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Albany’s Community Police Review Board hears complaints about turned off body cameras

Albany Community Police Review Board


The Albany Community Police Review Board took a closer look at body cameras during its most recent meeting.

The panel discussed incidents involving body cameras and their effectiveness. Albany police officers began wearing the devices in November 2017. The cameras can be used to verify or refute eyewitness accounts of incidents involving police-community contact.

During its June 8th meeting, the Community Police Review Board reviewed reports of body cam policy violations, including instances where officers failed to activate them. Board member Kevin Cannizzaro noted the frequency at which they've been occurring.

"We're consistently seeing body cam violations regularly by APD officers," Cannizzaro said. "It's becoming more and more clear that the further investigation should be done into some of the actions of officers here with regard to how they handle their body cams."

Board member John Levendosky tells WAMC cases suggest human error rather than officers deliberately not turning cameras on.

"So one example, if the cameras not on standby, once they leave their patrol car, it doesn't automatically turn on," Levendosky said. "And it'd be up to the officer, but it should be on standby as part of protocol. Also, just you know, being consistent with APD, being consistent with enforcement, I think that's important to make sure that when it is seen, even if the cases that we're working on if body worn camera issues are not necessarily what's being reported, or investigated. If the APD comes along, and sees that during the investigations, it's important that they mark that and they correct it and address it with the officers."

The board discussed two cases from 2021 in which body cam video could have provided more clarity as to how officers interacted with the public. One case was a police encounter with a large group of young people who had blocked a public roadway with bicycles. Albany Police Commander Joshua Laiacona told the board there were two officers involved.

"One officer has, a counseling order has gone up to have him counseled for not having his body cam on," said Laiacona. "The other officer, we will not at this time be able to do any counseling or anything with him due to his current status with the police department, that it would be inappropriate for me to discuss it this time."

Levendosky says as the board investigates more cases, both the panel and police are striving for consistency.

"And make sure that everyone's following the policies of APD like they're supposed to. So yeah, there's definitely like we were working on with regards to our matrix, we understand these differences between basic human error and purposely not using your equipment properly. But at the same time, we just want to make sure that everyone's on the same board, so the community knows what's expected, and officers are mindful of following those procedures. So kind of everyone is on the same page going forward and growing as a city and department."

In other action, the board voted to investigate the recent arrests of two 16-year-old girls in Madison Park, where civilian videos of the incident were posted on social media amid allegations of improper police behavior. The board also says it has encountered hurdles in its investigation of the January 2022 police shooting of Jordan Young, where subpoenas were issued for four officers. Board Chair Nairobi Vives.

"So unfortunately, that puts us in this horrible position where we have, where we're requesting the board to vote on the subpoenas again, and we intend to bring the officers in and see if they will cooperate or not," Vives said. "And then if they fail to answer questions regarding the instances, then that will put us towards litigation, which again, is a sad waste of the taxpayers’ money."

The board’s next public monthly meeting is scheduled for July 13th.

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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