Lockport’s final police policy reform meeting came and went quietly on Thursday evening at Willow Street Park. The meeting was relatively short, becoming somewhat of a closing dialogue between those attending on what had been learned at previous gatherings.
Mayor Michelle Roman outlined her overall analysis of the problems highlighted in these meetings, and of course, the city government’s expected responses to any identified issues. In her estimation, there are four key areas marked for reform, with those being: Transparency, Community Relations, Hiring Practices, and Training.
Roman noted that all bodycams were recently updated from an aging model which was causing unexpected errors. Additionally, the bodycam policies have been updated to mandate officers activate their cameras at more than just traffic stops.
Mayor Roman also cited changes to the Lockport Police Department’s national accreditation status, stating, “The city lost its national accreditation because it was too difficult for them to keep up with all of the policies. So, last year we purchased a program called ‘Lexipol’, which helps you review all of the policies and make sure they are at state and national standards.”
Roman has placed Police Community Aid Officer Mark Sanders at the helm of maintaining healthy community relations. According to Sanders, his hours have been expanded working on this very issue.
Mayor Roman cited a two-fold strategy to create a more diverse Lockport Police Department. According to Roman, there is plenty of gender diversity, but not enough ethnic diversity. She explained, “What we’re working on is the recruitment of people to take the test, and also, to help them study and prepare for the test so they do better.”
Lastly, Roman summarized her views on training, saying, “There is a long list of training we want to include that is more than just police academy. That is beyond just the gun range and use of force type stuff. So, what we are proposing is that they do more mental health training. They do have a core group of officers who get that, but we would like it to be blanketed training for all officers. They already do sexual harassment and diversity training, which is mandatory every year.”
Lockport Police Chief Steve Abbott, who was also in attendance, added to Roman’s assessment on more expansive officer training. “A lot of the training, those perishable skills, de-escalation, mental health training, things like that. Those are things that if you do not train on them yearly, on a regular basis, you’re just going to lose them,” said Abbott, adding, “It really is just trying to put the public first – Service before self.”