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Students Are Helping to Shape the Future of Policing

Hastings High School students are helping to shape the future of policing in the village. 

Junior Benjamin McNulty and senior Melannie Daley have stepped up to participate in the Hastings Police Reform and Reinvention Task Force, a committee aimed at making recommendations for police reform.

Created by an executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the task force requires municipalities “to develop a plan to improve deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, and practices, for the purposes of addressing the particular needs of the communities served by such police agency and promote community engagement to foster trust, fairness, and legitimacy, and to address any racial bias and disproportionate policing of communities of color.”

Chaired by Village Trustee Georgia Lopez, Hastings-on-Hudson’s task force includes representatives of the police department, the community and other stakeholders. Lopez praised the Hastings-on-Hudson Police Department for its efforts, openness to input and commitment to making the review a team effort.

I think we are trying to set ourselves up to give our police department the tools it needs to continuously grow,” she said. ‘We have a police force that wants to do its work and do it well.” 

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Valerie Henning-Piedmonte was invited to serve on  the task force to provide input on Hastings youth.

I am glad I was invited to serve because we also made sure that student voices were included,” she said. “In addition, student focus groups were organized to enlist their feedback about their perceptions of the Hastings Police, their interactions with them, and their suggestions for improvements.”

Trustee Lopez said the inclusion of students on the task force was important. 

To exclude them would be to assume we understand them and their feelings and that would be unfair,” she said. “The police force has a lot of interaction with youths, but the youths don’t have a lot of input when it comes to being policed.” 

McNulty was the first student to join the task force.

It means a lot to me that I was appointed to this task force,” he said. “I understand that I am the voice of other students and I feel I have a duty to represent everyone at school.” 

McNulty said it was important to have student representation on the task force, given the many interactions students have with police. For example, he said, the Police Athletic League has an office in the school district.

To ensure that student voices were fully heard, Dr. Henning-Piedmonte also created student focus groups at the high school and Farragut Middle School. The first Hastings High School focus group took place on Dec. 9, with another scheduled for Jan. 13. 

Our first high school focus group provided insightful, honest, and invaluable feedback for the task force,” she said. “I look forward to the establishment of new opportunities to partner with the Hastings Police, developed in collaboration with students, to build trust and camaraderie. I would be delighted if one outcome included the addition of a therapeutic canine unit to help change the perception some youth have of law enforcement.”

The Farragut Middle School focus groups will meet on Dec. 14 and Jan. 28. The input gathered by the focus groups and task force will ultimately lead to the Final Policing Reform Plan, which will be available for public comment. The plan is then to be either ratified or adopted by the village by April 1, 2021.