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Police Advisory Board is disbanded

PINE PLAINS — The Town Board voted unanimously June 18 to dissolve its Police Advisory Board (PAB), through Local Law No. 1 of 2009. The move had been anticipated for many months and it merited a brief discussion among community and board members during a public hearing at the meeting.

“I don’t know the history of why the Police Advisory Board was formed, but I always think it’s good to have oversight,” said Sarah Jones, a regular attendee of Town Board meetings who also sits on the town’s Planning Board. “I don’t know why it’s not meeting either, but I guess that’s why it’s being dissolved.”

The five-person advisory board was formed in 1997, with the prerequisite being that, “one member be a Town Board member.” The law also states that, “In appointing the remaining members, the Town Board shall make a best effort to appoint a citizen having some prior experience in the law enforcement field; a citizen having some prior experience in the law; and one citizen involved in the business community in Pine Plains.” A chairperson was to be selected by the PAB members among themselves, subject to the Town Board’s approval.

According to the 1997 law, “the general duties of the council shall be to receive and hear suggestions, comments and complaints of the citizens of the town of Pine Plains concerning the functions and operations of the town of Pine Plains Police Department, and to advise the police department and Town Board on ways in which the police department may better fulfill its duties, functions and obligations to the town of Pine Plains and its citizens.”

The PAB was also responsible for reviewing the police department’s annual budget proposal, interviewing possible police employee candidates, reviewing policies and procedures for the department and making recommendations to the officer in charge and the Town Board about all of the above.

Town Councilman Rick Butler said for all that, the advisory council didn’t have that much to do.

“The board had absolutely no power in doing anything,” he said. “In terms of oversight, we weren’t  given much.”

“This issue comes up at every reorganization meeting every year,” added town Supervisor Gregg Pulver, saying it’s about time something was done about the issue.

“I’m not against disbanding it if it’s not functional,” Jones said. “But sometimes stuff goes down and I just want to say that there should be transparency in government.”

The  board agreed with Jones; Attorney to the Town Warren Replansky then further explained the town’s position and why the PAB had little control.

“We couldn’t invest that kind  of power in people... most of those things are included in advisory councils in cities, not towns,” he said. “The best we could do was a very watered-down version where we could hear complaints, and the result was that there is oversight, but in the Town Board. The best thing to do is to go to them.”

With that the public hearing was closed and Councilwoman Dorean Gardner moved to adopt Local Law No. 1, dissolving the Police Advisory Board. The Town Board did so, noting it will send the advisory board members a letter to inform them of the decision. The law will become final once it’s filed with the Secretary of State in accordance with the municipal home rule law.

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