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Albany County domestic terrorism policy taking shape

Springfield police displayed at a news conference the firearm and ammunition confiscated during an arrest on Aug. 24, 2021
Paul Tuthill
Springfield, MA police displayed at a news conference the firearm and ammunition confiscated during an arrest on Aug. 24, 2021

After the supermarket shooting in Buffalo and the massacre of schoolchildren in Texas, Albany County is working to craft a new domestic terrorism policy.

In mid-May Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul issued an executive order directing counties to develop a plan to address violent domestic terrorism.

“I'm now requiring every county in the state of New York and the city of New York to perform a comprehensive review of current strategies and policies and procedures for identifying domestic terror threats," said Hochul. "And upon completion, they will develop a plan for confronting the racially and ethnically motivated threats and extremism. And they'll be submitted to our Office of Counterterrorism by the end of the year. We'll work with them. We'll work closely with them.”

In response, the Albany County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee has begun determining how threats of violence can be curtailed.

Democratic Legislature Chairman Andrew Joyce points out that the county already has a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan in place that includes policies and procedures to recognize terroristic threats.

“We're setting up a monthly touch point with the sheriff's department to help guide the process along," Joyce said. "We met last month through our public safety committee in the Albany County Legislature. And we committed to being helpful and assisting in the review process as we go forward to make sure that our plan in the county aligns with the steps laid out with the governor's plan to address race based domestic terrorism and any domestic terrorism, you know, that is targeting individuals due to their race, their creed, their orientation. That's a specific threat, which we need to address in Albany County.”

Joyce says legislators will review the existing plan and likely add amendments according to the guidelines provided by the governor. He notes that the panel has called on the federal government to act by reinstating an assault weapons ban.

Democratic Public Safety Committee Chairman William Clay of the 12th district says the process in its early stages.

“We're trying to come up with ideas," said Clay. "For example, we just passed, in the county legislature, we just passed a piece of legislation last week, just to as a start, actually, to require people that sell firearms to post in the stores, notices for the people to take home with them, the danger of having firearms in your house, and in your businesses. And so that's the first step.”

NOTE: Albany County officials say Mr. Clay misspoke in the quote above. The legislation was introduced, but has not yet been passed.

Clay says the legislature has long made it a priority to address the violence plaguing communities throughout the county and is looking into policies that can curb gun violence.

“We're concerned, we're concerned about the shootings, and we're concerned about, you know what happened and, you know, in the schools and up in Buffalo, and we want to try to make sure that doesn't happen here," Clay said. "And the only way that that we can help is of course to support the gun buyback programs and throughout the county, which has been successful, to support our sheriff and, and all of the task force folks that are involved in getting these guns off the street. And we're encouraging our people, our people being the citizens in this county, to report people if they see a person with a weapon and to report it. And it might be even a legal weapon, might be a lawful weapon, but report it anyway and let the law enforcement people worry about that. Let them check it out.”

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple did not return numerous calls for comment.

During a recent Public Safety Committee meeting, legislators and the Sheriff’s Office began the first of what they say will be many conversations into the specifics of the plan, including a timeframe for a draft, which is to be presented to the legislature in October.

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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