Michele Andre takes over as Program Manager of Albany Community Police Review Board
The new program manager of the Albany Community Police Review Board is getting started.
Michele Andre has been appointed Program Manager of the City of Albany Community Police Review Board, which is supported by The Government Law Center at Albany Law School.
Established by the city in 2000, the CPRB is an independent body tasked to improve communication between the city and its police department, increase police accountability and credibility with the public, and create a complaint review process free from bias and informed of actual police practice.
A native of Brooklyn and daughter of Haitian immigrants, Andre attended the University at Albany where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice, according to UAlbany's website.
“I have over five years in public service, the majority of that time working in various different offices in the city for the city of Albany," Andre said. "I've worked in the Corporation Counsel, I've worked for the Common Council. And, lastly the auditor's office, Audit Office of Audit and control for the city of Albany.”
While there Andre worked on youth programs and COVID-19 response efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in vaccine distribution. As board manager she says she plans to utilize her multitasking and community engagement abilities to keep the public informed.
“One of the main things that at this time where I'm looking at, like, what can I bring to the board, especially as they're transitioning, and they have gained more authority, really looking at to increase the transparency in regards to our complaint process, really create a safe and effective way to file a report," said Andre. "And a plain, fair investigation of police misconduct is really what I'm looking to hope to bring into this Community Police Review Board.”
Following a local law passed by the Common Council and signed by Democratic Mayor Kathy Sheehan in 2021, a ballot measure approved by voters gave new powers to the nine-member board, including the ability to conduct its own independent investigations into complaints filed against police officers.
The CPRB is currently engaged in an ongoing discussion with officials, negotiating an information sharing agreement regarding investigations, reports and evidence, including body cam video. Andre says the panel is looking at upgrading ways it can obtain information, including via online access.
“There's not information I would say that we're not currently getting at this time, as far as like information. It's more of how we're able to access that evidence, right, the video cams and, you know, footage, anything that may be relevant to a particular complaint," said Andre. "It really differs based on the complaint. It's not a one universal requirement as far as like what we get access to. It really depends on the case. You know, I think what we're really looking to do is to be able to get that information, you know, remotely, especially considering that majority of the members are part time. And oftentimes the time that the office may be open for us to access these records is within the hours of nine to five, which is just really difficult for some of the members who have regular full time jobs to be able to do that. So oftentimes, it I think that adds to prolonging the process of complaint review, because we need to be, you know, review that information.”
The panel met Tuesday with officials including Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins, who told board members he supports them and believes the CPRB is "part of progressive policing."
“I choose to have a command staff is very diverse, and you know, not just you know, racially diverse, but how they, you know, socio economic backgrounds, gender diversity, sexual orientation," said Hawkins. "So I want that sort of diversity, with decision making and inputs that back that are received. And I see this the CPRB as being an extension of that. Because now I get an opportunity to have another set of eyes, people in this community, who are not looking at the same inputs and the same data points that we're looking at. And it gives me some perspective. But it may be the same, but often, it'll be different. And I think that's very important for me to get that perspective. And so I just throw it out there just is to let you and let the public know that fundamentally, I'm very, very much in support of CPRB, in particularly the CPRB that we have here in City Hall.”
The police and the board are hashing out an information sharing policy, including what types of files can be shared and which may need to be redacted when shared or restricted from sharing altogether. Andre says the two sides are making progress.
“It's still under discussion, we just got closer. And I think, closer than we thought that we would be at this time in regards to the agreement," said Andre. "As far as they with information sharing, we're looking at really upgrading as far as the ways that we currently get access to information. Currently, right now, we have to go to OPS to, you know, schedule appointments to access the records or any evidence, and we're working right now on language so that we can be able to access that information remotely. And that, you know, we're trying to get down to the language in a way that agreeable to both parties, to be able to really start that process, and really, you know, get to the 21st century in regards to information sharing.”
To date there has been low turnout for board meetings. Andre is focusing on raising public awareness about the sessions and encourages residents to participate in-person or online.
“I think right now, too there's competing meetings that's occurring," Andre said. "And I think that that's something that we're going to be looking for sure to do in the future as far as like to not have meetings that may compete with other popular meetings at the time, especially with the public. But it's one of those things that I would say that it really depends. We didn't have many in attendance. You know, just finding different ways. I think right now too, as far as like who we should do outreach to, you know, different neighborhood associations to get the word out, especially right now. We're going through a rebranding phase right now, but also we want to really emphasize our independence and being community led.”
CPRB meeting information and updates are available online: www.albanycprb.org