October 23 Policing Forum: A Conversation With Juanita Aikens of Ontario County Corruption Coalition

On Tuesday October 23 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm, a Town Hall Meeting on Policing will be held in Albright Auditorium on the HWS campus. The event, which is not affiliated with the City of Geneva, Geneva Community Compact, or Geneva Police Department, will feature an open discussion with Iman Abid, Director of the Genesee Valley Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, plus special guest speaker, attorney and former Ontario County Public Defender Bill Beck. The Town Hall Meeting is presented by The Ontario County Corruption Coalition in partnership with the HWS Office of Intercultural Affairs.

Geneva Believer recently had a conversation with Juanita Aikens of the Geneva-based Ontario County Corruption Coalition, to learn more about the event and the group.

(L-R) Edith Wormley (Asst. Dir of Academic Opportunity Programs at HWS), Angela Davis, Juanita Aikens (Ontario County Corruption Coalition)

Geneva Believer: The Ontario County Corruption coalition is a relatively new organization. When was the group founded and how did it get started?

Juanita Aikens (Ontario County Corruption Coalition): The Ontario County Corruption Coalition was founded in February 2018. It was the direct result of pre- and post-February 2018 actions taken by the Geneva Police Department and Ontario County Courts.

GB: What are the overall goals of the Ontario County Corruption Coalition?

JA: The overall goals of OCCC are the following:

  • Seek justice for those in need.
  • Seek equality for those that are not being treated equally and consistently under the law.
  • Seek the process of healing that our county is in desperate need of so that Unification is achieved.

GB: The OCCC, along with HWS’ Office on Intercultural Affairs, has now organized a Forum on Policing taking place on October 23rd, led by Iman Abid of the NYCLU Genesee Valley Chapter, with special guest, attorney and former Ontario County Public Defender Bill Beck. What makes this event different from the recent public policing forums organized by the City of Geneva’s Community Compact? What can attendees expect to see and hear?

JA: The Ontario County Corruption Coalition’s intention is to listen to the community and provide events in which speakers will have the knowledge base to answer their questions without delay, and also provide the means of effective leadership for change. These speakers have the ability to advocate for the community members so that changes can occur.

The OCCC looks to value the suggestions that are offered by the speaker, not pick and choose as they (the Geneva Community Compact) did with guest speaker Noble Wray. In that situation, the compact opted to leave out the most important recommendation to the people: that the people were specifically requesting a citizen review board. That is why the Coalition is requesting that the community members and residents come out and speak up so that their voices will be heard, and to get involved and support the recommendations that may come as a result of the Town Hall Meeting.

If needed, additional meetings may be scheduled to include other vested change agents. This will be determined by the speakers.

This event is open to community residents, not elected officials, police officers, etc. This is to ensure that community residents feel welcome to speak freely.

When we see bumper stickers and posters that state “LOVE GENEVA,” we want Geneva to “LOVE ALL OF US BACK.”

GB: What do you hope to accomplish with the policing forum, and are there plans to do more?

JA: We will be examining the questions and the concerns of the community thoroughly, and look to devise a plan, based on the community residents’ rights and the law, that best meets their current needs.

We may look to a second town hall meeting, one in which the city officials, police officers, and county representatives may participate.

GB: The first public event put together by the OCCC was Community Unification Day on August 18, 2018. What was the inspiration for the event?

JA: The inspiration for the event was simply an attempt to bring the community together as one, and network to create and potentially build ongoing great relationships that may not have occurred given our current situation at that time.

Community Unification Day basketball tournament participants

For many, new personal relationships were established. For others, established relationships were strengthened. I can personally say that everyone supported each other from set up to take down ensuring that no one was left behind. So I can say this group embodied unification!

GB: There was an impressive number of local companies and organizations participating in Community Unification Day. Why do you think so many different businesses and groups wanted to be part of the event?

JA: I personally think that individuals are tired of the separation through out the community. The ones that were present believe that unification can occur if we do what’s right and what comes natural for most. Lastly, every event should be a representation of the diverse population that exists in Geneva and Ontario County.

City Manager Sage Gerling (R) and OCCC’s Juanita Aikens

GB: Would you say that Community Unification Day was a success, and will it be happening next year?

JA: Given the threat of rain all day, I would say we had a significant turnout. We will continue this event on an annual basis but the date will be August 24 and 25 to coincide with Hobart and William Smith’s Day of Service which Katie Flowers oversees. The Geneva Fire Department did an outstanding job. They made a lot of children smile and dreams come true. For the early morning, they simply stole the show. I would like to thank each and every firefighter that took time out of their busy schedule to support a community event and inspire so many children.

I can’t thank Jessica Avila and Dave Sherman enough for going above and beyond to support the East Lakeview Neighborhood Association.

To our city manager Sage Gerling: everyone present would like to thank you and your family for being active and visible in community functions, especially our first. It was nice to see the Geneva Police officers follow your lead. The officers that arrived engaged exceptionally well with the event staff and the very young that seemed to have numerous questions. They were very approachable and engaged in a positive manner within a community event. This was a great first step at building relationships and enhancing potential future encounters.

GB: After the October 23 Town Hall Policing Forum, what’s next for the Ontario County Corruption Coalition?

JA: Personally, I would like to see the creation of an independent public integrity office to oversee the county and handle citizens complaints, identical to the one created by Cheryl Dinofolo in Monroe County. I will leave it to the community residents to best decide.

GB: If people want to know more about the upcoming policing forum or the Ontario County Corruption Coalition, where can they go for more information?

JA: Please feel free to contact me directly at 315-290-2082 or by email at ontariocountycc@gmail.com. I would be happy to speak to speak to anyone.

The OCCC Facebook Page is at https://www.facebook.com/OntarioCountyCorruptionCoalition/.

We would like to encourage and welcome anyone that would like to volunteer to participate in any event.

Our next monthly meeting, which is open to everyone, will be on October 27, 2018 at 1:00pm to 3:00pm at Mt Olive Missionary Baptist Church located at 70 Clark Street. We will have two guest speakers on that day: Ryan and Tracey Wallace at 1:30pm, and Kevin Henderson at 2:30pm.


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