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Albany Police Chief Appointee Shares Plan To Tackle Education, Economic Development

WAMC photo by Will Anderson
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan introduces Chief Eric Hawkins, her choice to lead the police department.

Police Chief appointee Eric Hawkins says he'll bring policies and procedures to Albany that worked well in Southfield, Michigan.

When Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan introduced her police chief appointee to the media earlier this week, the idea of police involvement in education, stemming from community policing ideals, came up:   "You know, the city of Albany many years ago, made the decision that the district would be independent of the city, and that was all for good and valid reasons, but I think we got a little too far apart."

Sheehan said she expects the city to work with the police department on issues involving economic development. That seems to be in line with philosophy embraced by Hawkins.  "We work very closely with our economic development team in our city, because there's certain types of businesses and there's certain places, even if the business itself is appropriate, there's certain places, locations, where maybe it's not appropriate. And we started to see that a lot of our crime 20 and 25 years ago were clustered around certain types of businesses in certain areas."

Hawkins says violent crime in Southfield back then was much worse than what Albany is experiencing right now. That's where working closely with the economic development team and school resource officers comes into play.   "We saw 20 and 25 years ago, that a lot of the crime that was being committed, the violent crimes in our community were being committed by individuals who had gone through our school system, and they were young and they were having issues. And so we really strengthened our relationship with our school system so that we could have a better relationship with some of the so-called 'at-risk' young men and young women."

Hawkins calls his approach "holistic." Sheehan adds there is much work to be done when it comes to the Albany School District — perhaps signaling that some policy overhauls are on the way once Hawkins position is secure. Meanwhile the clock is ticking as the Common Council has 45 days to confirm Hawkins appointment. Council President Corey Ellis:   "Most members haven't met the new chief yet. That process will happen. The council will get a chance to go in more in depth about the chief's visions for the city, doing a public committee meeting that's scheduled in August."

If the Council fails to take action to confirm the appointment, Hawkins is effectively confirmed. Ellis had a brief meeting with him:   "I think a lot of things that he brings to the table is from what he's done already, so it should be interesting, I think council members will have very interesting conversations with him. I believe just, not just from his resume but from talking to him that he understands the challenges that we face in the city, but there are challenges he's seen before."

The mayor expects all council members to be present for an August 21st public safety and personnel committee meeting at city hall.  The chief’s salary will be $145,000 annually.

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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