A national debate about the relationship between police and citizens has been raging in recent days. Now, an event featuring Albany police advising young people about interactions with the cops has gotten mixed response on social media.
The racially-charged events that made national headlines last week deeply troubled Dr. Alice Green, the director of the Center for Law and Justice in Albany. Green spoke with WAMC Friday morning prior to heading out to conduct a three-hour legal rights program for teenagers who are working in the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program. "I've been struggling with what do we tell them now, about all of this."
A Times Union story published online Friday night online entitled "Albany teens hear raw talk about police stops" began spreading across social media. City Hall got involved, initially praising the event in a now deleted Facebook post. Two African American officers, George Brice and Nicole Reddix, lectured the teens on how to behave and what kind of attitude to maintain during a routine police stop. At one point, Brice tells the group if they disobey orders, they could lose their lives. Reddix then says "Make it easier for us. We don't want to deal with all that paperwork."
"I don't think these were particularly necessarily unusual sentiments and I don't think they thought of themselves as trying to be intimidating." Miriam Axel-Lute, a parent and former Metroland columnist, was troubled by the article, and responded by posting an article on her blog, entitled "Albany Cops Sound Like Abusive Spouses in Teen Workshop." Axel-Lute says "I thought it was a perfect example of what's wrong."
Beverly Padgett agrees. The African American mother and grandmother has attended the city workshops and supports community policing but was incredulous when she heard the remarks. "The Chief said that the article was written out of context. But for something to come out of somebody's mouth in this turbulent time is not acceptable."
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan says he has had a conversation with Police Chief Brendan Cox, who will be reaching out to the teens and their families. "We don't want any young person having left that session hearing something that would be offensive or that would not reflect the Albany Police department."
Black Lives Matter Upstate New York spokesperson Rosa Clemente is also upset with what the two officers said. She is concerned about what she calls “the trauma inflicted on those young people.” "Albany has a huge problem. And the problem with the mayor and the chief of police is that they keep masquerading and parading the Albany Police Department as a police department that other police departments should model, and Albany is literally one more incident away from being a Ferguson or a Baltimore."
Clemente would like to see Officer Brice suspended. "In the city of Albany we are gonna have to organize at levels against systemic violence like we've never seen, and if the leadership is not willing to be leaders at this time, then the people need to vote that leadership out."
Mayor Sheehan stresses that the community conversations and efforts by Chief Cox and the police department to maintain and improve good relations with citizens will continue. "I am concerned by some of the comments that have been made and the impact that has on our police officers and their willingness to put themselves out there."
- Bonus Audio: Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan addresses the deleted Facebook post (a screenshot appears at left).