The Albany Policing Reform and Reinvention Collaborative continues to meet as it works to develop a plan to modernize policing in the city.
The panel met again this week, focusing on ensuring residents can speak freely when participating in collaborative discussion. Ideas presented included setting up a system that would encourage participation. Mayor Kathy Sheehan summarized the group's task:
"To create recommendations tailored to address the specific needs of communities that have been disproportionately impacted, by structural racism, blight, poverty, crime and violence."
Some concerns have been raised about police presence on the panel and online during discussion and breakout groups.
Albany City Schools Superintendent Kaweeda Adams:
"There need to be spaces for both, where police are present and police are not present. And in those spaces where they may not be present, maybe we would have an opportunity to have a spokesperson to draft what some of those concerns were, so that we could still have those voices heard, though they'd be heard in a different way since the police may not be present at those particular meetings. But I still think it's important that even if they're not present at those meetings, that they get the feedback from those meetings in our voices from the committee. Because we do represent community members and it's something about hearing directly from those stakeholders that makes a difference."
Panelist William Little pointed out that the group's mission is to serve the community.
"When I agreed to be on this committee I knew to a certain extent that I was going to, you know, maybe have certain opinions and beliefs that would not be popular with maybe law enforcement, right? And that regardless of what that may end up resulting in, I'm doing it for a better purpose. Part of me understanding that, can possibly be also that in fact I am a criminal defense lawyer and I do cross-examine cops, it's part of what I do anyway. But I will say that, when we had the breakout groups and we had one of the officers in the group, he was very informative because he gave me information that I would not have known about, he gave me information that I was able to take back and do further research on."
4th ward Common Councilor Kelly Kimbrough raised concerns that upcoming budget meetings would conflict with council members’ participation in the collaborative but assured fellow panelists it wouldn't stymie their involvement.
"Remember, once this process is over, everything's put together, we're gonna have some discussions also. So, it's... we'll have a chance."
During her Thursday budget presentation, Sheehan gave an update on the collaborative's progress.
"We have now broken up into working groups. The working groups have, are broken up into different subject matter areas, and we need to hear form the community. I may have ideas, the chief may have ideas, but we want these to be community-driven changes. And we want the community to have a voice at the table. And so that's the work that's gonna happen over the next couple of months, with a goal of getting a plan to the council for their review and for public comment by mid-February, and the council will then make a determination on whether to adopt that plan and they have until April first to do that."
The collaborative was formed as a result of Governor Andrew Cuomo's executive order directing municipalities to formulate plans for police reform by April 1st, 2021, or risk losing state funding.