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Lake Placid hires police reform consultant

Lake Placid police officers are pictured here at work at their desk in 2018 at their station in the North Elba Town Hall. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

LAKE PLACID — A Ballston Spa-based consulting firm has been hired to lead Lake Placid’s police reform process.

The Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees voted to approve a $4,500 contract with the Olio Consulting Group, led by founder Theresa Wilson, during the board’s regular meeting Monday.

“I felt confident this is the right type of person for Lake Placid,” Mayor Craig Randall said Monday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order requiring every municipality in the state with a police department — including the Tri-Lakes villages of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake — to submit a plan for police reform by April 2021. Municipalities are required to get public input. The penalty for not complying, according to Randall, is the possible loss of access to certain state funding.

Cuomo signed the executive order on June 12, in response to the recent death of George Floyd, who died when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck while arresting him for allegedly paying for cigarettes with counterfeit money. Floyd’s death, paired with other recent deaths of Black people in police custody, sparked widespread protests, some of which are ongoing.

Olio Consulting will be asked to review all of the Lake Placid Police Department’s policies, including those on use of force and arrests, as well as the department’s hiring practices. The consultant will then be asked to publish proposed changes, engage the public in a discussion, and provide diversity training for officers.

“At this point, this is not a function that I can simply put on the staff of the village,” Randall said.

Randall added that he and the chief of police, William Moore, had decided after looking at the state’s requirements for this process that “some outside leadership would be appropriate.”

“I think the police department in itself has excelled and this is some tweaks and adjustments,” Trustee Jason Leon said.

“Our officers are well trained in their work,” Randall said. “Their ability to be more than just police officers is, in my mind, above and beyond.”

In Saranac Lake, the village established a Police Review Committee to take on its review process.

In an overview prepared by Olio Consulting, the estimated timeline for Lake Placid’s review includes public forums or some other type of public involvement in November and December, with the first draft of revised policies expected to be complete by January. Then, there’s expected to be a public comment period in February, before a final draft is completed in March.

“Once the communities have had the opportunity to engage with local officials, law enforcement and our team, we will submit the plan to the State prior to the April 1, 2021 deadline,” Wilson wrote in an email to the Enterprise. “Each community has unique needs and we tailor our plans to work collaboratively with those needs.”

Randall said he’s “looking forward to the opportunity to enlighten the community about their policies.”

“We may learn some other things about our organization that maybe we’re not aware of,” he said. “I am looking forward to this being a good experience.”

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