Police discipline is changing a concern as reform progresses


*This article has been updated to correct information on how residents can file complaints with the CPRB

ALBANY – A proposal to give a civilian review board the power to discipline city police officers continues to be a major concern as the Joint Council grapples with the broader topic of reforming the city. the police.

The disciplinary aspect is part of a larger piece of legislation developed by members of the Albany Community Policing Board and Review Board, who are giving more powers and resources to the board.

At a public security committee meeting on Monday, council members and an attorney from the city’s legal adviser’s office discussed the likelihood of the law being challenged in court and debated whether to remove disciplinary provision or to advance it.

It is clear from the discussion that giving the council the power to discipline officers likely violates the city’s contracts with its police unions and the state’s civil service law.

At present, the board can only review the ministry’s own investigations into the incidents and make a decision based on that.

Among other changes, the council would be authorized to conduct independent investigations and issue subpoenas to compel testimony.

It also expands the way complaints are filed with the board of directors.

But the power to discipline the police is the most important change and one in which the council itself firmly believes.

The review board put the provision in there because that’s what community members wanted to see and have fought to push forward for years, said Nairobi Vives, chairman of the review board, in an interview on Thursday.

“This is what I really advocate, it is a complete package that includes everything and if we are to figure out, piece by piece, how to make each of them work, that’s what needs to be done but the discipline is important because the community feels that ODA has not been effective in this area, ”she said.

Even if the board adopts the CPRB reforms as is and is able to get the police unions to accept them in collective bargaining, it may take years before they are fully implemented, even without legal challenge.

The largest union in the department, the Patrol Union, has no current contract and cannot negotiate one until it settles an intra-union dispute involving a faction of officers trying to form an independent police charity. This dispute is reviewed by the state’s Public Employees Relations Board, which can take months, or even years, to render decisions.

Patrol Union president Greg McGee said the union was not opposed to reform, but asked how the city could implement changes such as giving the council disciplinary powers without negotiating them first. with the union.

“All of this is very clearly described in our collective agreement,” he said. “I think this law will open the city to a long contentious battle.”

But board members and review board members said at the committee meeting that they believe it is important to include disciplinary powers, even if they are not used until then. that the broader issues involving the union be resolved. The legislation was passed in committee on Monday and is heading for a full council vote.

“What we need to make sure we do is be clear with everyone. I think that as long as we are honest and transparent, so as not to give false hopes on what is going forward, I can be comfortable with that ”, said Alfredo Balarin, member of the board.

In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Michelle Kaminski, professor of labor relations at Michigan State University, reviewed the bill and said there were beneficial elements, such as increased training for members of the board of directors.

But she also said the legislation did not set clear guidelines for potential investigations.

“Community surveillance is a good thing,” she said. “But he has no idea that there is a just reason to discipline someone, he has no statement that the investigation will be fair, that there will be any standards of proof or requirements of proof. or something like that.”

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