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Albany Community Police Review Board discusses new direction after voters expand its powers

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WAMC phot by Dave Lucas
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CRPB members and other officials held a press conference Saturday November 13 at the Albany Capital Center.

The Albany Community Police Review Board is outlining its new direction.

Following a local law passed by the Common Council and signed by Democratic Mayor Kathy Sheehan earlier this year, a ballot measure approved by voters on Election Day gives new the powers to the nine-member board, including the ability to conduct its own independent investigations into complaints filed against police officers.

Thomas Muller, Vice Chair of the Community Leadership Team, spoke Saturday at the Capital Center.

"Proposition seven is a win-win situation for the community at large," Muller said. "As you know, over the past several years, we've seen a growing challenge within our community, we're seeing a major distrust in policing. And we're hearing from community members that they don't feel safe, and they don't feel safe by the people who are supposed to protect them. Proposition seven has the potential to end that. It has the potential to bring real accountability to the Albany police department and help all community members feel safe, and hopefully rebuild that trust, knowing that when they call the police department, they're going to have someone show up who really is there to help them and should something go wrong that there is actual accountability measures in place."

Activist Mikayla Foster stepped forward, asking why local reformers were not invited to the press conference.

"Why were the Arch Street abolitionists not invited? The people who fought, were on the calls while trying to press to pass this," said Foster."And then were beat up by Albany Police that we weren't invited. So I mean, we're here with Black abolitionists. But the non-respectable people, according to what's going on, were invited to talk about Prop 7, when we were literally thrown to the ground and beat up about it."

Review board vice chair Dr. Veneilya Harden told activists they don't need an invitation.

"Everyone, especially you is always invited," said Harden. "A lot of what we've been fighting for and the continuation from Dr. Alice Green, Mark Mishler, honorable Carolyn McLaughlin, and Barbara Smith. They passed that baton to us, and we are here as community members. I'm not standing here in my professional suit. I'm standing here as the voice of the people along with the board. Now we may not always agree on the same thing, but we are here because of you."

Activist Kasey Charles weighed in.

"All the names that you listed are great names, and they've done some things for the community," Charles said. "But they've also used, which is a big reason why we're here today, they've used a lot of our trauma for themselves, posted our trauma on poster boards everywhere, talked about us in press conferences we weren't invited to, talked about us in rooms that we weren't invited in, in order to receive things in our names. So I have a great mistrust for a lot of the elders in this community for that specific reason and it's very valid."

Incoming 7th ward Common Councilor Sergio Adams says the CPRB will be touching base with Albany County Sheriff's deputies and New York State Police.

"This is an opportunity to extend the olive branch to all community stakeholders, whether that's the local police or the state police," said Adams. "If you're in the city of Albany and you're patrolling in communities, you should have the input and be at the table to talk and discuss about the things that you're seeing and your findings. And vice-versa where the community members should have the opportunity to speak about those actions with those officers and departments as well."

Review board Chair Nairobi Vives:

"Any officer no matter you know where they're coming from, state, county level, if they are in the city of Albany," Vives said. "We are recommending that they need to follow the guidelines that this city puts forward. So the same respect and everything that we are calling from our city officers. We want the same from every level. And we will start those conversations and continue to make those recommendations going forward."

Vives notes the board will conduct public meetings the second Thursday of every month. The next is scheduled for December 9th at 6 p.m. at the Albany Community Development Agency on Henry Johnson Boulevard.

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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