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Give a Little Respect

With several Common Council members present, community members meet to voice their displeasure with the Albany Police Department

‘For a lack of a better term, they raped me,” said a man through choked-back tears. During a night filled with complaints against the Albany police, the man, who would identify himself only as a concerned parent, gave an emotional description of his encounter with the APD. Alice Green, from the Center of Law and Justice, and Albany Common Council members Barbara Smith (Ward 4), Carolyn McLaughlin (Ward 2) and Willard Timmons (Ward 5) listened as he described how he was searched by the police on Central Avenue while attempting to pick up his daughter at a friend’s house.

They were part of about 30 people gathered in the 100 Black Men, Inc. building on Clinton Avenue in Albany to listen to and voice concerns about racial profiling and police brutality in their community.

A man who identified himself as a CDTA driver described how he and 30 of his passengers watched as a youth was dragged by the hood of his sweatshirt and then beaten by a group of officers. The man claimed he has been suspended from his job with CDTA for trying to file a complaint about the incident.

One man, who described the many times he says he has seen youth being profiled and harassed by officers, said, half-laughing, “The kids joke about whether they can make it to the store without getting stopped.” Voices from the crowd rose up to agree: “It’s true! It’s not funny!” and “They’re ‘walking while black.’ ”

Over and over, community members described their frustration with what they say are officers’ quickness to use violence, the frequency with which police stop black youth and the lack of response they get when they go to officials to complain.

Malik Wray, who oversaw the event, said, “We aren’t here to engage the police department. We want the police department here, but we want to be treated as we deserve to be treated, as citizens, as taxpayers, as equal, and as any other citizens would be treated.”

While Wray said he hoped to make audience members feel comfortable enough to speak their mind, he began the meeting with a warning: “We hope there is no one here in the police department who will come back and strike out at anyone who speaks out here, ’cause some people didn’t come tonight ’cause they were afraid of that.” Wray’s comments echoed a general fear expressed by a number of those in attendance.

That fear may also explain why, when asked whether they had filed a complaint with the Civilian Police Review Board, most with grievances said they had not. It may also go a long way toward explaining why the review board has not been as busy as some community members feel it should be.

Alice Green said the relatively low number of complaints dealt with by the CPRB also reflects problems in registering complaints. She suggested complainants file with her office as well as with the police. “We keep hearing that complaints filed at the police department aren’t showing up,” said Green.

McLaughlin was visibly moved by the stories told and assured the audience, “I hear these stories and I know they are all true. I go to the police and I am treated just like you are. Maybe I need to go and file these complaints myself.” While McLaughlin’s passion seemed to ring true to the crowd, Alice Green reminded everyone that she has tried to file complaints on behalf of others—specifically, a complaint regarding the 2003 David Scaringe shooting—but the complaint was not heard due to issues of standing.

Some participants suggested organizing groups to speak at review board meetings so that their complaints would be heard one way or another. Smith told the audience that if they wanted change, they needed to make themselves heard at the Common Council meetings. “You can go to the board, but it’s the council that has the power to change the board,” she said.

After most of the crowd and politicians had filed out, there was a discussion of what other meetings and actions could be organized. But Timmons wanted to remind the remaining crowd that they had a basic tool available to them, one he felt too few were utilizing: “Our ward, the Fifth Ward, has the largest population of all the wards, but our voter turnout is lower than all the others. Maybe if the mayor sees the community turn out we can get the changes we want.”

—David King

dking@metroland.net


What a Week

Ports for Sale

On Tuesday, President Bush threatened to veto any legislation that would block or delay a deal that would put management of a number of U.S. ports in the hands of a United Arab Emirates-owned business (rather than the current British-owned one). A day later, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters that Bush became aware of the deal only after it was completed. Why are they seemingly hedging their bets? The New York Daily News had confirmed that two White House officials have longstanding ties to the Arab company. Also, Republican members of Congress claim that they have enough votes to override a veto.

Don’t Ask Me

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia broke with his tradition of banning television cameras and other press from his appearances on Tuesday during a talk on the use of foreign law in U.S. courts at the American Enterprise Institute. What the cameras caught were Scalia fuming about a persistent heckler and demanding he be removed. But when staff grabbed the man by the arm to escort him out Scalia insisted, “Don’t use force.” Scalia had asked the man if he had valid questions “apart from insults.” Later, during a question-and-answer session, Scalia repeatedly refused to answer questions, claiming they were off-topic.

Selective Intelligence

The Senate Intelligence Committee will not be investigating the NSA’s domestic wiretapping program. Said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), “An investigation at this point would be detrimental to this highly classified program.” But according to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the probe has been canceled under “heavy pressure” from the White House. Roberts denies the allegation.

ID, Robot

“Security robot” may call to mind terrifying images, but with the physique of a 3-foot tall bumblebee and no weapons, the new robotic security guard at a primary school in Tokyo is not so threatening. If you are entering or exiting the school it will ask to scan your ID card. If you don’t comply it will call a human staff member and request that you wait. A digital camera in its head is its only deterrent power.





Overheard

Overheard:

“Delaware Avenue’s haunted.”

“Delaware Avenue?”

“Yeah. Something bad happened there.”

—CDTA Route 18 bus, in the midst of a discussion of haunted houses.

 

Overheard:“Question his manhood.”

—Ralph Nader, at a press conference Tuesday supporting Alice Green, in response to a question about how Green could convince Mayor Jerry Jennings to participate in a debate.



Loose Ends
The Union Street Bed & Breakfast in Schenectady, which has come under fire by some neighbors because its owner hosts swinger parties on the premises [“Ack! Sex! With Strangers!,” Between the Lines, Feb. 9], was the target of undercover operations by Schenectady police last year, the Times Union has reported. Bob Alexson, the B&B owner, told the TU that people he believes were undercover cops offered to pay for sex, but he always refused. The city said the investigation is considered dormant. Opponents of the B&B’s parties have also argued that a classified ad Alexson ran for a few weeks this winter in Metroland’’s adult ad section shows that he was running an “escort service.” The ad, titled “Adult Fantasies,” sought “male and female models for domination and fetishes” and gave the B&B’s phone number. It did not mention pay or escorts, and Alexson says none of the respondents were paid. He said he had been seeking people to help party regulars fulfill particular fantasies, and that the ad would no longer be running.


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