As the next Albany city police chief prepares to begin on September 5th, there is apparently a breakdown in the relationship between the police department and one of the city's most respected community resources.
The Center for Law and Justice has long served as a bridge between police and community. According to the Center's Executive Director Alice Green, that relationship suddenly deteriorated. The flow of information came to a halt. "The Center For Law and Justice, I am told, was the first organization that received information when there is a problem, because it's very obvious that the center has played a major role in the community for 30-some years."
Green says the breakdown concerns the Monday afternoon police-shooting of Albany resident Ellazar Williams. Police Spokesman Steve Smith says the shooting came after police were called to the 200 block of Central Avenue for reports of a large fight involving a handgun. "When the detectives who were in the vicinity of the area saw a suspect matching the description, they attempted to stop that suspect and the suspect fled on foot, leading the officer son a foot chase for several blocks to the rear of 395 Elk Street." Shots were fired. Smith says Williams carried a large knife.
Williams was charged Friday with Menacing a Police Officer and Criminal Possession of a Weapon. More charges may be forthcoming. Green said "The police have now charged him with menacing a police officer and they've charged him with possession of a weapon in the 4th degree. But up until this morning, they had not charged him. However what they have been doing is denying access to Mr. Williams by his significant other, his proxy, his medical care proxy, health care proxy and his partner that lives with him."
Smith says police haven't been able to interview Williams due to his current medical condition. "Generally people aren't allowed to see people who are in custody. In this case we've actually made special arrangements to have the girlfriend, who he just met in April here in the city of Albany, to come and see him at the hospital."
Complicating the investigation is the fact that detectives were not wearing body cameras.
Green says the Albany community is entitled to a credible update on Williams’ medical condition and other related issues. Green gave reporters an update of her own, explaining Williams is now being represented by a public defender. "Unfortunately, Mr. Williams was shot in the back somewhere, and the bullet went into pierced his lung and is now lodged in his spine. He is, uh has been diagnosed as having paralysis which they indicate would unfortunately be permanent. So we're really concerned about that. He's paralyzed from the waist down and will never be able to walk again."
Again, Steve Smith: "Dr. Alice Green is a friend of the police department. She's been there through some of the toughest times that we've had in our department, and communication is key and I think that's something that we have strived to achieve through the past several years, especially with our community policing philosophy."
Smith adds the acting police chief has been in contact with Green in efforts to be as transparent as possible.