Trustees pass Lake Placid police reform plan, send to state

LAKE PLACID — Lake Placid’s police reform plan was adopted during a special meeting on Monday, March 29.

Members of the Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees voted to adopt the plan more than nine months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order requiring local law enforcement agencies to review their use-of-force policies and develop a plan to improve them, and two days before the state-mandated deadline to submit that plan to the state Division of the Budget.

Under the plan, the village police department will continue to contract with Lexipol, and implement a new policy manual drafted by the national law enforcement consulting firm. Lake Placid police have been working with Lexipol for more than three years.

The plan also requires more staff training on a number of topics: on the new policy manual, on diversity, deescalation and mental health. It also calls for increasing officer involvement within the community in official capacities, completing safety planning for the 2023 Winter World University Games and increasing use of social media to notify the community of possible health or safety concerns.

The option for officers to implement any use of force that restricts airflow, in the department’s use of force policy, has been eliminated in this plan. New York state banned police from using choke holds in June 2020.

Lake Placid’s police reform plan says “there is a high level of mutual trust and openness between the village officials, police department and the community.”

“The village did experience small groups of activists in support of the Black Lives Matter movement,” it reads, referring to a large rally last June at which more than 300 people marched up and down Main Street to protest racial injustice following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. “These groups did not notify the municipality of their protest plans, but the police department and village officials worked quickly to ensure everyone’s safety.”

The rally was planned by a group of Lake Placid residents and led by Alex Medina, a New York City native who has lived in Lake Placid since 2011.

The village was notified about the event ahead of time. A few days prior to the rally, Randall said at the time that the village had been notified and that although the organizers didn’t explicitly ask for permission to host the event, he didn’t expect the village to interfere with them practicing their civil rights. One of the organizers of the event, Lake Placid resident Sierra Brewster, said at the time that she hadn’t heard back from village officials or the police department after contacting them about the event.

The reform plan goes on to say that since the death of Floyd last May, members of the community have been “willing to approach village officials regarding how these movements are impacting the village of Lake Placid.”

“The village officials and police department understand how police policies, practices and procedures can impact different members of their community in different ways,” the report reads. “Through open and honest dialogue, the community continued to establish and strengthen their trust in not only the village officials but the police department as well.”

Lake Placid’s police reform plan was developed by a consultant, Theresa Wilson of Olio Consulting, with Lake Placid Police Chief William Moore, Assistant Chief Charles Dobson and village trustees.

Mayor Craig Randall acknowledged the small amount of public input during the March 29 trustees’ meeting. He noted that he only received input from three people on the subject, and two of those were not related to the reform plan, but the police department’s budget and the size of the department.

“The comments from the public have been very limited,” he said.

Randall thanked Moore, Dobson and village Trustee Scott Monroe, a former police chief, for their work on the police reform plan.

The plan was expected to be sent to the State Budget Office by the April 1 deadline.