Albany police chief eager to build on department’s success, deal with challenges

The Albany Police Department has the same mission in 2023 that they always have. That is to save lives and protect the community. However, the department is also dealing with challenges.

Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins says he wants to build on the success of last year. He says his officers took 30% more guns off the street last year compared to 2021.

“We saved lives last year. You know, with the guys and girls on the street did last year, and taking guns off the street saved lives,” said Hawkins.

Shooting deaths are also down. There were 16 in 2021 and 11 in 2022. While the shooting death rate has declined, Chief Hawkins isn’t celebrating.

“Any shooting is one too many. Any death as a result of violence is one too many, so we are not celebrating any of this, because behind every one of those, there’s some trauma. There’s families impacted by this. There are communities that are traumatized by this,” said Hawkins.

Like most departments across the country, Albany Police Department is short-staffed.

The Albany Police Department is short about 50 officers. Due to their staffing situation, the department has had to be strategic with how they deploy their resources. Plus, retaining and recruiting officers can be a challenge. The chief says he tries his best to treat his employees well and to listen to their concerns.

“When we are in a place where people have options, or people are getting a little burned out, and they may be thinking about getting out of the industry, as leaders with any organization, whether you’re a nonprofit or a governmental agency or a business or whatever it is, leaders of the organization need to make sure we’re taking care of people within the organization,” said Hawkins.

The chief says his officers can’t fight crime alone. He wants to continue to work with community organizations.

“We want our community to know we’re part of this ecosystem. That together we can resolve these issues and mitigate some of the problems that we are seeing in our community, but alone is very difficult,” said Hawkins.