FAIRPORT, N.Y. (WROC) — Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an executive order last June for police departments to submit plans of reform. News 8 checked in with some local departments to see how they’re doing with these new plans in place.
In the Fairport Police Department, Police Chief Sam Farina says they want to take more time with first-time offenders, juveniles and misdemeanors. Instead of arresting right away, the department is offering an option for offenders to team with a social worker for 6 to 8 months.
It’s an effort to get them on track for a better path.
“We basically do an assessment to see where they are, what are the underlying reasons for why they did the criminal action, and we set up for 6 to 8 months depending on the situation,” said Farina.
If they successfully satisfy conditions of the program, the police will not submit information to the court – no harm, no foul.
“And we hope that we then would have a productive person in the community,” said Farina. “Is there a mental health issue, other community based resources available to plug these folks into better assist them out for better resources?” he said. Resources can also include job placement.
The crime must be a non-violent, low-lying offense.
And the victim has to be on board.
“We ask them [the victim], there’s two ways you can go with this, if you want to go to court you can do that, but we also have this new initiative,” said Farina.
The program is in conjunction with Roberts Wesleyan College. The criminal justice department has been analyzing two years of village police reports.
Organizers say they want to prove empirically this can work.
“We broke reports down with variables like demographics, gender, arrest, mental health, what was the incident, was it criminal in nature, was it domestic,” said Glenn Grana, professor who oversees the research analyst function.
Grana says after looking at data they determined restorative tools – like social workers – would’ve been extremely beneficial for offenders in years past.
“What we found in our analysis I presented last week, there would’ve been a strong need to inject this restorative justice ideology,” he said.
He says it’s about getting these offenders on track to a better path, so they won’t reoffend.
“The court system isn’t always the best answer – we’re looking for situations to better help the community by making the victim whole, the offender whole, the community whole altogether, so we don’t have someone reoffending over and over again, because no one took the time to do this,” said Farina.
So far the program has had 10 cases since it was implemented in January, and the two say it’s been successful. Grana says the research analysts have been looking at data from other agencies in the country doing similar models. “If they were successful we are going to cherry pick from that to build our own mode,” he says.
Grana says he got the idea from an agency in Kentucky, and called up the chief there to learn more. “We had two restorative justice practice experts on staff in our school of criminal justice, one thing lead to another and today it’s up and running,” he said.
As of now, Fairport is the first in the state to implement this new initiative.