Troy Mayor Patrick Madden has named eight members to the city's dormant Police Objective Review Board, one day after an estimated 11,000 people demonstrated in Troy. Madden, a second-term Democrat, spoke with WAMC News Monday about the protest, the review board, and why the city's police officers aren't wearing body cameras yet.
From your perspective, how did the rallies go Sunday?
Sunday was absolutely amazing. And Troy, we're known for doing great events. And I think we did another one. There were estimates of somewhere around 11,000 people. I can't verify or deny that; it was a huge crowd, larger than anything I'd ever seen in Troy. And we gave people the opportunity to state their issues as loudly as they wanted. They marched through the streets, we did everything we could to make sure they were safe and had every opportunity to rally and protest. And they did that and no one was hurt and none of the rallygoers, none of the protesters had problems in any way. And by late in the evening, it wrapped up and we actually went home. So it was a great, great event. And I'm very proud of the city of Troy, the police department, Department of Public Works. And very grateful to the organizers that everything went as well as it did.
Let me drill down a little bit into some specifics. We've heard from a lot of people in the crowd yesterday who have specific gripes with your city and the police force there based on past incidents. As mayor, do you think there are specific things that need to change in the way that the residents of Troy perceive the police department and the way the police department interacts with those residents?
I think there's always room for improvements between groups of people. So this Objective Review Board is an important step in that direction. One of the best ways we can improve relationships is to improve understanding, improve transparency, improve communication, build empathy, build relationships, so that we each understand where the other is coming from, we each understand the other's worldview a little bit better, and that we are able to take that into account as we make our decisions. So this and other things we might do, in terms of increasing communication, I think are critically important to building a stronger relationship.
You have just announced the appointments to the Police Objective Review Board, which had been dormant for several years. Why was that announced today? Was that in reaction to the protests on Sunday?
Well, yes and no, we've actually…it's been percolating for a while. As with so many other things when we started dealing with the COVID outbreak and the challenges to running a city organization in the face of that, many things got sidelined. And this was one of them. We couldn't get together, we couldn't meet. Yet when current events spoke to us, we thought we better advance this while we're trying to do everything else. Even though we can't at this point in time meet together. We can make the announcement and make sure that people do know that this is something that we have been working on and this is something we are committed to and that we will be moving forward as quickly as we can.
This board was supposed to exist for a long time and it's been on and off in the city of Troy. Why did it take until 2020 to get it back up and running from the last time it was active in 2014?
It took some time because I needed to understand why it continually fell apart. It has a history of fits and starts. And I did not want to impose upon people the obligation to sit on a board or a panel that was not going to be effective, that didn't have a meaningful say in things. Or that was structured in a way that dissuaded people from continuing. So I went back, I talked to some of the individuals who had served in the past, I tried to understand better where the wheels went off the track in the past and created a new approach to this. And that's what we've been doing.
Let's do some nuts and bolts on how this will actually function. So you've named eight people to the review board. There are also some non-voting members including from the city's legal department, from the Troy PBA, and from the Troy Police Department Inspectional Services Unit. How often does this board meet, or does it simply wait for issues to be raised from the community?
Well, this board deals with more than issues that are raised from the community. Under the under the city code, I believe, if I'm not mistaken, it meets six times a year, but I expect that it'll meet more regularly than that, at least in the initial phases. We're going to spend a lot of time with the board members doing training so that they understand what the police department does do, review some policies with them. Give them a better understanding of what public safety work looks like and the challenges and limitations of what you can do in public safety. Also, privacy concerns need to be addressed. In any event, they will be looking at complaints that are lodged against the department but more importantly in my mind, they'll be looking at policies that we have in place now, making recommendations, suggesting things, so as things change in the community that they may be more in tune with where we are. We want to be in a position to incorporate that in trainings or directives or policies. I think that's probably really the most important aspect of this board, is keeping us current with practices in the community.
Will the board be looking backward? Because as we mentioned, there were years where it was not operational. So there may be a backlog of complaints.
That's a great question that will that will be up to the board. I don't know as I sit here, if there's anything in the code that says it can only be forward looking, can it be retrospective? That'll be a good question for them.
How did you decide who would be on the board and who are some of the members?
We solicited interest from the community last fall, and my approach was to involve the some members of the community to help me make those decisions so it doesn't look like the mayor hand-picked friends. I involved a former public safety official, and a former city council member. And I involved the NAACP and they all reviewed all of the resumes that we received and the cover letters. They gave their opinions and I worked pretty closely with the NAACP. I don't think there's any disagreement as to who should serve. There was no tension in that selection process. I think we're equally happy with the quality of people who have stepped forward to serve.
Let me ask you about the question of body cameras. The city had begun a pilot program for the officers. I think COVID may have delayed implementation of that. Where do things stand today? Are all officers in Troy wearing body cams?
No, they're not at this point. We had talked about a pilot program but the police union really wanted to nail down the policies first. So we have been working with the union on finalizing the policies. Those meetings were interrupted by COVID. But that's another thing that as we begin to return to some degree of normalcy, that will be that we will move that forward as quickly as we can.
What do you think the timeline would be?
You know, it's really in the union's hands at this point we have, we have presented brief policies that we actually drafted with them at the table. Now, they've got to have their attorney clear what they helped us draft. I'd say we before COVID, we were probably a good halfway through that process. So how quickly we can get them together is going to determine how quickly we can complete the policy and then make a decision on a particular model of camera.
Just a big picture question for you, Mayor. Yesterday in the protests, we spoke with people who were mentioning Edson Thevenin from five years ago and in other cases from a long time ago. Those remain really fresh wounds in the city. And I just wonder how much work do you think Troy has to do to build with the community here?
You know, it varies. The community is not a monolithic entity with one viewpoint, there are members in the community who have certain strong opinions on things and other members who are, ‘OK, I understand that.’ So, you know, we continually try to speak to people. We can't talk about things that are in litigation, obviously. But when we're able to speak to people, we make every effort to explain where we are, what the thinking was, how the outcome flowed from that. And, like I say, some people are some people are satisfied. Some people aren't. There may be some people that aren't going to be satisfied by anything we can say. Because they have a level of distrust either with police in general or our department specifically. But we'll continue to have those dialogues we'll continue to create that transparency in that communication so that we can build as strong a piece of community support and understanding, and it's got to be mutual. You know, we need to be empathetic as well as asking others to be empathetic.