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Police reform plan ‘95%’ complete

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Police Reform Advisory Committee recently conducted its last meeting, reviewing a draft plan due to be submitted to the state by April 1.

County Administrative Officer Jon Stead told the panel during its livestreamed meeting that he appreciated the cooperation of members through five meetings held since last fall. He said the draft, 27-page Fulton County Police Reform and Reinvention Plan was 95 percent complete.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has been on this committee,” said 2020 Board of Supervisors Chairman Warren Greene. “We’ve probably had more committee meetings than some of the other counties have. We’ve taken it very seriously.”

The plan will be the subject of a Board of Supervisors public hearing at 1:30 p.m. March 8 at the County Office Building.

Greene said the plan will go to the board’s Public Safety Committee on Monday. Eventually, he said he and current board Chairman Jack Callery will sign it before submitting it to the state.

“I think we all learned something from it,” Sheriff Richard Giardino told the committee.

Undersheriff Daniel Izzo took the panel through the report, noting the introduction and overview.

“Every member of the sheriff’s office willfully accepts the great responsibility of maintaining public order, offering assistance in times of need and enforcing laws with courage, dignity, ethics and honor,” the plan stated.

Izzo noted the sheriff’s Officer Training Program, adding: “We think that’s very important.”

Giardino said his department has certified instructors inhouse. The Fulton County Sheriff’s Department requires a minimum of 240 hours of supervised field training.

Izzo said the department has done a good job staying within the timeline for the reform process. He said that during the process, it was determined the sheriff should pursue more training in de-escalation techniques, implicit bias and mental health. He said better “communications” was also discussed “at length.”

Five recommendations in the plan were: Attain state Department of Criminal Justice Services accreditation, expand officer training, reform Civil Service selection and retention for law enforcement officers, streamline community feedback, and conduct followups with members of the community.

As far as accreditation, Izzo said the FCSO currently operates with many of the state standards anyway. By next year, it will hopefully be attained, he said.

“We’re just kind of finalizing what we’re already doing,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has kind of held up some of the officer training, Izzo said.

On Civil Service restrictions, Giardino stated, “We are required to hire from the top three.” He said he wants it to be top 10 to choose from.

“We lose a lot of candidates who might not be great test takers,” Giardino said.

Izzo said streamlining the community feedback process is attainable in the sheriff’s office. He said the public can now go on the county website and download forms for submittal back. He said there are avenues for the public to pursue if they are “not pleased” with their communication with a deputy, or want to relay a “positive” experience about a deputy.

The sheriff’s plan also discussed conducting followup interviews with members of the community. In this capacity, officers would randomly pick people to ask about their experiences with the sheriff’s office.

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