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Tupper Lake police policy committee will begin meeting soon

TUPPER LAKE — A committee of law enforcement, social service professionals and community members will look at this village police department’s policing policies over the winter and deliver a document of potential changes to the public in April.

An executive order signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year directed governments with police agencies to perform a review of current policies, procedures and practices and improve them to better meet the needs of the community, promote community trust and address racial bias and disproportionate policing of communities of color.

This order came after several filmed deaths of unarmed Black people at the hands of police around the United States this spring and summer, which led to large, ongoing protests about policing and racial injustice.

Village Mayor Paul Maroun, who is spearheading the creation of the group, said Tupper Lake’s 10-person committee will meet four to six times over the winter and hold a public hearing sometime at the end of April before finalizing any changes made.

The meetings will not be open to the public, but the hearing in April before the task force adopts the policies will be.

Issues to tackle

Maroun gave an outline of what he has planned for the committee Thursday. He said the primary function of the police is to protect the citizenry.

He said the department will adopt an anti-discrimination statement, featuring the same language as one delivered by Maroun for the village last month.

Maroun said their discussions will also focus on officer protection.

“We have to protect them while they are protecting us,” he said. “I don’t want to put a police officer’s life in jeopardy, or I wouldn’t want to put your life in jeopardy if they were arresting somebody who was trying to harm you. It’s a balance.”

Maroun said the committee will examine the uses of force allowed and not allowed by the department, policies around things such as deadly force, restraining holds and spit hoods, as well as setting times for when mental health and probation departments should be involved.

He said mental health is extremely important, especially for Tupper Lake which has many Office for People with Developmental Disabilities group homes and the Sunmount facility.

Simpler than others?

Maroun said he believes this will be a “simple” process and should not be as complicated as in other places.

Village Police Chief Eric Proulx said he is unsure of what will change as a result of this process. He said he does not see any glaring problems in his department but will hear from the community if they see any.

“I’m curious to find out if there’s any issues,” he said.

“What the governor said is a good idea, but we don’t have the same problems as … in Rochester or Syracuse or Brooklyn,” Maroun said. “I think our police force does a very fine job now, but we are going to examine some of the problems around the country.”

Proulx said in his over two decades with the department, he has heard no complaints of racial bias, and he said in his seven years as chief, he has had three personnel complaints.

“The last use-of-force incident I reported was over two years ago for a man with a knife,” Proulx said. “The individual was brandishing a knife, was making threats to use the knife, so obviously the officers on scene pulled their guns. Not at him, but had them out. Because they pulled their guns out, that met the criteria where we have to report that use of force to the state.”

Lexipol

The TLPD has hired the California-based consulting company Lexipol for the past two years to help manage its policies. Lexipol created a controversy in Saranac Lake this summer as some residents took issue with the consulting company that provides a digital policy platform for many police departments around the nation.

Maroun said the TLPD will use Lexipol’s manual as a “template” and will pick and choose what they keep, what they remove and what they edit.

Maroun said he is confident the department’s 10 officers are trained well, adding that they get schooling often.

“I don’t want a police officer to get hurt; I don’t want a person who is being accosted by a possible criminal to be hurt, either,” Maroun said. “But at the same time, when you’ve got two cops and a state trooper standing there with a gun, you don’t need to put a chokehold on a guy once you get him cuffed.”

He said the group will start meeting after Thanksgiving. Policies will be looked at by the village attorney, insurance company, police union, public and village board before being passed.

Committee members

¯ Tupper Lake village Mayor Paul Maroun

¯ Village Trustee Leon LeBlanc

¯ Tupper Lake Police Chief Eric Proulx

¯ TLPD Sgt. Geoffrey Carmichael

¯ Tupper Lake Emergency Management Coordinator Carl Steffan

¯ Rev. Rick Wilburn of the Tupper Baptist Chapel

¯ Franklin County Director of Community Services and Mental Health Suzanne Lavigne

¯ Franklin County District Attorney Craig Carriero

¯ Franklin County Social Services Commissioner Michelle Mulverhill

¯ Franklin County Probation Director Denise McLane

Anti-discrimination statement

“The village of Tupper Lake is an all-inclusive, family-friendly, community-supportive and recreational paradise in the Adirondacks. The village of Tupper Lake never has and does not support discrimination by, for or to anyone or any group. We do not discriminate by race, creed, color or sexual orientation (LGBTQ, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning).”

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