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Albany’s Community Police Review Board meets amid lawsuits against city, department

The Albany Community Police Review Road meeting - Thursday, January 11, 2024.
CPRB / Zoom
The Albany Community Police Review Road meeting - Thursday, January 11, 2024.

The Albany Community Police Review Board met again Thursday after launching legal action against the city and the police. 

Frustrated that police were not honoring its subpoenas, the CPRB filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court on December 21st, in an effort to force compliance by members of the Albany Police Department and two police unions.

The board says officers failed to appear after subpoenas were issued and later re-issued as part of its investigation procedure.

Contract investigator Julie Schwartz of “investigations and consulting” firm T&M told the Common Council in August that despite initial promises of cooperation, CPRB investigations have been bogged down by difficulties in obtaining access to case-related police video footage and officers ignoring subpoenas.

"We are left with, we get to a certain point where we're trying to move these investigations, and we have not been able to do that, because we do not have access to all the material, nor do we have access to any of the officers," said Schwartz. 

At the time, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, a third-term Democrat, acknowledged it may take time for both sides to reach common ground.

"There are going to be natural areas where we aren't always going to agree. And then we have to work, you know, respectfully with one another, to resolve those issues," Sheehan said. 

Schwartz's colleague, retired New York City Detective Sergeant Marty Gleeson, told board members during the latest meeting that yet another case under investigation requires the issuance of subpoenas.

"It concerns a very sensitive matter, an allegation of sexual misconduct on the part of an individual," Gleeson said. "We want to interview the investigator as well as the police officer who did the call out. We've obviously looked at documents that have been provided and spoken to the complaining, the complainant in the case, and this is the logical next step. So we want to, you know, we know that trying to get voluntary cooperation for the interviews has been a difficult test, to say the least. But be that as it may, we still think it's appropriate to issue the summonses to each of these officers, as well as to Chief [Eric] Hawkins as per regulation and law."

"We're hoping, of course, that the courts decide in the review board's favor and grants them the power to compel the police department to provide information in investigations, so that the review board can have an independent review of the police department's performance, particularly when it comes to allegations of any kind of abuse," said New York Civil Liberties Union Regional Director Melanie Trimble. "So, you know, we want to increase the transparency. It is imperative that the review board have subpoena power now, particularly in light of the situation where the police department is refusing to turn over, willingly turn over, information on investigations that the public has a right to know about."

The CPRB is also awaiting the appointment of a new police liaison following the retirement of Commander Joshua Laiacona. Laiacona, who served the city for 20 years, was piped out January 5th from police headquarters.

Citing the ongoing litigation, City Hall, the police department and the CPRB declined to comment. The Albany Police Benevolent Association did not respond to a request for comment.

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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