Why haven’t more officers who either participated or watched the violent confrontation between Albany police and First Street residents unfold been arrested or suspended?
Why didn’t any officer report the use of force that early morning March 16?
Are there officers that were present that night still working in the West Hill community where the alleged police brutality of three men occurred?
These are just some of the questions Albany attorney Mark Mishler posed to Common Council members Monday evening during the council’s regular meeting. Mishler is representing Lee Childs, one of the three men allegedly beaten by police during a response to 523 First St. for a loud party,
Mishler sat next to Childs at the meeting while challenging the council to take charge of the situation and get answers.
“What you, as the Common Council, do at this moment will be your legacy,” he said during the public comment period. “Either you will take bold and decisive action to say that police lawlessness, police brutality, and police racism are unacceptable in the city of Albany, or you will let this event pass without taking a stand, and by doing so, will say to us all that you simply don’t care.”
Mishler was one of four people who spoke to council members about the clash captured on police body-worn camera footage, which resulted in Officer Luke Deer being charged with felony assault and misdemeanor official misconduct on April 2.
Two other officers were suspended without pay. District Attorney David Soares’ office has six months to present the case to a grand jury for a possible indictment.
Lark Street resident Marlon Anderson also encouraged council members to take a strong stand.
“There is no condoning of police brutality and abuse,” Anderson said. “No matter what was done.”
Police were called to 523 First St. for a loud party, and it wasn’t the first time. Officers were called to the two-family home 15 times in March alone for a range of issues from medical and property checks to fights and loud parties, according to the call history for the property.
Councilmember Dorcey Applyrs, who chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee, said members will be meeting with police Chief Eric Hawkins on May 8 to discuss the incident. Hawkins is expected to provide updates on the ongoing investigation and discuss the Common Council’s role in representing the community.
The committee will first meet April 29 to discuss a proactive response for violence and disturbances as Albany heads into warmer weather, Applyrs said.
Glenwood Street resident Alana Klein took issue with how the Albany Police Officers Union responded to the news that one of their own was arrested.
In a Facebook post April 2 on the union’s page, they said they were standing behind each officer involved in the incident.
“These officers were called to the house that night because of the lawlessness that has been allowed to perpetuate over several months,” it read. “This house has been allowed to disrupt the normal way of life in the neighborhood for far too long. Each and every officer involved will, through the appropriate process, have the opportunity to vindicate their names.”
Klein said she hopes that council members or other city officials will reach out to union leadership to address how the public message regarding the incident was handled.
“This is not the way to heal the community,” she said.
Mishler reflected on his first lawsuit against the Albany Police Department, which was in 1982. That case involved officers responding to a house party attended mostly by African American and Latino college students.
He said police busted up the party, used racial slurs, engaged in brutality and arrested four people. One student asked about his rights and was told by an officer that they had none, Mishler said.
Since then, Albany has made strides and won awards for its community policing and instituted a community police relations board and police review board, the latter which takes complaints of alleged excessive use of force by Albany officers.
“Yet, here we are in 2019 and it is as if nothing anyone has done for the past 35 years to improve policing in Albany has had any effect,” Mishler said. “What the videos tell us is that in March of 2019 the Albany police still believe that people have no rights, or, at least, that people of color have no rights.”
Published at Tue, 16 Apr 2019 01:06:24 +0000