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Albany Community Police Review Board once again seeks more funding

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan presented her budget proposal 9/29.
Dave Lucas
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan presented her budget proposal on September 29th.

The Albany Community Police Review Board is hoping to get an increase in funding. A board member appeared before the Common Council Monday night to make the request.  

It's two years since the Albany Community Police Review Board plotted its new direction after voters granted the nine-member board new powers, including the ability to conduct its own independent investigations into complaints filed against police officers.

CPRB members have long maintained that the board is underfunded. The panel has struggled to deal with a backlog of cases and what one member describes as a contentious relationship with the Albany Police Department.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan presented her $226 million budget proposal September 29th, which follows Local Law J's mandate that 1% of police department funding (about $598,000) go to the Community Police Review Board.

During Monday night’s public Common Council hearing for the 2024 budget, CPRB member Kevin Cannizzaro told councilors the board has made great strides toward realizing its mission of community police oversight, but more funding is needed.

“We're now in a new phase that requires the city to commit real financial resources, real financial resources to ensure that actual independent oversight becomes a reality here," Cannizzaro said. 

In fall 2022 the Common Council intervened to help the CPRB obtain some additional funding of $172,000 after Sheehan nixed the board's $2.8 million budget request.

The third-term Democrat was asked about setting more money aside for the panel during her budget presentation. "You know, at this point, we're at the 1% statutory amount, I can say that it's 35% higher than what they spent in 2022," Sheehan said. "And right now, based on how much the CPRB has spent, they're at less than half of what was allocated to them in the 2023 budget."

Cannizzaro appealed to the council for financial help.

"I'm encouraged that the possibility that this council can really use its power, which is clear in the charter, to give the board a real chance to push back against, you know, the status quo that's existed for 20 years. I think it can be done, and I think the council, you know, has the ability to do it. But to get to that possibility, we have to talk with our wallets here. You know, it's, it's one thing to say it, we have to actually have the money to do it. We're close. And I think there's clear ways to get the board there, which we've outlined in all of our materials. But you know, we're really relying on the council itself to bring us over this, you know, the five yard line here and give us the money we need to implement that independent oversight that's been called for," said Cannizzaro. 

CPRB Secretary Paul Collins-Hackett told WAMC “everyone is frustrated” with the way Local Law J has been applied.

"Because although the law was passed as a local law, it wasn't funded properly after, which left us with the inability to perform the task to the best of our ability. Nobody likes to see this kind of game being played. This is entirely unfortunate. It's entirely avoidable. And we're just hoping to work with APD and the police unions to come to some type of middle ground, because, us battling 24/7 is a waste of time and a waste of money," Collins-Hackett said. 

Cannizzaro warns if the budget remains at what the mayor proposed, it would put the CPRB "in a really difficult position." "More of a long term goal is implementing and incorporating the CPRB into the actual structure of the city that that I think, is the long term goal, that's gonna save money. But for the 2024 fiscal year, I think we have to be honest with ourselves that that can't be done in the next three months, that incorporation of the CPRB can't be done in time to account for the budget for 2024,” Cannizzaro said.

The CPRB is holding its monthly meeting tonight. Councilors say they will discuss and consider the CPRB's request during a meeting set for Wednesday.

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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