Albany policing a model to copy
Published on 1/3/2014 by the Times Union written by Terry O'Neill, Commentary
Today, the Albany Police Department is far and away ahead of any other in the state in returning law enforcement to the philosophy of community policing — so thoroughly eclipsed over the past two decades by widely influential policing tactics debuted in New York City under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
In 1994, Giuliani and his police commissioner, Bill Bratton, introduced data-driven policing under the name CompStat. This "cops on the dots" system of deploying police manpower to areas of spiking crime has spread across the nation and beyond.
Unfortunately, this simple innovation has gone seriously astray over the years, resulting in such egregious distortions as the New York City Police Department's "stop and frisk" practice and the cooking of statistical books by NYPD precinct commanders pressed to deliver the ever downward-trending crime statistics demanded by their political masters.
"Stop and frisk" was resoundingly rejected this past year by a federal judge, the New York City Common Council and the voters of the city of New York. The manipulation of NYPD crime statistics has been exposed in research published by Eli Silverman of John Jay College and John Eterno of Molloy College.
That these distortions didn't happen in Albany and that our police department is now a model of community policing for the whole state is owed to activist Albany Common Council members like the recently departed Dominick Calsolaro and Barbara Smith; to a change in the city charter that gave the council a say in selecting a police chief, and to former Mayor Jerry Jennings in finally learning to collaborate with the council.
But more than anything else, it was the sustained and committed participation of many community activists and ordinary citizens — people like the redoubtable Beverly Padgett — who spoke out in public forums and took the trouble to learn about policing and the many new concepts that have been emerging in its practice. When the people know what to ask for, they will get it.
What we have accomplished in Albany is quite extraordinary. It should be held up to reproach characters like Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who denounced community policing as an "outdated, outmoded, romantic notion" during her recent re-election campaign, and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, whose last "nationwide search" for a new police commissioner was conducted in such secrecy that many doubt it ever occurred.
And we should take note that Bratton, who is returning as NYPD commissioner, has seen the light at last, although he insists on calling community policing "collaborative policing." At least he's not still deriding it as "social work" as he did 20 years ago.
Albany led the way in launching a vibrant new movement in law enforcement. I challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo to note what has been accomplished in the capital city and to include in his forthcoming budget a new program at the Division of Criminal Justice Services to provide financial support and technical assistance to help communities across the state move toward community policing, or collaborative policing, or whatever he may choose to call it.
Link to article at Times Union