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Albany Community Police Review Board Member Arrested

Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins

A high-level Albany Community Police Review Board member was arrested Monday following an altercation with a city police officer during a traffic stop.

Community Police Review Board Coordinator Clay Gustave was pulled over along Western Avenue for what Police Chief Eric Hawkins says was suspected reckless driving. Hawkins watched video footage of the incident and says at the outset, Gustave became non-compliant with the officer who pulled him over.  "What I saw when I looked at the video was bad behavior. I saw behavior that unnecessarily, dangerously, irresponsibly escalated the situation."

Gustave's coordinator post is run via Albany Law School. In April Gustave conducted a "Know Your Rights" workshop about proper behavior during encounters with police officers. And until now, Gustave has headed the citizen panel which reviews complaints against the Police Department.   "I'm infuriated that my officer was put in a position like this, especially by somebody that should know better."

Hawkins says Gustave cut off another motorist on Western Avenue, refused to turn off his car and resisted all of the arresting officer's commands.   "The officer was attempting to gain compliance from Mr. Gustave and he was not getting compliance. He's telling Mr. Gustave what's necessary to do so that the arrest can be completed and he's not getting compliance. He's getting resistance."

Eventually a civilian stepped in to assist the officer, who Hawkins says has the Chief’s “full support.”  "There's so much about this situation that infuriates me. The fact that you have a person who should know better who unnecessarily endangered police, escalated the situation to a point where an office got hurt, and endangered other people that were around. But also, we are 40 or so officers short right now, and now we have another officer that's off-duty. I don't know how long this officer's gonna be out."

NewsChannel 13 reported Wednesday that Gustave claimed he was racially profiled during the traffic stop.  The same day Mayor Kathy Sheehan told the TV station  "I have reached out to the Dean of Albany Law School, I sent them a letter requesting that he be relieved of his duties supporting the CPRB until this matter is fully resolved."

A Friday afternoon call to the Community Police Review Board was not returned.   

In a Facebook post, Albany Police Officers Union President Gregory McGee criticized Sheehan, accusing her of applying a "different set of rules" by publicly stating Gustave's actions should not be judged by a 30-second video, contrasted against four months ago when she "put officers from First street on public trial" after video surfaced of a melee involving several officers that resulted in one of them being arrested. McGee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokesman for the mayor responded to a request for comment regarding a possible update on the Gustave case and a response to the Police Officers Union Facebook post with one word... "No."

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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