Police Training Frightens Neighbors, Goes Viral, and Stokes Ire of NAACP

Mar 25, 2013

Facebook photos include SWAT team in action, spent shell casings and fake blood left behind in a residential area after a police training session.
Credit Facebook

What started out as a police training exercise has ignited community outrage and attracted the attention of the NAACP.

The Albany Police Department is taking some heat after pictures and complaints about what is described as a "training exercise" went viral on Facebook.

The power of social networking proved to be a force to reckon with after citizens in Albany's Arbor Hill neighborhood posted photographs of swat teams and shell casings on Facebook. Those teams stormed the Ida Yarbrough Homes, a public housing complex, Thursday morning, reportedly shooting blanks and tossing tear gas into a vacant building during a police training exercise that involved a simulated hostage rescue.

A flier being circulated by community organizers reads "We are outraged that residents were not forewarned and then were subject to arrest if they protested."

Police claim they went door to door the evening prior to the exercise to notify nearby residents.

Albany NAACP branch president Bernard Bryan says that explanation doesn't pass muster. He pointed out that in the incident happened just a few months out from the Newtown shooting,  in the neighborhood of the Arbor Hill Elementary School.

Albany Police Chief Steven Krokoff did not return calls for comment. His office emailed a statement admitting the police department was "insensitive" when it conducted a training exercise that involved police firing blank ammunition and using flash grenades near occupied apartments at the complex.

The chief said the department will review how it conducts "neighborhood-based training" after the operation drew criticism from residents who said they were frightened by a chaotic scene that seemed real to them.

The Krokoff statement was released as pictures of the incident spread on Facebook. Photos depicted officers in swat gear as well as spent shell casings that were left at the scene. Training was conducted on a portion of the public housing complex that is now vacant and slated for demolition.

Quoting Chief Krokoff now from the police department email - "I certainly did not mean to offend the very people that we are training to protect. In retrospect, it was insensitive to conduct this type of training in the vicinity of occupied residences."

Several neighborhood groups and loosely-organized bands of neighbors are planning demonstrations and vigils in the coming days to protest the police action.