The city of Albany has selected a firm to conduct a racial bias audit of the Albany Police Department.
Chief City Auditor Dr. Dorcey Applyrs announced Monday that Arlington, Virginia-based consulting firm CNA will lead the review. Outside city hall, Applyrs says the audit, which starts this week, is part of the city’s work to “reimagine” policing under a June executive order by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“The CNA team will begin to collect and analyze data related to traffic stops, use of force, and other police officer-civilian interactions to determine the impact on Black residents," Applyrs explains.
Cuomo has given communities statewide until April 2021 to come up with a plan for police reform, in a response to widespread protests against police brutality. Albany’s task force – the Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative – held its first meeting last week.
Applyrs expects CNA to release its preliminary findings by the end of next month. In addition to pulling police records from the past five years, she says CNA will look into how well the APD complies with current reforms, such as the use of body cameras and the Albany Civilian Police Review Board. She notes the firm will speak with community members as well.
“We were looking for a firm who could balance the understanding of communities of color, nuances as it relates to Black communities and relationships with law enforcement – but also a firm who understands law enforcement culture," says Applyrs. "And they, in fact, demonstrated a great balance of that – and as a result, they have members of law enforcement as part of their team.”
The Albany Police Department has for years embraced a community policing approach, including the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD, program. But several recent high-profile incidents caught on camera find police-community relations at a low point. A spring report by the Center For Law and Justice called on local leaders to acknowledge structural racism in the department. As part of its audit, CNA will present a host of recommendations to the task force aimed at reducing racial bias, improving transparency, and expanding the city’s community policing efforts.
It’s also been a particularly heated summer for police-community relations in the Capital Region. Aside from the dozens of protests kick-started by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, Albany has seen a dramatic spike in gun violence, with nearly 100 people injured so far in 2020. Applyrs says the APD is in full support of the audit – in a recent interview with WAMC, Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins said he looks forward to hearing what the task force has to say.
“No matter good a law enforcement agency is, no matter how progressive it is…Every few years, it needs to go back and just check to see if the service-delivery model that is currently in effect is consistent with the expectations of the community, because things change," said Hawkins. "And so over these last two or three years or so, things have changed in society, things have changed in our community, and now we have to make sure that our delivery model is consistent with what our community wants.”
Applyrs expects the audit to cost a total of $80,000. CNA is currently conducting a police study in Chicago, and completed a similar audit in Charleston, South Carolina last year.