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Good to see openness on police changes

Government transparency and public participation are increasingly underway in the village of Saranac Lake’s implementation of police reforms Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered for all police departments.

Progressive activists have spoken out strongly about the village’s hiring of Lexipol, a police consulting firm, to rewrite its manuals of laws, policies and best practices. It was good for everyone that they raised a ruckus over this because police work is the public’s business. Police represent us, the people of the community, and our desire for order and peace. We can’t do that ourselves — we need professionals like them — but we also need to be able to trust that they achieve those ends through honorable means. And trust requires transparency.

Our reporter Amy Scattergood took a deep dive into Lexipol and found that it is more of a format than a formula. Lexipol is not, for instance, telling officers how to do chokeholds — because chokeholds are illegal in New York state and Lexipol’s New York programs have been updated to reflect that. Mainly, it’s a gigantic upgrade for police over the outdated policy books they have now, and at a fraction of the cost of hiring someone to do even some of that work. From their perspective, it’s just a platform.

For email, do you write your own code or do you use an existing platform such as Gmail or Outlook? For web design, do you have your own web developer or use a platform such as WordPress, Wix or Squarespace? Sure, different platforms lean different ways — just as a Charger and a Crown Victoria are different kinds of police cars — but Lexipol’s program can be customized to local needs as much as the municipality wants to do so.

The good news is that the village board and police chief understand that people want to weigh in on police matters and are conceding. They have established a Police Review Committee, which has met, and despite the frustration of the summer months, the first meeting was very civil.

It looks like the Saranac Lake Police Department doesn’t have anything to hide, and therefore it is taking this opportunity to build trust with the community it serves and protects. Thus, the SLPD and community skeptics both win — as do we all.

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