In NAACP Forum, Police Chief Eric Hawkins Says He Is Committed To Albany After Akron Interview
Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins was a guest speaker during a virtual meeting of the Albany NAACP last week, days after pulling himself out of the running for a job in Ohio.
In his first community discussion after withdrawing from consideration as a finalist for the police chief opening in Akron, Ohio, Hawkins said he plans to stay in the city for years to come.
"I've been here in Albany now for almost three years. And it's been a wonderful experience wonderful people. It's just a wonderful city, this whole Capital Region is, you know, the history that's associated with the this part of the country is, you know, it's just been just an experience for me, I'm loving being here. And I'm looking forward to many years more here in the city."
Mayor Kathy Sheehan says she doesn't begrudge Hawkins for taking an interview.
"Sometimes we think that the grass might be greener on the other side, and the less we go and look, we don't realize, you know that what we have here is really what we want. And so, you know, having those conversations and engaging in those interviews, as I said, I, unfortunately or fortunately, headhunters contacting not just my police chief but other leaders in the city on a pretty regular basis. And you know, one of the gratifying things is that oftentimes, they'll come to me and say, 'Hey, I took this interview and I realized what a great opportunity I still have here in Albany, and I'm committed to staying.'"
During the online session, Hawkins discussed community relations – including an April incident in which officers forcibly cleared an encampment of Black Lives Matter protesters outside South Station. Hawkins says the department is still investigating reports that some officers covered their badges during the clash, and adds there may have been some "miscommunication" after certain officers had been threatened on social media.
"So the direction was, during some incidents, certain incidents, only when given the the approval from certain command officers, could officers engage during some of those incidents without their name tags. But it was very, very clear that if that direction was given, if the circumstances justify that to happen, under no circumstances was the badge to be covered."
Hawkins says once the investigation concludes it will be determined if disciplinary action needs to be taken.
Hawkins also commented on the gun violence that has continued to plague Albany.
"Some of the young people who are now shooters, who are now violent individuals in our community, witnessed or they were, they were exposed, at a very young age, when they were 6 and 7 and 8 years old, to violence, because of either family members or friends, or other people in their communities, and now we're seeing those same young men and women, hurting others."
Hawkins says he thinks the community can work better with the police addressing this particular consequence of gun violence. The Chief and the NAACP agreed to continue the conversation during a future session.