Village nears end of police review

Tillapaugh

The village of Cooperstown has mostly finished its community review of policing standards and will share its findings with the public early in 2021, according to Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh. 

“I think we did what we needed to do,” Tillapaugh told The Daily Star on Monday, Dec. 21. “We are at the point now where most of our work is in editing and refining.”

Tillapaugh said the village’s committee has met seven times, with an eighth meeting scheduled for last week canceled because of a snow storm. She said she intends to show the village’s Board of Trustees a draft of the committee’s report at the board meeting Monday, Dec. 28. After the trustees have seen the report and offered their opinions, the village will hold an information session to share the results with village residents, she said.

“With the (coronavirus) cases spiking, I don’t know if we can have a public hearing, but maybe some sort of Zoom presentation,” Tillapaugh said. 

The trustees would likely vote to approve the committee’s report in February, Tillapaugh said. It is due to be turned in to the state by April 1, in accordance with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order 203. 

Cuomo ordered the reviews of all municipal police organizations following the May death of George Floyd, a Black man, during his arrest by a Minneapolis police officer. 

Tillapaugh said Cooperstown has had few issues between its police and community members, citing the department’s small staff — in addition to Police Chief Frank Cavalieri, the department has two full-time officers — and the lack of crime in the village. 

“I think what was really reinforced is we have a community policing model,” she said. “Mostly we have calls of service, welfare checks and other issues where our residents need help from our officers. It is not like we are a high-crime area.” 

In addition to the community board report, Tillapaugh and Cavalieri will appear on a panel for the next phase of the Friends of the Village Library’s “Looking in the Mirror: Cooperstown Reflects on Racism” series. Their topic will be racism and policing and their panel will take place in 2021 at a date to be announced later. 

Tillapaugh said Cavalieri, who was appointed as police chief not long before the review board began its work in September, has “been fantastic” in taking over the department and in working with the community board. 

“The one thing we have found is a lot of the focus is on mental health issues, and unfortunately, that is not an area where the village has any resources to solve the problems,” she said. “So we have to look to the county and hope they are also able to put some more resources into helping with those issues.” 

In addition to Tillapaugh and Cavalieri, the other members of Cooperstown’s community review board are: village trustees Jeanne Dewey and Richard Sternberg, former trustee and Otsego County Assistant Public Defender Bruce Maxson, Cooperstown Episcopal Church rector Rev. Dane Boston, Bassett Medical Center Psychiatrist Richard Brown, Bassett-Columbia third-year medical student Adam Richter, Paperkite Creative Project Manager Veronica Pokorny and Bassett Oncologist Anush Patel.

The minutes from the first five meetings of the community review board are available at www.cooperstownny.org/police/ and the remaining minutes will also be posted once they are complete, Tillapaugh said. 

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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