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Albany Public Safety Commission

The City of Albany envisions a Public Safety Commission that decouples public safety from policing, centers community voices, and ends systemic racism.

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The Public Safety Commission will have the authority to issue rules and policies for the Albany Police Department, as well as to review policies the Department issues itself. It will also decide whether the Police Department or the Department of Public Safety is the appropriate responder for various kinds of situations.  

 

Five of its members are appointed by the Common Council, and four by the Mayor. The Commission will hire its own executive director and staff to ensure its independence. 

 

The Public Safety Commission has a different relationship with the Police Department and the Department of Public Safety. While the Commission will essentially manage the Department of Public Safety, it will provide oversight and transparency for the Police Department rather than exercising any direct managerial authority. Thus, the Public Safety Commission will appoint the executive director of the Department of Public Safety. 

 

The Public Safety Commission will also have responsibility for ensuring that the Police Department operates transparently. Thus, it will have authority over release of information and data; it will also take custody of all video and other recordings, to ensure public trust. 

Vision Statement

The City of Albany envisions a Public Safety Commission that decouples public safety from policing, centers community voices, and ends systemic racism.

Pillars of Procedural Justice

The Public Safety Commission embraces the four pillars of Procedural Justice:

1. Treating people with dignity and respect

2. Giving citizens a voice during encounters

3. Being open and transparent in decision-making

4. Conveying trustworthy motives

Sanctity of Life

The Public Safety Commission will ensure the elevation of the concepts of community policing into the practice of public safety. A guiding principle of the public safety commission is Sanctity of Life: that at the core of an officer’s responsibilities is the duty to protect all human life and physical safety.

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The Department of Public Safety

The statute gives the Department of Public Safety authority over certain kinds of situations, specifically homelessness, mental-health issues, and substance-abuse issues; the Department will also have responsibility for dispatch. For other issues, the Public Safety Commission will consider whether and how to transfer authority from the Police Department to the unarmed responders of the Department of Public Safety: minor crimes, traffic, investigations, taking reports, domestic violence, neighborhood conflicts, child abuse, well-being, environmental conditions, crisis counseling, and other services. 

Reforms of the Police Department’s Mission

The statute also amends the Police Department’s mission statement to affirm a commitment to preventing violence; opposing racism, bias, and inequality; promoting community policing and procedural justice; and ensuring public transparency. It also adds specific requirements, like training and reporting, to help the Police Department prevent violence. 

NECESSITY FOR LEGISLATION AND CHANGES TO EXISTING LAW

The Albany Police Reform & Reinvention Collaborative identified many reforms that could help improve policing and reduce racism and inequality in Albany, including many of the reforms enacted by this legislation.

Earlier reports documenting the need for reforms to ensure successful independent oversight of the Albany Police Department include Dr. Alice Green’s report,

Pathway to Change: African Americans and Community Policing in Albany

(Center for Law and Justice, 2013). 

The need for unarmed response has been extensively documented in research by various experts on policing and public policy. Some examples include:

 

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