Weeks before the city became the site of sometimes violent protests between demonstrators and police, the Center For Law And Justice in Albany released a report calling attention to systemic racism. Now it plans a community/government symposium this fall.
Concerned about “official apathy," Center Executive Director Alice Green is stepping up efforts to draw attention to systemic racism she says threatens to unravel all the progress Albany has made in community policing during the last decade.
“Two months before George Floyd's murder on May 25th, the Center For Law and Justice launched a plan for community/police collaboration to address the issue of systemic racism and puboic safety in the city of Albany.”
Since the beginning of April, the Center has been sending Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins, District Attorney David Soares, Common Council President Corey Ellis and Mayor Kathy Sheehan, all Democrats, questions related to systemic racism and community policing. Answers are posted on the Center's website.
“Sadly, the government officials' response could be characterized as 'Oh yes, there may be systemic racism here but Albany is no worse than any other city.'”
Green adds that months ago the center was recommending many policy changes local officials are considering now after protests over Floyd's death.
According to Green, the center's relationship with the APD has cooled during the time Chief Hawkins has been in command.
Green faults DA Soares for ignoring the Center's open invitation to interact with the online survey, part of an ongoing process leading up to the “Recommitment to Community Policing” symposium, planned for October.
“The center is absolutely perplexed that the District Attorney, David Soares, has not seen fit to even acknowledge our four requests for his participation, much less answer any of our questions.”
The Center's 2019 “Community Survey” found blacks overwhelmingly believe that neither the APD nor the DA’s office respect them and treat them fairly. Soares criticized the survey as unscientific. Soares suggests creating dialogue with various city activist and civic groups and perhaps hiring a professional pollster to gauge public attitudes.
“For example, we have Siena College, which happens to be one of the most respected polling institutions in the entire country. And so if what we want to do is get together, have discussions and beging to implement strategy, well we have to first defeine what those problems are and the opinions of people, and those opinions have to come from a multitude of voices and not just the voices of those who represent very specific issues.”
Green has high hopes for the fall gathering.
“This symposium will be designed to first of all be a collaboration between the community and those key government officials. We will have other partners who will join with us. For instance in our recommendations we've always suggested that the universities should be involved, colleges should be involved in helping us develop curriculum to teach police officers about racism. So, this collaboration, and we're starting with the Writers Institute at SUNY, they're gonna work with us in planning a broader coming together.”
An exact date is to be determined.