NEWBURGH – The Newburgh City Council held a public hearing, last Monday evening, at their first in-person Council Meeting since the pandemic to have the public weigh in on the creation of a Police Commissioner within the city.
This new position will be part of the city’s executive branch and the appointed commissioner will be responsible for reimaging the police force in accordance with NY Executive Order 203, being the official head of the city’s police department, an ambassador to the city, and improving community and police relations.
The creation of the position was met with overwhelming public support during the hearing Monday, but members of the community voiced that they want the person selected to be reflective of the city’s population and be able to act autonomously of the police department.
President of the Newburgh NAACP, Ray Harvey, said the way the police department has been operating is not working for the city and it’s time to bring in someone new.
“We need fresh blood. Sometimes we need to bring someone from outside in to make this thing happen,” said Harvey. “We have to stop doing what we were doing because that’s not working and you bring in an outsider and they don’t have ties to anyone. Also, I hope that the city gives them the power to do their job and not just put them there as a figurehead, but really give them the power to do their job,” he added.
Mayor Torrance Harvey said the creation of this position marks the beginning of a post COVID shift in how the city will operate moving into the future. He claims that there will be new, fresh talent within the police station, an effort to get more women first responders, especially within the fire department and the city will be able to pay competitive wages to first responders, including police, so they won’t lose talent to other municipalities as they have in the past.
The creation of the police commissioner position piggybacks on the appointment of a new city manager, comptroller, and two women being voted into the courts as judges, which he said makes this a historic time for the city.
“You’re witnessing history in the City of Newburgh,” said Harvey. “This was a collective effort. I’m very thankful of my colleagues on the council for realizing that part of the reimaging of a new police department includes a police commissioner.”
The city still needs to decide if the commissioner will be a plainclothes civilian, or an armed, uniformed officer. The city charter allows for either. Regardless of that decision, the individual who will become the city’s Police Commissioner is required to have law enforcement experience, be it current or from a past career.