Yorktown for Justice is a grassroots organization of Yorktown residents that seeks to achieve social justice and equity by working with our neighbors, local organizations and government. Through education, advocacy and activism we will ensure that all races, religions and sexual orientation are able to enjoy the same privilege and benefits that Yorktown has to offer. YFJ was one of the groups that organized the March for Civil Justice in Yorktown on June 7, which saw 1,300 people demonstrating peacefully for racial justice.

We have begun a public dialogue with the Yorktown Town Board to ensure the task force, as required by the governor’s Executive Order No. 203, is formed in Yorktown. This order, issued on June 12, requires all towns and municipalities with police departments to form a task force to perform a comprehensive review of current police force deployments, strategies, policies, procedures and practices, and to develop a plan to improve those practices for the purposes of addressing the particular needs of the communities served. The task force should find ways to promote community engagement to foster trust, fairness and legitimacy and to address any racial bias and disproportionate policing within the community. The order requires that a plan be created and adopted by April 1, 2021. The task force must involve community stakeholders and seek their input.

Although we have a strong and supportive police department, we believe that there is room for improvement and this process will help us create a better, more inclusive community in Yorktown. Additionally, failing to comply with this order can result in the loss of state funding.

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We initially met with the Yorktown Town Board in early August 2020 to discuss forming the task force. It was at this meeting where Supervisor Matt Slater assured us that Yorktown for Justice would be a part of the task force. However, he did not form the task force at that time, citing a desire to wait on guidelines from the governor. However, other towns and municipalities have not waited. According to the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform, task forces have been formed throughout the state, including in Westchester County, White Plains, Greenburgh, and Peekskill. These municipalities are already at the stage of seeking community input.

At a more recent Town Board meeting on Sept. 1, the town supervisor again told a Yorktown for Justice representative that it was not going to move forward with forming the task force yet because the state guidelines had not yet been issued. However, these guidelines were issued on Aug. 17. A link to them is here: governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/Police_Reform_Workbook81720.pdf

Although the Town Board has sent a letter to the state to inquire whether accredited police departments such as Yorktown’s are required to go through this process, the order is very clear that we must. In fact, other towns and municipalities with accredited police departments, such as those listed above (according to the NY Office of Public Safety), are forming task forces and starting their work already. We ask the town to not delay any further, as time is running out to create the task force, obtain community input, produce and adopt a plan by April 1, 2021. Please contact the Town Board and ask them to form the task force immediately. Supervisor Matt Slater can be reached at mslater@yorktownny.org.