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Leading Social Justice Activist Raises Concern About Troopers Helping Patrol Albany

WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

The Center for Law and Justice says some Albany residents are angry about a recent announcement that state troopers will help patrol neighborhoods in the city.

Beginning Thursday, 10 state troopers will ride along with Albany police patrols of neighborhoods identified as "hot spot" areas of the city, those most plagued by violence. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the initiative in May, referencing the "twin scourge" of the opioid epidemic and gang violence.

Center for Law and Justice Executive Director Alice Green says making the move to send troopers along on city police patrols without consulting the Center threatens the trust being built between the Albany Police Department and communities of color.   "There was an announcement by the governor's office in May, however, in Albany, it was difficult to get any details about the plan that he had in mind. We did go to a public meeting at the Common Council, and again there were no answers there. So, the problem is that there's been no real public discussion or involvement by the community in this plan. We don't know exactly how it's going to be carried out, but people are concerned."

Acting Albany Police Chief Robert Sears says he reached out to Green and other leaders.     "When the governor first made his announcement, we didn't have a lot of lead time before that happened. So as soon as we found out exactly what was gonna go on and the governor's initiative, we started having conversations with people. It took me a few days to get in touch with Dr. Green because she was up north, out of cell phone contact I believe, but once I did I had a conversation with her. I made the rounds and spoke to as many people as I could, through ACCPAC and some other different forums and just kinda let people know what was going on."

Green insists the community has many unanswered questions.   "We were told also that the state troopers would be patrolling with city police officers. What we saw in the papers was that some of these state troopers will be patrolling alone, and that raises increased concern, because we have no reason to believe that state troopers have been trained to deal with urban populations."

Sears responed "No, that's not true. You know I'm not sure if it was said or not, but the way it's gonna be working is they're gonna be deployed with us and everyone I've spoken to, that's what I've said. They're definitely gonna be riding in Albany police cars with Albany police officers."

Green says sending troopers along in patrols likely won't address gang violence, or the opioid epidemic — and she says there has been no documentation of the gang violence that the governor cited in his announcement. Earlier this month, Sears and Mayor Kathy Sheehan held a press conference addressing the recent crime uptick in Albany, citing 60 gun arrests made in Albany year-to-date as opposed to 36 during the same period last year, ruling out drugs and gangs as being responsible for the rise. 

Kristin Lowman is with the New York State Police Public Information Office:  "Community policing has already been a priority for the New York State Police, and through our partnership with the Albany Police Department we've dedicated new resources to further the effort and help keep city residents safe.  Troopers will not only provide direct support to the city's community policing effort but thanks to the leadership of Governor Cuomo, additional resources have actually been dedicated through the SNUG and GIVE initiatives to root out gun violence through both evidence and community-based principles."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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