Community, Police, Mayor Looking For Common Ground
As Albany city hall was sending out a news release about the mayor and police chief hosting weekly conversations with residents, protesters swarmed a Common Council press conference this afternoon just steps from the mayor’s office.
After days of sometimes violent protests in the city, demonstrators shouted they want accountability, transparency, and most of all to have a seat at the table with city leaders, something Common Council President Corey Ellis addressed prior to their arrival:
"And we will reach out to our residents and let them know that they have the right as residents to sit down with the mayor, and sit down with our chief and talk about the reforms and things they'd like to see changed."
While the crowd may have missed the message, the councilors at the press conference looked overwhelmed as one by one residents passed a bullhorn around expressing their frustrations and calling for bad cops to be fired.
"Why can't we fire them people today? It's not just about the cops it's more than just... the system isn't just about arresting us and putting us in chains. It's about not giving us the ability to get ourselves out of these situations."
Kelly Kimbrough represents the 4th ward. He spent 22 years as an Albany Police officer.
"What I'd like to see is us get back to, I don't know if you folks remember Chief Krokoff and Chief Cox, we had better relationships with the community during that time, and it's not something that should be an issue for Chief Hawkins to do, but keeping people safe is about community, it's a collaboration. The police can't do it without the community, the community can't do it without the police."
Many of the protestors had marched through town Wednesday asking for justice for a young couple arrested by police after filming another arrest in a cellphone video that went viral. Those charges were soon dropped. They kept repeating one demand: stripping the officers involved of their badges. Again, Kimbrough.
"With everything that's going on and had gone on in the days leading up to that, for them to interact with that young man that way made absolutely no sense, and I believe one of his charges happened to be inciting a riot. I would argue that that officer incited the riot."
City Hall says it’s looking to continue the dialogue. Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Police Chief Eric Hawkins says they will host weekly conversations about reforming police policy starting Monday.
Councilors had held the event to announce proposed reforms include repealing 50-A – which shields personnel records for uniformed officers. Councilors are also asking for subpoena powers for the Albany Community Police Review Board and body cameras for all city police officers.