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Syracuse passes police video retrieval training, Land Bank budget; withdraws use of force letter

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News File Photo
The Syracuse Common Council.

A number of items came up on the Syracuse Common Council agenda at a recent meeting. The Syracuse Police Department will be training officers and detectives on how to obtain video footage from corner stores and other businesses. The training was approved by the Syracuse Common Council and will begin in December.

Currently, only two people in the department can pull video off of devices that capture footage when there is a crime. That has led to some problems of waiting for the right detective to get to the scene. Syracuse Police First Deputy Chief Joe Cecile gave one example of a homicide in Eastwood a year ago where a store owner’s camera took footage of the suspect. A detective had to be called in to retrieve that footage.

“It took him about 35 minutes to get there, we were waiting for him to get there to pull this video off this device so we could get a look at the suspect,” Cecil said. “If we had officers trained we could have pulled it off instantly and got the information out to everyone that is working, the description of the suspect.”

Land Bank Budget

The Syracuse Land Bank now has a new budget to operate going into 2017. The Land Bank takes over tax delinquent properties in the hopes of putting them back on the tax rolls. The Syracuse Common Council restricted $1 million to be spent on demolitions. Another $500,000 is unrestricted but subject to a recapture clause if the city does not bring in enough property taxes next year.

Syracuse Common Councilor Jean Kessner said the city is operating under a $14 million deficit and the Land Bank has $3 million in the bank.

“This is not a state grant, this $1.5 million is money the people have come down here to city hall and written out the check, this is property tax dollars.” Kessner said. “We cannot give them away if we don’t have enough tax dollars coming in to fund city operations.”

Syracuse Land Bank officials have said they would prefer a recapture clause tied to their performance rather than to something outside of their control.

Use of Force Letter

A resolution petitioning government officials on the federal, state and local level to end use of force policies by police, has been withdrawn by Councilor Khalid Bey. Bey already sent the letter on his own behalf and the resolution, if it had passed, would have put the Syracuse Council’s approval on it. Debate was sparked at two Common Council meetings from councilors who had concerns with the wording and intent of the letter. Bey described in the letter that unlawful use of force policies appear to be giving police officers a "license to kill."

“When the three councilors asked me to put it on, I assumed they wanted to attach their name to it," Bey said. "And then when they got a little pushback, they back peddled. None of it means anything. It reached who it was supposed to reach. The fact that everybody here is having conversation, that’s wonderful but it did what it was supposed to do.”

The letter talked about the police shootings of unarmed African Americans, which made national headlines this year.  

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.