Albany Police Chief Robert Sears has retired from the department following more than 20 years of service. WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas was at police headquarters this afternoon for Sears' official "piping out.”
Sears has held several positions with the APD, including more than a decade as a supervisor in the Detective Division. He was promoted to sergeant in 2005, lieutenant in 2009, commander in 2013 and deputy chief in 2015.
Sears stepped in as acting chief in January 2017 when 22-year APD veteran Brendan Cox left the job he had also held for just 18 months to take a position with the National Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program. Cox was instrumental in rolling out LEAD while chief in Albany.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan praised Sears. "He did an outstanding job every day. There are a lot of challenges that go with this job, it's 24/7 and you know he was a leader, a true leader, and it's a big loss for the city. I wish him the very best in his retirement, but he is somebody we can point to with pride and say 'he served us well."
In January 2017, Sears told the Times Union he wanted to be the city's top cop permanently, but Sears did not live in the city, a requirement for the position. Although Cox got a waiver, rumors persisted that officials wanted to compel him to move into the city. Sears chose not to apply for the full-time job. Sears' farewell speech to a large gathering outside police headquarters was brief and tearful. "Sorry. I never thought I'd be... Everything we've been through I never thought I'd be crying today."
Under Sears' watch, the police department rolled out a body camera program and expanded community policing. Recently the city has been experiencing a spike in violence. 1st ward Common Councilmember Dorcey Applyrs says Sears will be missed. "What I've seen is a pattern of a good hand-off in terms of the community being in good hands with good chiefs who really care about this city, and Chief Sears leaves behind big shoes to fill and a legacy of community policing that this city has grown to appreciate and get accustomed to."
Center for Law & Justice Executive Director Alice Green praised one of Sears' last official moves as acting chief, announcing the opening of an online portal to police data in an effort to increase transparency. "Sears was really spearheadin' that, and the community's starting to recognize how important collecting that data is going to be, because it certainly allows us to, allows the department rather, to be more transparent, and the community can know what it's actually doing."
Sears told the crowd "I love being an Albany cop, I really love being an Albany Cop." A piper accompanied Sears and his family to a police SUV for a drive-away.