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As budget process plays out, Albany’s Community Police Review Board seeks more funding

Albany Community Police Review Board members held a press conference November 13, 2021 at the Albany Capital Center ouling the CPRB's new direction.
Dave Lucas
Albany Community Police Review Board members held a press conference November 13, 2021 at the Albany Capital Center ouling the CPRB's new direction.

After its hopes of getting additional funding through the mayor's budget were dashed, the Albany Community Police Review Board is turning to the Common Council for help.

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.

Calling for "significant resources to review complaints and conduct investigations in an efficient and thorough manner," the board sent a letter to City Hall requesting expanded access to police information and $2.8 million in funding to operate. Sheehan’s budget proposal was released in early October. Board Chair Nairobi Vives:

“The mayor's budget did not include what we asked for," Vives said. "We asked for about $2.8 million or 5%, of the APD budget. And she funded us at the statutory minimum of 1%. So it's about $598,000. So while we, we put together a budget, all the things that we need to run the board and make sure we have the, you know, appropriate staff and resources. And we are asking, we went before the Common Council to ask, you know, for help in increasing that number, what we were funded at, to what we what we asked for.”

Council President Corey Ellis says the board's request is not without merit, and councilors will look into other ways to secure funding.

“The voters overwhelmingly voted for independent CPRB," Ellis said. "And so I think it is incumbent upon us as a city to make sure that they have the correct tools to do their job effectively. So the council as a whole and the finance committee will be taking this matter up. But we if we truly want them to be as effective as they can be, we must figure out a way how to fund them properly, so that they can do the job that the voters have voted for them to do. So we are going to have to figure this out as a city, how are we going to make sure that the CPRB does have the budget so that they can fulfill the role and duties of their job.”

The Common Council typically approves the mayor’s budget by mid-November.

The CPRB has struggled to meet public expectations. Vives says it 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.

Board Secretary Paul Collins-Hackett says the panel has stepped up efforts to educate and inform the community.

“Yeah, as far as outreach, we've been doing a lot of work, especially around the budget to make sure that the public in general understands our request, you know, and that the fight definitely isn't over," said Collins-Hackett. "You know, we want to make sure that everyone understands, you know, getting a law passed is the first part. You know, that's a very large part of the fight. But the fight is not over. You know, so keeping people engaged has been a large part of the conversation. We're still looking towards community events, you know, as the fall holidays come up and we can table about and partner with other people.

The board conducts public meetings the second Thursday of every month. The next is November 10.

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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