As Mayor of the Village of Rye Brook, I would like to assure our residents that the Village Board is fully committed to ensuring that the murder of George Floyd and countless other black and other minority citizens by the actions of certain discriminatory police officers across the nation will not be tolerated in our community. We fully understand the frustration felt in ours and other communities. In Rye Brook, we are advocates of social justice and racial equality for all citizens and we demand accountability and inclusion in all aspects of our village government. In fact, in January 2020 the Village Board approved a resolution condemning acts of hatred and intolerance including racism, sexism, homophobia, and anti-religious acts.
At the same time, I would like to assure our residents that we are very proud of the Rye Brook Police Department led by Police Chief Greg Austin and staffed with caring police officers. The department is diverse, and the Village has a strong community policing program where the police officers are encouraged to engage with residents and develop strong connections with the public.
I’d like to share with you some of the policies currently in place in Rye Brook that promote racial equality, anti-harassment, and de-escalation:
- The Rye Brook Police Department has been accredited since 2015 and remains one of the few accredited departments in New York State. This process often takes years and requires the implementation of specific written standards and is one of the best ways to help police agencies continually evaluate and improve their department to promote public confidence in the department.
- Rye Brook has written procedures which must be followed for different types of arrests, including the rare and unfortunate circumstances when the non-lethal use of force is needed. This written policy remains available to the public on the village website at the following link: use of force policy and includes first using other methods of arrest such as verbal persuasion. There are also reporting and investigating requirements after such incidents.
- The Police Officers receive annual training on the proper application of the use of force depending upon the situation encountered.
- The Police Department has an internal affairs policy to investigate any formal complaints against a police officer.
- All the Village staff, including the police department, receives annual anti-harassment training and reviews, and our anti-harassment policy is re-affirmed.
- All police officers wear body cameras and cameras are also installed in vehicles for the safety of both the police officers and the public.
- To support community policing, the Police Officers actively engage with members of the community of all ages to build positive relationships. Some examples include:
- Teaching DARE in both elementary and middle schools
- Sponsoring the Officer Phil Program in Elementary School which teaches students about stranger danger, what to do in an uncomfortable situation, etc.
- Coffee with a Cop events at Starbucks
- Sponsoring community events such as “Ice Cream Fridays”
- Helping the fire and recreation departments teach a babysitting class
- Teaching parents and caregivers on the correct way to install child car seats
- Actively participating as members of the Blind Brook Community Coalition
I am fully confident that our police officers will protect and serve all citizens with respect. As a Village, we are committed to listen to the concerns of the public, learn from each other, and adjust our procedures and actions to meet the community’s needs so that social justice for all citizens will prevail.
Paul S. Rosenberg