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Albany Community Police Review Board looking to expand


The Albany Community Police Review Board is experiencing growing pains as it seeks more power and more funding.

The CPRB is an independent body that reviews complaints alleging misconduct by officers of the Albany Police Department.

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.

Nairobi Vives is Board Chair: “Previously, the our review model was one where we would just wait for APD to conclude an investigation; send us a preliminary report. We would review that, we might assign a monitor, but we were basically reviewing someone else's review," Vives said. "Now with the changes that Local Law J has provided the board, we can investigate concurrently or independently of APD, which is very important. And we just, in general have more access to information and more teeth.

The panel has spent the last nine months finding its way, often a challenging task considering members’ outside responsibilities.

Vives says CPRB currently has nine cases before it plus four that are actively being investigated. In July the board hired an outside firm to help establish an infrastructure and foundational practices.

Looking to fortify the board in 2023, Vives says a letter has been sent to City Hall requesting expanded access to police information and $2.8 million dollars in funding to operate.

“The board doesn't actually have any, say on the source of that money," said Vives. "But it could come from the APD budget, it could be a separate line or a separate source for that funding. We aren't the final determiner of that. But those are two possibilities... the mayor's budget, I believe, is set to be finalized in the beginning of October. And from there, we would know if the mayor has accepted what we have proposed for our budget. And then it would be finalized, I believe at the end of the year for enactment in January.”

APD has an annual budget of around $56.3 million dollars. The panel tells City Hall it will require "significant resources to review complaints and conduct investigations in an efficient and thorough manner."

“We are working extremely hard, we have our monthly meetings, but there's so much work that gets done outside of those meetings, that we try to always, you know, keep the public informed of," Vives said. "This is a time that is, has a lot of change. And we're asking for some additional support from our elected officials, because we know that what we can do, we know what our city deserves, and we you know, we just ask for our community to continue to support us and we will continue to work hard for everyone.”

Mayor Sheehan’s Chief of Staff David Galin responded to a request for comment by email, writing, “We look forward to learning more from the CPRB about their budget request in the coming days.”

The board conducts public meetings the second Thursday of every month.

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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