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Albany common council public safety committee discusses First Street incident

May 02, 2019 09:20 AM

ALBANY – Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins was in the hot seat Wednesday night at an Albany Common Council Public Safety Committee meeting. They were grilling him over the incident on First Street back in March the led to the arrest of an officer and suspension of two others. 

Police body camera footage shows officers breaking down a door at a home and pulling a man out. Another video shows Officer Luke Deer punch a man and then beat him with his baton. Deer has been charged with assault and official misconduct. 

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“This was a reminder that police brutality can happen anywhere and it happened right here in Albany and we have work to do,” said Chair of the Public Safety Committee Dorcey Applyrs.

Chief Hawkins gave an update on the investigation. The other two officers suspended after the incident are having their actions reviewed by the Albany County District Attorney. Chief Hawkins said every officer at the incident that night are also having their actions reviewed internally and the by the district attorney.

“Some feel strongly that the officers involved in that incident should not be allowed to work in this community,” said Applyrs.

Council members were then able to ask questions. Many wondering what changes have been made in the department since the incident. Chief Hawkins said training curriculum is being looked at along with giving more tools to supervisors on different scenes. But he said there also needs to be a cultural change.

“When we have officers who are comfortable doing what they did, that told me that there needs to be some sort of cultural shift,” said Chief Hawkins. “In order to shift a culture it's a whole number of factors and aspects that go along with that.”

Applyrs got a round of applause from residents when she said what happened that night is also an issue of race and it’s something that needs to be addressed.

Another question asked to Hawkins was if officers are being overworked with the department down officers. He said it definitely impacts them. However, a nurse speaking said overtime and a stressful environment is no excuse for what happened.

“I’ve been kicked, spit on, called the n word all types of things and I still showed up for work and took care of my patients,” said Brenda Robison, Chair of the Commission on Human Right in the City of Albany. “I did not go into the streets and act like a savage and if I did I would've been fired and arrested.”

Applyrs said the committee hopes to use Wednesday night’s meeting to make sure what happened on First Street doesn’t happen again.

“Because of that authority and ability to introduce legislation we will be listening for key opportunities to introduce legislation if necessary that could help to prevent something like this from happening in the future,” said Applyrs. “So we’ll be thinking about this from a policy perspective and also in the past we’ve made recommendations to the department.”

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Emily De Vito

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