Disparities in the criminal legal system and health care must be tackled, Balter added.
“We have to be not only prepared but active, proactive, aggressive in using the lens of racial justice to examine every policy area that we address,” she said.
Katko, R-Camillus, acknowledged that there is racism in other areas, but opted to focus on the criminal justice system. Throughout the forum, he often mentioned his time as an assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted cases involving Syracuse-area gang members.
While he believes a vast majority of police officers do a great job, he said there are some who do not. He referred to a case he prosecuted that led to the convictions of five Schenectady police officers.
After Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, there have been calls for police reform. Katko, as a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, has participated in conversations with the Congressional Black Caucus about a police reform bill. He said the bill would include a ban on the use of chokeholds unless the life of the police officer is at risk, hiring and training reforms and federal funding would be withheld if police departments don’t meet accreditation standards.
The bill, Katko says, also aims to improve relations between the community and police.
“Community policing is not about cops,” he said. “It’s more about increasing to police departments to help them target areas that need help economically and help get rid of drug trafficking and the criminal element.”
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