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The Bethlehem Town Board voted unanimously to approve its Police Reform & Reinvention Collaborative Plan at a regularly-scheduled meeting, held virtually, livestreamed, and recorded, on March 24, 2021.
The plan is the culmination of an intensive community-led discussion on policing, systemic racism, trauma, and opportunities for reinventing Bethlehem’s Police Department, town government, and community to be more fair, just, and equitable. The movement for change was reinvigorated when more than 1,500 Bethlehem community members demonstrated against racism and police brutality on June 8, 2020 following the killing of George Floyd, and continued with the promotion of Gina Cocchiara as Bethlehem’s new Chief of Police last August. Chief Cocchiara represents the first female and openly gay Police Chief in the town’s history and only the eighth female Police Chief in the state.
Led by a historically diverse 19-member Advisory Committee, the plan sets a path forward for creating a more fair, just, and equitable community. Designed to be as transparent as possible, the Committee met 10 times over five months in meetings that were both livestreamed and recorded, providing members ample opportunity to provide invaluable insights, perspectives, challenges, and solutions that formed the backbone of the final plan. The process also included five Community Forums, held virtually, livestreamed, and recorded, where community members voiced their perspectives and posed questions to the committee members. The Town also created an online portal to welcome additional comments and recommendations from the public who were not able to attend the Community Forums. The feedback from written public comments received in addition to those voiced in multiple Community Forums were integrated into the final plan.