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CNA Releases Final Racial Bias Audit Of Albany Police Department

CNA/City of Albany

An outside auditor has released its final report on racial bias in the Albany Police Department.

As police reform in Albany forges ahead, Virginia-based consulting firm CNA has released its final audit of the Albany Police Department aimed at identifying and eliminating racial bias within the department’s policies and practices.

CNA's Zoë Thorkildsen is audit team Project Director.

"So our report includes 61 findings and those have 120 associated recommendations. We also, in an appendix, break out each recommendation with a suggestion about an appropriate timeframe for implementation and what types of resources will be required for implementation. And then we further include an appendix that will provide some guidance and some goalposts for APD and for the city of Albany with respect to how to accomplish implementations, that includes references as well as suggested peer agencies who have overcome some of these challenges."

Speaking with WAMC News a day after the report was released, Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins says the report gave a lot of the "what's" in terms of a lot of data, but it didn't delve into the "Why."

"I think there's value to it in that will prompt us to look at some of our strategies and enforcement actions and about how we're interacting with the community, but in terms of getting conclusive evidence of any bias, I think it's way too premature at this point to say that."

The city of Albany hired CNA as part of an ongoing effort to “reimagine” policing in the city under a statewide directive.

Again, Thorkildsen:

"One of the things that are arose during the course of our data collection were a number of internal issues for personnel in APD. So we chose to highlight some of those in the report. One thing that jumped out was that APD personnel had concerns about equity with respect to promotions and with specialty assignments. There's a perception that those processes don't operate fairly in the department, or that they are not equitable with respect to race and gender. We also noted and this was in the data highlights that APD's demographics do not reflect those of the community of Albany and this is an area of concern for the community."

CNA also found that while APD has touted its community policing initiatives, the community is not satisfied with community engagement.

"We've got the gold standard, in my opinion of community policing programs, but we can still do better. There's still more opportunities. And that's one of the reasons why we just created this community policing program called Time to Talk community - cop collaborative T3C3. And this is a community inspired community policing program that we're participating in that will be bringing in members of the community as patrol officers in a non-threatening non-confrontational environment to talk about issues in the community and talk about how we can make things better."

Hawkins adds the department is continually adding new programs aimed at bridging police-community relations.

"I think the big thing that's coming out of this report is that there's a disparity along racial lines with some of the activities in the police department. And this that was not unanticipated. We knew going in at that would probably be one of the findings. But what I was hoping for, and one of the things I'm very disappointed with, is that they didn't, they didn't really go into the why, of the disparity. And this information, I thought was there, in the fact had confidence in, that information was available and why it wasn't included in the report is something that I'm very disappointed about. Because I would have liked for that report to show, to at least explain why officers are having some of the interactions with certain members of our community, particularly people of color in this community."

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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