know Act and other reforms as part of the People’s Agenda for Police Reform.

The People’s Agenda included nine (9) items. The coalition seeking these reforms included the following members:

  • Last Chance for Change
  • Black Lives Matter, Syracuse
  • CuseYouthBLM
  • Raha Syracuse
  • Syracuse Chapter of the National Action Network
  • Syracuse-Onondaga NAACP
  • William Herbert Johnson Bar Association of Central New York
  • Central New York Chapter of the NYCLU
  • Syracuse Peace Council
  • Syracuse Cultural Workers
  • CNY Solidarity
  • Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse (ACTS)
  • Black Leadership Coalition
  • Syracuse Police Accountability and Reform Coalition (SPAARC)
  • Syracuse Clergy

The voluminous 261-page report includes details, methodology and legislation on how to change policing in our community.  In addition, there are statewide directives as ordered by the Governor; every law enforcement agency in the state are reviewing their tactics.  An independently produced study includes “Contacts with Syracuse Police Citizens’ Assessments” as reported to the Syracuse Police by The John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety, Inc.

Information is included with detail in the full report issued by the Mayor’s Office and the collaborative partners. “Click” Here Full Report Link

The document is a collaborative effort, representing the work of many people representing a broad spectrum of the community. This included the commitment by the Syracuse Common Council, Mayor Walsh and the Syracuse Police Chief to implement substantive change that is transparent and accountable to the people of Syracuse.

Executive Summary speaks to “A National Movement”

As stated in the report summary, A National Movement. “The murder of George Floyd touched every corner of our community. Like other communities, City of Syracuse residents mobilized and organized Black Lives Matter protests. In addition, individuals and organizations sought changes to governance policies, practices and procedures that upheld inequitable outcomes or fostered exclusive environments contributing to the social and the economic oppression of Black people and other people of color. Government officials responded with urgency and strategic focus to address and implement comprehensive police reform. On the national level, H.R.7120 – George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 20201 was introduced to Congress on June 8, 2020 and passed in the House of Representatives on June 25, 2020. The bill was received in the Senate on June 29, 2020 and remains there to date. On the state level, New York State lawmakers passed a ten-item legislative package. A summary of the legislation can be found in Appendix M2 . In Syracuse, we are listening and we are acting.”

Syracuse Police Reform and Reinvention Plan March 2021 table of contents

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh upon the Common Council’s approval of the Syracuse Police Reform & Reinvention Plan said, “Today, the Common Council unanimously approved the Syracuse Police Reform & Reinvention Plan which has been reviewed and commented on by residents and stakeholders. I thank the Common Council for their partnership in holding public hearings, providing input, and in moving this plan and our city forward. I also thank the community for their engagement and input on how we continue strengthening and improving police accountability and response.

The Syracuse Police Reform & Reinvention Plan and process is ongoing – we are not done. Our work will be implemented with transparency and involve the partnership of the community we serve. Chief Buckner and the members of the Syracuse Police Department have been implementing changes since the Chief arrived and they are implementing more changes each day. We know that what we do together today will have a lasting impact on the city and its residents.”

Mayor Walsh’s statement was followed by Chief Kenton Buckner who added, “Over the past several months, the Syracuse Police Department has worked with internal and external stakeholders to draft a reform plan for our agency. This endeavor comes on the heels of a national and local call from citizens for police departments to implement reform efforts into their agencies. This included but is not limited to changes to policy, training, delivery of services, and accountability. With this in mind, SPD will continue our efforts by delivering on the promises made during this process.”

This is not the end, but just a beginning of a process designed to change how policing is done in Syracuse, NY. A culmination of efforts included not only the Police Department, Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, Syracuse Common Council President Helen Hudson, Khalid Bey and Democratic Progressives on the Common Council.

These efforts began decades ago, with former Syracuse Common Councilor Charles Anderson who led the charge, pushing the legislation for police accountability. This isn’t new to many of the community-based groups that coalesced into a force. A force that harnessed the frustration and at times out right anger at how policing is done, not just in Syracuse, but in our nation as a whole. That process which began decades ago as a legislative baby, is now all grown up, and has teeth.