(BINGHAMTON, N.Y.) — Mayor Richard C. David on Thursday announced the City will make a series of additional investments in the police department and community programs following discussions with the Change Coalition, a local community group formed after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The Change Coalition includes local activists, faith leaders, Black business leaders, representatives of the Broome-Tioga NAACP and the MLK Commission, and nonprofits, including the Broome County Urban League. Founded by community member and activist Jamar Johnson, the Change Coalition is separate from the City’s stakeholder group being created under Governor Cuomo’s police reform executive order.
“In the days following George Floyd’s death, I met with several members of Binghamton’s Black community as widespread calls for police reform were happening around the country,” said Mayor David. “In our conversations, we quickly found consensus on several key issues, including youth opportunities and police department resources regarding mental health. Many of these residents have since formed the Change Coalition, bringing more key voices to the table. In just one meeting with the broader coalition, we identified three steps the City could commit to right away, including $650,000 in funding. The Change Coalition is just beginning and growing, but it's a starting point to find common ground and initiate positive conversations.”
After the first meeting with the Change Coalition meeting, Mayor David has committed to several initiatives, including:
$500,000 in upgrades to Columbus Park — The City will expand the playground at Columbus Park, adding modern “adventure” play features geared toward older children (ages 10 to 14) in underutilized spaces, and upgrade the picnic area. Last year, Mayor David announced the City was seeking design experts to upgrade the downtown park. Following meetings with community members, Mayor David has pledged $500,000 for the project.
The upgrades will build on other recent investments in the park, including a $98,000 upgrade of the basketball courts and a $204,800 spray pad. Columbus Park is the main neighborhood park for residents of the City’s two downtown Census tracts, which have the highest childhood poverty rates in Binghamton. Funding will be made available for 2021 construction. The City will solicit public input this summer.
$100,000 boost to Binghamton Police Department budget for training — Mayor David will increase the Binghamton Police Department’s budget for training in use of force, implicit bias, mental health emergencies, cultural competency and other areas by $100,000 in the 2021 budget.
$50,000 in funding for Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier (MHAST) partnership with Binghamton Police Department — The City will expand its existing partnership, signed in 2020, with the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier (MHAST), which provides mobile crisis services to situations involving persons with mental illness or in emotional crisis. Additional licensed mental health professionals will be available to respond concurrently with Binghamton police officers when requested.
Obama Foundation Pledge — Mayor David has also taken the Obama Foundation’s Mayors Pledge to review the Binghamton Police Department’s use of force policies and make reforms.
“Local leaders are in a unique position to enact meaningful and common-sense changes as it relates to police use of force,” said Mayor David. “In answering President Obama’s call to action, I join many of America’s mayors who will review existing police use of force policies in their cities, engage communities, report findings and reform policies. We’ll continue our progress in making the Binghamton Police Department more accountable and improve public safety for every resident.”
For more information on the Obama Foundation’s Mayors Pledge: https://www.obama.org/mayor-pledge/
“Change is here, change is now, change is forever so let compassion, understanding and unity guide us to a better community,” said Change Coalition founder Jamar Johnson.
Mayor David will continue to meet with the Change Coalition and others on a regular basis to identify further community investments. The Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow (PLOT) was not involved in these meetings nor responsible for the new initiatives.
“Results are achieved when people sit down, talk, discuss ideas, work together and most importantly — listen,” said Mayor David. “In recent years, we have witnessed a select few perform stunts, issue demands, or communicate through the media. These are divisive and counterproductive acts. It’s time the broader community come together to show there are alternatives to these tactics and illustrate how real change is achieved. That’s why I’m so pleased to be working with the Change Coalition and so many others. If we can commit to $650,000 worth of community investments after a few discussions, imagine the good work this group and others can do for our residents moving forward.”
Thursday’s announcement follows Mayor David releasing the Binghamton Police Department’s use of force policy and outlining steps the City will take to carry out Governor Cuomo’s “New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative” executive order.
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