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Minus most of the funding it sought, Albany’s Community Police Review Board meets

The Albany Community Police Review Board at its January 12, 2023 meeting.
The Albany Community Police Review Board at its January 12, 2023 meeting.

The Albany Community Police Review Board has diligently continued working to organize itself and reach its full potential.

The Albany Community Police Review Board is an independent body tasked with reviewing complaints alleging misconduct by officers of the Albany Police Department.

Since its powers were expanded in November 2021, the nine-member panel experienced a year of growing pains in 2022, spending much of its time finding its way, often a challenging task considering members’ outside responsibilities. Several cases awaiting investigation remain in the queue.

In July the board hired a California firm to help establish an infrastructure and foundational practices and to assist in "helping build trust between the community and the Albany Police Department."

Consultant Russell Bloom is an investigator with Moeel Lah Fakhoury LLP and appeared virtually at Thursday's meeting.

"One of the important things that we were able to accomplish last year was a site visit, where we had an opportunity to meet with stakeholders, including members of the command staff and police department," Bloom said. "We look forward to continuing those conversations. We absolutely want to be responsive to the types of trainings that you as a board want to see and receive. And we'll tailor those to fit. Importantly, moving forward with establishing the investigative structure so that you can move through your backlog and handle the complaints that come in. That will be our priority is helping you get that up and running and moving forward as effectively as possible."

A September request to city hall to budget $2.8 million for the board to operate fell through. The CPRB was funded, but at the statutory minimum of 1% of the police budget, roughly $598,000. In November the Common Council approved additional funding of $172,000.

The board's 2023 budget is expected to be available in time for February's meeting.

The CPRB meets the second Thursday of every month. Members say they have established good communications with the Albany Police Department, developed a public website and established community outreach initiatives.

Board Secretary Paul Collins-Hackett says he has been working with several community groups to plan a "collaborative event" involving Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins.

“Where we can explain what we do, how the program has evolved over the past decade or two decades, you know, the longest just to give people insight of where things started, you know, how they're going currently, what our goals are in the future, how they can be a part of it, and how they can access our resources," Collins-Hackett said. "So we're in the process of calendaring those events, we're gonna have food, it's gonna be great. We're very much looking forward to that, and inviting other community partners and other people who want to collaborate. Outside of that we're also building towards our community outreach team, just another group of additional individuals who can help with sharing information, bring people you know, to meetings, signing up just so that more people can be involved in the things we do.”

In December the board announced a pair of new partnerships with two contract investigators: T&M, USA LLC and James Conroy. The panel continues to craft policies and procedures, according to Board Chair Nairobi Vives:

"So it's gonna take all hands on deck," Vives said. "And we'll continue to get training as consultants, and all the support that we need. We're really honing in on technology so that we can work smarter and efficiently and not take up so much on time."

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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