The Geneva Community Compact is a mediation agreement between the police department, city of Geneva and leaders of the African American and Latino communities signed in late 2011. The agreement identifies specific steps to be taken to address problems between the police and the African American and Latino communities. The agreement was reviewed, updated, and signed again on November 13th, 2016.
Numerous members of the African American and Latino communities had shared alarming stories of difficulties experienced when trying to file a complaint against an officer. There were reports of rude or unprofessional treatment from officers, difficulty obtaining complaint forms, and complaints being ignored. Improving the citizen complaint process was an identified goal of the original Compact in 2011, and again when it was updated in 2016.
One way the Compact Committee has chosen to address problems within the complaint process for the African American and Latino communities (aside from making complaint forms more readily available and providing timely updates to complainants, things they should have been doing in the first place) is to create a group of volunteer Complaint Resource Assistants.
Here is the stated mission of the Complaint Resource Assistants program:
“The Geneva Police Department and the Geneva Community Compact Steering Committee are committed to ensuring that every individual seeking to report issues with police officers has support in this effort. The City has developed a team of Complaint Resource Assistants who are trained in department protocol and policies, and can provide technical support to anyone seeking to report issues with department personnel. These volunteer assistants are available to hear complaints against department personnel, educate the public on policies and procedures for the department, and navigate the complaint process to ensure that complaints are received, reported, and resolved in an effective manner.”
In August of 2017, the city of Geneva announced a call for volunteers for the new Complaint Resource Assistant program, with trainings scheduled for late September. Volunteer recruitment would remain open indefinitely and more trainings would be held each year.
The leader of the Community Compact subcommittee working to improve the citizen complaint process in 2017 was recently departed city manager Matt Horn.
Getting to Know the Complaint Resource Assistants
Currently, there are six volunteer Complaint Resource Assistants (CRAs) available to provide guidance to residents from the African American and Latino communities who wish to file a police complaint.
Barrett has been the publisher of the Finger Lakes Times since 2008 and is approximately 66 years old and white.
Commesso is a Geneva resident is currently serving as the Chair of the Geneva Zoning Board of Appeals. He is approximately 61 years old and white.
Focarino is a retired U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Commissioner who lives about five miles outside of the Geneva city limits and is a member of the Geneva Country Club. She is approximately 62 years old and white.
McDermott is a Geneva resident and a member of the Geneva Country Club. He is approximately 67 years old and white.
There is only one living person in the United States named Murray Miron who shows up in online database searches, a white male recently living near Syracuse, NY and approximately 35 years old.
Dr. Streeter is Associate Vice President and Dean of Students at Hobart William Smith Colleges. He is approximately 55 years old and the only person of color out of six Complaint Resource Assistants.
Is the Community Compact Failing the Community?
There is no reason to question the sincerity or motives of the above people who’ve volunteered their time to try and improve police/community relations, and address problems with the police complaint process.
And enlisting community members to guide their fellow community members through the police complaint process is an admirable endeavor, on paper.
But creating a panel of almost exclusively white, middle class volunteers to work closely with residents from the African American and Latino communities in the police complaint process is insensitive and tactless at best.
If an African American or Latino resident feels that the majority white police department is not fully hearing their complaints, the police department now provides a majority white panel of volunteers to “hear complaints against department personnel.”
If an African American or Latino resident feels that the majority white police department isn’t being forthcoming about the complaint process, the police department now provides a majority white panel of volunteers to “educate the public on policies and procedures for the department.”
If an African American or Latino resident feels that the majority white police department isn’t taking their complaints seriously, the police department now provides a majority white panel of volunteers to help that resident “navigate the complaint process to ensure that complaints are received, reported and resolved in an effective manner.”
The Compact Committee and the GPD can’t predict or control who actually volunteers to complete the training and serve as a Complaint Resource Assistant, and they are still accepting more volunteers in 2018.
But they didn’t HAVE to launch the new program, which exists solely to assist African American and Latino people in the complaint process, by offering up a majority white panel of Complaint Resource Assistants if that’s all they could muster.
The Community Compact was signed in 2011, and again in 2016, and after six years, this is what they are presenting to the public as progress. In their first actual attempt at doing something…anything…different to address the broken complaint process, this is what they have to offer.
The people are not stupid. They can see through the absurdity enrolling a group of volunteers (no matter their race) to “hear” and then “educate” residents who have been met with contempt, unprofessionalism, misinformation and resistance from the police department when they’ve tried to file a complaint about an officer, and then having the nerve to call this sham an effort to “improve transparency.”
The message is: “the police aren’t doing anything wrong, you’re just are ignorant about what happens when you file a complaint.”
When the people see that the best the Compact Committee and the GPD could offer was another layer of white people for complainants to encounter when trying to hold officers accountable for abuse and misconduct, they also see that the Compact is again being used as a tool to improve the public standing of the police without actually requiring the police to change a single thing about the way they operate.
And while Matt Horn’s role should be acknowledged, the Complaint Resource Assistant program was approved by the Compact Committee, which includes not only Chief Trickler and his passionate and vocal supporter, City Councilor-At-Large Mark Gramling, but also a number of other community leaders in the city.
Why on earth would the Compact Committee give their stamp of approval for this kind of manipulative and racially insensitive publicity stunt that attempts to paint the Geneva Police Department as earnest and progressive in their “efforts” to address the painful truths that boiled to the surface in 2011 after the killing of Corey Jackson by Geneva Police?
There are deep rooted, grave problems with the way Geneva’s communities of color are policed, and these problems have been occurring for generations. These problems are worsened when the Community Compact Committee is unashamedly complicit in allowing Trickler and the GPD to use the Compact as a shield against scrutiny, accountability and reform.