By Natalie St. Denis
Emily Stacey is a senior criminal justice major born and raised in Plattsburgh. She holds an associate of science degree in criminal justice and is attending SUNY Plattsburgh to further her education. Stacey is a single mother, works part time, is a full-time student and served as the chair for two committees for the city.
She has always had aspirations of becoming a lawyer, but COVID-19 has made her plans after college a bit unknown.
“It’s just been so hard with this virus making a projected path,” Stacey said. “Where you want to be, where you want to go.”
But one thing has remained constant: her passion for criminal justice. It’s been a passion since she was 8 years old. Stacey said her mom has told her she is the type of person who can seek out an injustice from a mile away, and she’s always been that way ever since she was little.
“I wanted to help people, especially people who are economically depressed because I think that that population of people are more vulnerable to the justice system and their rights being violated,” Stacey said. “I just kind of wanted to be more than just a community advocate I wanted to be someone who instead of just saying ‘I know the law,’ ‘I have a degree that says I’ve worked hard to know the law.’”
Stacey was elected as the chair of the Plattsburgh Public Safety Citizens Review Panel. The committee was created after Executive Order 203 was signed into legislation by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. This stated that all municipalities in New York had to have a committee to review their police procedures and policies. She felt she provided a fresh perspective on the panel, being the only Native American. Criminal justice professor Zakir Gul was happy to see his student on such a panel.
“As a citizen, she will try to reflect the feelings of the people,” Gul said. “Being a student in criminal justice she’ll see things, I would say, from that perspective too.”
Stacey encourages other SUNY Plattsburgh students to express their concerns because they are often underrepresented.
“Bridging that gap is so important, that we’re not separate. We need to unify,” Stacey said.
Stacey chaired the Plattsburgh Public Safety Citizens Review Panel for three and a half months but had to leave due to other obligations. She admits it was a tough decision, but she had so much going on that she didn’t even have time for herself.
“If I’m no good to myself, I’m no good to anybody else either,” Stacey said.
Stacey is the chair of the Landlord Tenant Committee. As a tenant who sees a concern with rental prices, she understood the importance of having a safe place for landlords and tenants to voice their concerns on a balanced level. She worked with the code enforcement officer to pass a law that all residents had to label their garbage and recycling bins.
Stacey worked alongside Mayor Colin Read while chairing the committees at city hall, and she said he was very supportive of her. Read said one of her greatest strengths is her tenacity. Read said she has gone further than just investing a lot of time.
“She’s not one that simply goes to meetings and puts in her time,” Read said. “But she really devotes an awful lot of effort on the side to really understand the issues and make productive contributions.”
Gul also acknowledged the responsibility and importance of Stacey serving these panels, particularly the Plattsburgh Public Safety Citizens Review Panel, which became increasingly important after George Floyd’s death.
“As a student serving in these two committees, I thought was very special, to serve the committee, to help contribute to the people,” Gul said.
Stacey was the first Native American woman to chair a panel at city hall in the City of Plattsburgh.
“I will be forever grateful because I felt noticed,” Stacey said.
Stacey prided herself on making the dean’s list this past spring because the switch to online classes due to COVID-19 made her worried about wheater she would pass.
Stacey said she feels ready to graduate, enter the workforce and show what she knows. Read believes she is ready too.
“I think she’s constructed a degree for herself that’s consistent with her passion,” Read said. “It’s what she feels most strongly, and I think that’s the most important ingredient for when you choose your degree. So I think she’s gonna make a big contribution in an area where I don’t think there’s very many minority voices.”