Albany

Albany Common Council members call for police reform

Mayor and police chief also announce ‘weekly conversations’ starting Monday
Protestors march on Hackett Boulevard in Albany Wednesday, June 3, 2020.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Protestors march on Hackett Boulevard in Albany Wednesday, June 3, 2020.

Categories: News

Following Tuesday’s footage of what Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan called a “troubling” arrest, some city officials are calling for police reform.

The footage, widely circulated Wednesday on social media, showed local couple Kimani Addison and Desiree Shuman verbally sparring with Albany city police officers who forced them out of their vehicle and pinned them to the ground before arresting them Tuesday. 

“The footage does not appear to depict efforts by police to de-escalate a situation, nor does it depict the sensitivity I expect from all city employees in this moment and every day,” Sheehan said Wednesday, when she also announced that charges against the pair had been dropped and an internal investigation launched into the incident.

On Thursday, as protests continued in the Capital Region related to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, Albany Common Council members stood in front of City Hall and called on the following five policing reforms:

  • Repeal of 50A of the NYS Civil Rights Law, which states the “personnel records” of police officers, firefighters and corrections officers are “confidential and not subject to inspection or review” without the officer’s permission
  • Subpoena Powers for the Albany County Police Review Board (CPRD)

  • Establishing formal lines of direct communication between the Albany community, mayor and police chief.

  • Encouraging the City of Albany, Albany County district attorney and Albany County sheriff to set up scholarships for students in historically underrepresented populations to enter the criminal justice field.

  • Requesting all Albany police personnel to wear body cameras

African Americans, Latinos and communities of color have expressed their frustration, pain and their call for meaningful policing reforms,” a press release from the Common Council stated. “We have heard them as leaders of our communities and are determined to work to implement long overdue reforms at the state and local level.”

ACC President Corey Ellis said during the public announcement that “the murder of George Floyd has shown us that there needs to be accountability, transparency and justice. . . . This council understands, and has heard what residents and citizens would like. So we, in our capacity as legislatures, would like to begin the process of addressing some of those concerns.”

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At the end of the Common Council’s announcement, protesters — one in particular with a megaphone as filmed by an Albany Times Union reporter — began to speak out and demand that those involved in Tuesday’s arrest be fired.

“I can’t sit here and listen to fluff,” the protester said. “We’re hearing fluff. I don’t want to hear fluff. I want to see solutions. Now we are sitting here peacefully, just asking for solutions. It is 2020 and we’re just asking for basic human rights.”

The protesters and councilmen, such as Derek Johnson, then spoke to each other about solutions. Protesters later left the City Hall crowd and began marching through Albany, later returning to City Hall to kneel and say a prayer.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Police Chief Eric Hawkins also announced Thursday they will now be holding “weekly conversations” either over Zoom or in-person with residents about creating change starting on Monday, if residents reach out via email

“The education of white America needs to be something we talk about in the context of what is happening today, in the context of what we are seeing,” Sheehan said during a prayer service today in response to Floyd’s police killing.

Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy also said during the service — which featured members of the Albany County Interfaith Coalition, including Pastor David Traynham, Reverend James Kane — that he will work to have a mobile mental health crisis team available for protests and available to visit police stations. 

“We’re like a mother who has been in labor for over 200 years and now the baby is ready to come forth,” Traynham said. “And when the baby comes forth, the joy of this child is going to supplant all of the hurt, the pain, the hatred and the heartache that we have experienced.”

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