Lexipol: not quite the full story
I was disappointed to see that in the article on Lexipol published on the 29th of September, the Enterprise failed to mention that each of the police departments that has come under national scrutiny for the senseless murder of Black people has contracted with Lexipol.
Lexipol is a private, for-profit company that, according to Bloomberg news, “has quietly become one of the most powerful voices in American law enforcement policy.” Lexipol-subscribed officers are responsible for detaining victims of traffic accidents based on their skin color (Bloomberg, 2020) and for murdering autistic teenagers, and countless police departments that subscribe to the company have been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union (Bloomberg, Intercept, 2020). Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times in front of his three children by a Lexipol-subscribed police officer. Their “updated policies” certainly didn’t protect him, but they did protect the police who shot him.
To claim that Saranac Lake is any different than these other towns because we “are a small village” is a farce. Other small towns that contract with Lexipol have, in fact, faced criticism for racialized and discriminatory policing. If you think that does not happen in our area, you are mistaken. Also, use of force or the threat of it is not so rare. A commonly told story of an Saranac Lake police officer pulling a gun in the middle of town on a moving vehicle in the not-so-distant past is widely known here; it doesn’t make it better just because we know the officer. Local women also share stories about certain local cops whom they should avoid; those conversations were started with me in the first two weeks after I moved here. These stories are rarely reported on in the news.
Many reputable news sources, unlike our local news sources, have written pieces critical of Lexipol’s reaching power and its negative effects for marginalized people: NPR, Bloomberg, the Intercept and more. For conservatives, do we really want large corporations structuring our local municipal policy at a price tag of over $20,000 in just four years? For progressives, do we really want a company that tells officers it’s OK to racially profile and avoid using lifesaving deescalation tactics structuring our local police policy?
Again, according to Bloomberg, “Lexipol advertises itself as a time-saver. Instead of drafting and adapting their own policies, departments can simply outsource the job to Lexipol, which pledges to protect agencies from lawsuits by keeping them up to date. … To some city officials who rely on the policies, the appeal of the service is the updates and industry best practices it commits to provide. … But a risk management approach doesn’t always square with better policing.” Let me repeat that: “A risk management approach doesn’t always square with better policing.” In fact, legal experts have carried out detailed research showing how this company’s focus on vague and flexible policies can shield police from accountability and hinder reform.
I am ashamed that our supposedly “welcoming Democrats” on the village board so hastily contracted with such a heavily scrutinized company while having the nerve to say this village is welcoming to all people; meanwhile, local residents of color are fleeing from this village. I guess facts really don’t matter anymore in the 21st century.
Erin Cass lives in Saranac Lake.