A forum slated for Tuesday night in Albany's Pine Hills area aims to discuss how community policing affects student neighbors.
Community policing involves assigning specific officers to serve specific neighborhoods, engage residents and cultivate a community-based effort to stop crime.
Community forums that have been held to date in Albany typically bring activists, citizens and police together. One scheduled for Tuesday night at the Ancient Order of Hibernians Hall on Ontario Street is aimed at students — Albany being home to several colleges, including UAlbany and The College of St. Rose. From time to time there has been friction between young people residing in so-called "student ghettos" and long-time neighborhood residents.
Tenth Ward Common Council member Leah Golby chairs the council's Public Safety Committee. She thinks it's a perfect time of year to have a forum specifically targeting student and year-round neighbors. "You know there certainly are things that, when you live in a highly-concentrated student neighborhood tend to happen, where the students just don't realize that they are actually in a neighborhood and not in an amusement park. For the most part, over the past several years, things have been, overall, pretty good, compared to Kegs and Eggs of 2011. But there still are nights with loud parties, I definitely get complaints. So it's not that it's over and done with, right? So it's an ongoing educational process."
In June, the Albany Police Department was honored by the U.S Department Of Justice, which named APD "a national leader in building community collaboration and trust." At that time, Police Chief Brendan Cox talked about steps the department has taken in building trust in community-police relations, from its pre-booking diversion program to implicit bias training to working with citizens when disputes arise between neighbors and officers. "It's not easy to be a police officer these days, not easy at all. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't. So we just try to make sure they understand that when things like this come to light, we'll do the investigation. We'll make sure that if there are any issues we'll deal with those. But keep your head up."
First Ward Common Council Member Dorcey Applyrs has hailed the localized, small-group discussions, conducted in a workshop atmosphere, as "successes" because neighbors determined to make changes happen have come out in support. "These community conversations, from what I have observed, have provided residents with a platform to talk honestly and candidly about the issues that we tend to shy away from, like race and racism, classism, and I'm finding that as we have moved forward with offering community conversations our crowd has grown, because people have gone back via word of mouth and really promoted the community conversations, so there's something authentic about what's happening here in the city of Albany as it relates to addressing those issues that as a society we tend to shy away from."
Chief Cox contends the city’s community policing approach is not a program,"it's a philosophy."