The Hudson Police Department will undergo limited reforms, including the restricting of “no-knock” police raids after Mayor Kamal Johnson signed an executive order Monday.
The order, which Johnson called a “first step,” also creates a “Police Reconciliation & Advisory Commission” comprised of residents and police officers to advise the mayor on police actions.
This first step comes during a nation-wide demand for police accountability after the killings of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and other African Americans by police.
Flanked by Hudson Police Chief Ed Moore and Police Commissioner Peter Volkmann, Johnson announced the reforms during a press conference late Monday.
“This order is not a solution, but the start of a conversation around police reform here in Hudson,” Johnson said. “This order is not a critique of our police department, but rather our city being proactive and not reactive.”
“This isn’t about who is a good cop and who is a bad cop,” he added. “This is about trust and safety.”
The executive order has 21 basic components meant to increase transparency, regulate the use of force, and remove non-law enforcement duties from Hudson Police Department’s (HPD) litany of responsibilities.
Johnson emphasized during Monday’s press conference the executive order was only a first step, and a reading of the document suggests these initial changes will be quite small.
Of the 21 measures in the order, six were already part of HPD and city policy, such as mandating that HPD members report their fellow officers when they use excessive force or physically or verbally escalate an interaction with the public.
When asked why one of the already-established measures was included in the executive order – a ban on choke-holds — Johnson replied it was important to hammer down these rules.
The language of many other measures is indefinite, potentially leaving a great amount of wiggle room.
For instance, though the order bans the acceptance of military equipment through the federal forfeiture program, it does not ban the use of such equipment, only saying HPD officers should “avoid” using it “for nonessential purposes.”
Another measure prohibits “no-knock warrants,” but leaves the door open by still allowing the raids when they are “essential to protect public safety.”
The vast majority of raids in the City of Hudson are conducted by the Shared Services Response Team, a joint venture by the HPD and the sheriff’s offices of Columbia and Greene counties that can conduct raids throughout the Twin Counties. It was unclear if sheriff’s deputies on the team must follow the new order while in Hudson, or if HPD officers on the team have to abide by the order in other parts of the Twin Counties.
Calls to the Mayor’s Office seeking clarification on the issue were not immediately returned.
Other measures seem more significant.
The HPD will implement an addiction recovery program modeled after Chatham Cares 4U, according to Johnson.
“Chatham Cares 4U” was implemented in Chatham, a community just north of Hudson, by then-Police Chief Peter Volkmann, who is now Hudson’s police commissioner.
The program allows anyone suffering from drug abuse to walk into Chatham’s police station and be placed in rehab without the fear of facing charges. Officers will even drive them there.
The program is commonly accessed and has helped the areas opioid crisis, Volkmann told TOHV in a 2019 interview
The executive order also states social issues often handed by police – such as substance abuse, mental illness, and homelessness – “should be limited or removed from the scope of police responsibilities” whenever possible.
The order also sets up an advisory commission made up of four city residents, two police officers and the Chairperson of the Common Council’s Police Committee to gather the concerns of residents and deliver a report to the mayor by November 15. The commission would also advise the Mayor on police matters.
Commissioner Volkmann said a bridge built between police and the community was simply “a monument to failure” if no one crossed it.
“The mayor really wants to create that bridge so both the police and the community can cross and see each other viewpoints and start that community conversation,” he said.
A lack of trust in police has also stopped residents from coming forward when there has violence in Hudson, Johnson said.
This was glaringly apparent during the summer of 2017, when six people were shot, including two toddlers, and seventh man was murdered as drug crews feuded in the city of 6,000.
Hudson police struggled to make arrests as victims and witnesses refused to talk. Several members of one of the crews were eventually arrested on drug charges with the help of the FBI.
Two men were charged with the 2017 murder in October 2019, according to the Daily Freeman.
Mayor Johnson’s executive order comes as police departments across the nation start to re-examine the very soul of policing following massive protests and civil unrest spurred by the depraved killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
However, Johnson had spoken about re-thinking policing in Hudson before, serving as the Hudson Common Council’s Police Committee Chair before being elected mayor, where community policing was one of his platforms.
Johnson is Hudson’s first African American mayor since the city was founded in the 1780s. The city is currently nearly one-quarter black.
The Hudson Police Department has a history of abuse.
The HPD allowed prostitution and gambling rings to operate unimpeded in the 1940s, according to Bruce Edward Hall’s Diamond Street. Governor Thomas Dewey eventually appointed a special prosecutor to investigate, leading to massive raids by state police in 1950. Multiple HPD officers were found at brothels during the raids, according to the book.
In the late 1980s, Hudson police officers faced such charges as soliciting crack, interfering with narcotics investigations, and lying to a grand jury about drug use, according to the New York Times.
In 1990, then-Chief James J. Dolan Jr. was indicted on 20 charges, including taking bribes, intimidating a victim or witness, bribe-receiving, and rewarding official misconduct, according to The New York Times, and in a separate case, was charged for allegedly delaying the arrest of a friend accused of fire-bombing a reporter’s car who wrote articles criticizing the police chief.
In 2014, former Hudson Police Chief Ellis Richardson and 13 HPD officers were hit with a lawsuit by Jermaine McRae, who accused officers of a pattern of targeted harassment in 2011 and 2012, including officers allegedly twice beating him while handcuffed in the basement of the old Hudson Police Department, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was settled after court-mediated discussions, the terms of which are confidential, according to Leo Glickman, McRae’s attorney in the case.