The mayor of Albany’s pick for police chief addressed reporters today at city hall.
Eric Hawkins was appointed by Mayor Kathy Sheehan to replace acting chief Robert Sears, who retired Friday. Hawkins himself retired Thursday from the Southfield, Michigan force he has headed since 2012.
"It's an honor and a privilege to be chosen as the next police chief in the city of Albany. And I look forward to serving for many, many years the residents of this city as their police chief," said Hawkins.
If you go by recent history, Albany police chiefs have had a short shelf-life. Sears and his predecessor Brendan Cox each lasted 18 months in the post.
Hawkins says he was attracted to Albany by the its national reputation for community policing. "You got the LEAD program, you got other things that's been going on around here. And so when I saw the opening in Albany, I was intrigued. And I was at a point in my career, the current place where I am where I'm almost 30 years there, I've had some successes at the place. Personally I'm at a place where you know, children are older now, where it's easy to move around. There were no internal or external issues that were forcing me out. It's just that I've seen where I came from, I saw what I was doing, and it excited me to have an opportunity to take what I learned in the place where I am right now and use some of those things in another community that happens to be looking for new leadership."
If approved by the common council, Hawkins will be coming to Albany during a violent summer; the city has had nine homicides so far this year. Hawkins said he’s ready to tackle the "challenges and opportunities" Albany has to offer and "wishes he could start right now." Asked what he'd do about the current "crime wave…" "I can't promise anything. But what I can say is that I know what it looks like. I know the fundamentals of addressing issues like this, and I know that you can't arrest your way out of these types of problems."
Hawkins describes his approach to policing as a "holistic" one, working hand-in-hand with the officers, the police union and the community. Mayor Sheehan pointed out that Hawkins is also keen on working with the city school system. "You know, the city of Albany many years ago, made the decision that the district would be independent of the city, and that was all for good and valid reasons, but I think we got a little too far apart. And we've got a great relationship with the new superintendent. She's seeing a lot of the same things in her school district in Las Vegas, there was a much more integrated approach with law enforcement."
Sheehan also expects the city to work with the police department on issues involving economic development.
The Common Council has 45 days to confirm the appointment. Councilor Dorcey Applyrs anticipates "lots of questions" for Hawkins. "Our prospective chief will have the opportunity to address us as a council, but also the public, during a public meeting."
Hawkins will be considered confirmed if the council takes no action. Again, Mayor Sheehan: "He has met with some of the council leadership today and he will be at a public safety committee, I think we're doing it through the public safety and personell committee. I imagine all of the council members will be there, on the 21st."
The chief’s salary will be $145,000 annually.