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Albany police chief responds to claims of racial profiling

Jill Konopka and WNYT Staff
Updated: August 08, 2019 11:27 AM
Created: August 08, 2019 04:47 AM

Albany’s Police Chief responded to claims of racial profiling after what he says should've been a simple traffic stop. It ended with an arrest.

City Coordinator for the Albany Community Police Review Board, Clay Gustave, was charged with resisting arrest and other charges on Monday.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan is now calling for Clay Gustave's removal.

Police Chief Eric Hawkins says he hasn't spoken to Clay Gustave since his arrest late Monday afternoon at Western and Orlando Avenues, but the chief calls his behavior disturbing and given his position he says Gustave should know better.

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Chief Hawkins told reporters Gustave put lives in danger with his immediate defiance and non-compliance after driving recklessly and ignoring his officer's lawful commands. Allowing, Hawkins says, the situation to escalate where force was necessary and Gustave had to physically be removed from his vehicle.  Hawkins says the officer injured his hand during the incident and is out recovering, which doesn't help the department being down 40+ officers.

Clay Gustave tells NewsChannel 13, he believes he was racially profiled after being pulled over by that officer - whose name the department is not yet releasing.

Also, Gustave says he is clear those are not the facts that have been reported. NewsChannel 13 took his claim of racial profiling right to Chief Hawkins.

Chief Eric Hawkins told reporters "I haven't thought about that because what I saw on the video was bad behaviors. Behaviors that unnecessarily, dangerously, irresponsibly escalated a situation. I didn't see race. I saw some bad behaviors in this case and it's totally unacceptable to put my officer at risk and other officers out there at risk. It shouldn't have happened, especially someone in his position.”

Mayor Kathy Sheehan said "I've reached out to the Dean of Albany Law School requesting he be relieved of his duties supporting the CPRB, until this matter is fully resolved.

A spokesman for Albany Law School tells  NewsChannel 13, due to this being an ongoing legal and personnel matter, we are unable to comment at this time.

So what next? Its Albany Police Department policy not to release body cam footage even though the chief says eventually that video will come out. Moving forward, there will be an internal investigation as the case plays out in court.

In a statement on their Facebook Page, the Albany Police Union President criticized Gustave’s behavior.

President McGee commented, “I would like to acknowledge and thank Chief Hawkins for coming out today and showing full support for his officers. I would also like to acknowledge that Mayor Kathy Sheehan has called for Mr. Clay Gustave be removed from his position. I hope that this leads to the unified message that attacks on officers and this type of behavior will not be condoned.”

“On behalf of the APOU I would like to say thank you to the citizens who called 911 during yesterday’s incident in an effort to get help for an Albany Officer in dealing with a combative, non-compliant Mr. Clay Gustave. I would also like to thank the citizen who without hesitation helped take the combative subject into custody. I would like to commend the great job done by the officer in this incident in dealing with a combative subject who was larger than him. I would also like to thank our dispatchers who could hear an officer on the radio that needed help. This is another shameful example of the anti-police attitude that comes from City Hall.”

“Mr. Gustave is tasked with the oversight of the police but yet conducts himself in such a shameful manner such as this. Mr. Gustave expects officers to be held to the highest standards but yet does not hold himself to those same standards. Mr. Gustave was alleged to have driven recklessly placing the public in danger, driving with a suspended driver’s license and resisted his lawful arrest. He was given an appearance ticket to only show up at the hospital causing a scene, using confrontational language with officers. Mr. Gustave caused such a scene he had to be escorted out of the hospital.”

“Let me be clear if any member of the APOU exhibited this type of behavior City Hall and Mr. Gustave would be calling for the officer to be disciplined up to termination. City hall would hold a press conference condemning the officers behavior and would grandstand the type of punishment being sought. I would like to see City Hall hold Mr. Gustave to those same high standards and he should be suspended immediately from his position pending the outcome of his case and of course Mr. Gustave is entitled to due process and is innocent until proven guilty.”


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