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Albany Police Aim For Transparency, Guardian Angels Train New Members

The Albany Police Department has launched a new effort at transparency, opening an online portal in advance of a new chief's arrival.

Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Acting Albany Police Chief Robert Sears

Robert Sears, whose last day as Acting Albany Police Chief is Thursday, thinks it's important citizens know what police are doing. The city has launched the Albany Police Data Portal, which shares police data with the public in an interactive online format.   "They can look at what's going on in their neighborhood, what's going on in other neighborhoods, or the city at large. And I think the biggest component which we plan on building on is some of the, you know, not the crime statistics necessarily, but some different things that people are concerned with. So, uses of force. How many times our officers are using force in any situation. You know we have some significant internal reporting mechanisms that we do, and we can't divulge all of the information, because some of it is confidential,  but what we try to do is at least  say, you know, you can look at all these from a multi-perspective and see how many there are. Taser deployments, how many civilian complaints that, you know, we get. Those are all things that I think will help us build, you know, show that we have nothing to hide, and that we're not perfect and that when we do have something going on we take it serious."

Sears is leaving the force, to be replaced by Michigan’s Eric Hawkins, at a time of debate over safety in the city.

Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Guardian Angels leader Curtis Sliwa in downtown Albany, July 2018.

For the third Tuesday in a row, a contingent of Guardian Angels traveled from New York City to Albany — this time to train six new local recruits.  Angels founder Curtis Sliwa led a training session on streets surrounding the downtown Greyhound Bus Station.   "The more you train, the more you simulate situations, the more you try to break up fights and disputes that are not real, it's a pretty good chance that when you come across the real deal, you'll have your wits about you and have a pretty good idea what everybody in the patrol should be doing. That's why we believe in the concept of four or more on a patrol."

Sliwa says the group came upstate in response to requests from local residents concerned about rising crime and gun violence. Despite getting off on the wrong foot with city officials, Sliwa is hopeful he can build a working relationship with Mayor Kathy Sheehan and the police.    "When you're doing what we're doing, which is physical interventions, making citizens arrests, the police have to know who you are and what you're doing and when you're doing it because we'll be out late at night to the wee hours of the morning, sometimes to the break of dawn on the weekend. So it's gonna be very important that we have liaison with the police. The mayor? It's important that she knows what we're doing."

Sliwa says he'll be back in Albany Thursday for a 3 p.m. meeting at city hall. But Sheehan’s chief of staff, Brian Shea, tweeted “it is It is abundantly clear that Mr. Sliwa has zero interest in understanding Albany, its challenges, or its needs. It is also clear that meeting him would not be a productive use of our time. His meeting request is denied.”

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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