By the end of January, the Albany Common Council’s special advisory committee to the police will have held its first meeting. That’s the plan right now, at least, according to council President Pro Tem Richard Conti. Last week, the Albany police presented their plan to the council at the Democrats’ caucus: Form a committee of council members, or council appointees, to meet bi-weekly with officers from the force to help shape a strategy for community policing.
Assistant Deputy Chief Brendan Cox said that the force had started to discuss the advisory committee in December. “We wanted to get together a committee that represents all districts of the city,” Cox said. “This isn’t a new idea. There have been past advisory committees. In the ’90s, when community policing came to the forefront nationally and here, there had been a committee.”
“We had been talking about the beats. We had been talking about the beats for awhile,” Cox said. “But we don’t want to just do the beats. We realize that we need to do a bunch of different stuff. People talk about community policing, the main thing that they talk about is beats, but that’s not the end-all.”
Currently, Cox said, there are cops who walk permanent beats. Not many, though. There is an officer who walks downtown, and there are officers who walk Delaware Avenue, he said. “Internally, we’ve been talking about increasing the number of these autonomous, permanent beats for awhile. But we realized that, if we didn’t take a look at the whole department, and if we didn’t take a look at how we were responding to the community’s needs as a whole, then we were really doing a disservice to ourselves and the public. So we slowed ourselves down a little bit. We wanted to get as many people’s input as we can.”
Cox said that the police would listen to what the community is looking for, what their perception is: “We can go on what we believe the community needs, but we might be missing something. The community is the expert on that.”
Cox said that they would like to begin implementing the new beats by April, but that April isn’t the end of the community outreach or the committee.
The meetings will be open to the public, according to a letter to the Common Council from Deputy Chief Steven Krokoff, who has been running the day-to-day operations of the force since the former police chief, James Tuffey, resigned. The officers would like to see a preliminary report prepared by the committee by April 1.
“This is not a heavy lift,” said Cox. “We should be able to do this, and then we can build on that report.”
Beyond April 1, there is nothing set in stone, said Cox. Much of the life of the committee, such as how long it will last, whether it will meet biweekly or quarterly, is still up in the air and will be decided by the committee and the council.
“We aren’t going to be dictating anything to this committee,” he said.