Dominick Calsolaro

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Please, Mr. Tuffey

Published on 4/8/2008 by the Times Union

Anyone who's been in law enforcement as long as Albany Police Chief James Tuffey has to know better than most people what constitutes a conspiracy, and also what doesn't. There are any number of ways to describe the request by an outspoken faction of Common Council members for an outside investigation of the city's police, but "conspiracy" is not one of them them.

Mr. Tuffey is put off that six of the 16 council members apparently met privately before asking the state Commission on Investigation to look into what they allege is a series of misconduct and cover-ups within the police department. But what's improper about that? Where's the wrongdoing that Mr. Tuffey seems to be implying?

Council President Shawn Morris and council members Dominick Calsolaro, Corey Ellis, Catherine Fahey, Carolyn McLaughlin and Barbara Smith acted as they did, without reaching out to the rest of the council, for the simple reason that they don't yet have enough votes to get a majority of council members to support their request. That day, though, might not be far off. Other council members, most notably President Pro Tempore Richard Conti, are becoming quite impatient with Mr. Tuffey's contention that he can withhold certain complaints against police officers from the Citizens' Police Review Board.

These are Common Council members doing their jobs, and demanding more accountability from the police. Something's gone very wrong when that angers the police chief.

"The police officers are second-guessed, guilty until proven innocent," Mr. Tuffey complains. "If a cop does things wrong, I'll deal with it. You have to give me a chance to investigate."

It's been two years, however, since Mr. Tuffey began an inquiry into the illegal purchase of machine guns by dozens of Albany police officers. Is it unreasonable to ask when that inquiry might be concluded?

The city has refused to release relevant records in that case, just as it has withheld information about evidence room audits and the fatal on-duty crash of Detective Ken Wilcox.

And what about giving the police review board a chance to conduct investigations of its own? Another incident that led to the council members' request for an SIC investigation is the case of a Ravena woman who says she was stopped by the police in West Hill last December and subjected to a vaginal search on a public street.

"There are certain things I can't give out until the investigation is complete. They don't like that," Mr. Tuffey says in reference to dissident council members.

No, they don't like that. But there's nothing conspiratorial about their indignation.

THE ISSUE: The Albany police chief objects to council members' request for an outside investigation.

THE STAKES: Suggestions of a "conspiracy" are likely to lead to deeper mistrust.