The Albany Policing Reform and Reinvention Collaborative has presented its draft final report.
The collaborative's goal: eliminating structural racism and bias in city policing, via public input. With funding at risk, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed localities statewide to finish their reform plans by April.
The draft was compiled from five independent working group reports. During Tuesday's final virtual meeting, representatives of each group recapped their sessions and offered recommendations, including implementing contact surveys for the Albany Police Department and supporting ideas like easing recruiting requirements by exempting the APD from state civil service laws.
Laurie Shanks is a member of the police department functions working group. She says the panels literally spent hundreds of hours working on what seemed to be an impossible task.
"The modern police force has experienced a massive expansion of the scope and intensity of its interaction with community members. Many social problems, particularly those either caused by or exacerbated by poverty have been criminalized and delegated to the police to manage. And expecting law enforcement to deal with social problems is both dangerous to members of the community, and it's also very unfair to the police department. The involvement of armed officers in public health, coupled with the systemic racism in our society, has led to a grave distrust between the police department and the community they are responsible for serving."
Dr. Brenda Robinson chairs the community safety and restorative justice workgroup.
"We had in depth discussions about community safety, and the definition of restorative justice, and also how restorative justice applies across the community as well as APD. And we included that into our vision, which is to, we are committed to a restorative and balanced approach to policing, crime and conflict that promotes justice and resolution for victims, reparation for the community, accountability and reintegration of offenders into a productive community life. With respectful treatment for all involved, we acknowledge harm caused by systemic racism, and police brutality. We are committed to amplifying positive police strategies and practices that promote community safety."
Shanks says her group tackled myriad issues from interaction with youth to homelessness, mental health, substance abuse and traffic enforcement:
"Our overall policy recommendations to achieve these goals are to create a civilian Public Safety Commission, because many of our recommendations, as you heard, call for different professionals to replace police officers, all of whom could be housed under a civilian Public Safety Commission that is independent from the Albany police department."
Alice Green is executive director of the Center For Law and Justice in Albany and a longtime police watchdog. She was not involved in the Collaborative.
"You know they've put together some ideas, however, on some of those working groups, as I look at them, they are not really adhering to the mandate from the governor in terms of reinventing policing. I mean they have a lot of good ideas there, but I don't think we're reimagining what a police department should look like and not really focusing on systemic racism, which is another issue that the governor was concerned about. I think there's some good things coming out but I'm really looking to see that the city comes up with a plan that really really reinvents or reimagines our police department."
With seven public input meetings behind them, the collaborative is one step closer to presenting its final report to the Albany Common Council on February 1st. Sixth ward Councilman Richard Conti says separate from the collaborative, the Common Council has been moving forward on their own police reform package.
"There were three local laws that we introduced. We passed two of those, one related to body camera recordings and another related to the statistical record of people who were stopped. The third one would expand the powers and authority of the Community Police Relations Board to exercise oversight."
Conti says there will be further discussion and revisions may be made during a public safety committee meeting scheduled for Monday night.