Dominick Calsolaro

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Council moves to boost police panel

Oversight board would be told when officers draw multiple complaints

Published on 4/1/2008 by the Times Union written by TIM O'BRIEN, Staff writer

ALBANY -- The Common Council wants to require city police to inform an oversight board whenever multiple complaints are filed against an officer.

However, when considering cases of alleged misconduct, the Albany Citizens Police Review Board still would not know the identities of the accused officers.

The legislation, proposed by council members Dominick Calsolaro and Barbara Smith, follows recent concerns that the Police Department was not notifying the board of all complaints.

"It is very important that review board members know that there is a pattern there if it's one officer five times or five officers one time," Calsolaro said.

Smith agreed: "It helps the board to understand the gravity of what they're looking at."

Christian Mesley, president of the Albany Police Officers Union, said each case against an officer should be judged independently.

"We're completely against that. That's obviously prejudicial against our officers," he said. "The officers have rights under the Civil Service Law and under our contract."

The proposal would make it difficult for the board to be fair if it knew the same officer had prior complaints, Mesley said. "It certainly is going to skew their ability to be objective."

Smith disagreed. "It's like personnel policy: You want to know if someone is chronically late or if they're late once or twice a year. When the job itself can lead to these kinds of conflicts and contradictions, it is even more important to have an understanding if it's a chronic issue."

Police Chief James Tuffey had not yet seen the legislation and was withholding comment, said police spokesman James Miller.

Knowing whether an officer had past complaints could help in some instances, Calsolaro said.

"An officer who's been there 17 or 18 years and never had a complaint, it might be important to know that maybe it's out of character," he said.

Mesley said officers often face false accusations by those they arrest. "From our perspective, if you're out there and proactive, you are going to get complaints," he said.

When he worked the streets, Mesley said, he made 125 to 150 arrests a year. "I had my share of complaints," he said.

Mesley said the council should instead pass legislation penalizing people for filing false complaints against officers.

Tim O'Brien can be reached at 454-5092 or by e-mail at tobrien@timesunion.com.