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Grant Boosts Albany LEAD Program

WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

The Albany Police Department has received a grant to implement a key program to reduce recidivism and improve public safety.

A $70,000 grant from the Touhey Family Foundation will provide funding to hire a project manager to begin the implementation of Albany's recently adopted Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, or LEAD. The program was  developed from a growing consensus that the war on drugs has failed and that it has disproportionately and unjustly hurt communities of color.   

"We all have the ability to grow and to expand and to do our jobs in a way that's not only safer for our community but safer for the individuals that are doing that job."  Mayor Kathy Sheehan lauded the efforts of city council members Dorcey Applyrs and Kelly Kimbrough for taking the lead on engaging the community. Police Chief Brendan Cox says the training will enhance his department's community policing philosophy.   "There's nothing wrong with giving somebody a voice. There's nothing wrong with treating everybody with dignity and respect. There's nothing wrong with letting somebody tell ya their side of the story."

Cox says the new two-day APD training for officers includes a remedial on implicit bias: how unconscious attitudes and beliefs can affect the everyday judgment and decision-making of police officers, who will now learn how to cast those old measures of character aside and use their discretion to divert low-level offenders from the criminal justice system into coordinated, managed, health-based services.

Kimbrough, a former Albany police officer, says the LEAD program is based on trust.   "We weren't always as open and honest as we are now. So it's somewhat of an evolution from I believe I had, six, seven chiefs? Maybe eight? And in that time we weren't always as open as we needed to be, but this chief and this administration and actually dating back to Chief Krokoff, get it, understand it's a partnership and we really need to work with the community to make this happen."

Charles Touhey is Director of the Touhey Family Foundation:  "Having lived in Albany all my life, having been through all the political wars and the social wars and everything, we've seen lots of things come and go, but we're at a wonderful moment at this time in our city."

Touhey is hopeful the local business community will take note of the foundation's grant and perhaps add more support.  "It isn't about the giant grant from Washington. It's about engagement right today, here today."

Albany is the first East Coast city and the third in the nation to adopt the LEAD approach

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