Albany appoints new police chief

Local

The city of Albany has named a new police chief.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan said the city picked the new top cop from a pool of more than 30 applicants. If confirmed, he will be the second African American police chief in Albany’s history.

Eric Hawkins has more than 27 years of experience in law enforcement. Most recently, he led the Southfield, Mich. department since 2012 where he reduced crime by 45 percent.

“It was really clear to me that this was an individual who I thought had the right leadership skills, the right experience, and was really the right person for the city of Albany,” Sheehan said.

His appointment comes after a nationwide search and multiple community meetings where residents shared what they wanted in their next chief. Currently, addressing the spike in violence is of the utmost importance, especially for Pastor Charlie Muller, who has seen two homicides by his JC Club this year.

“We’re in a real tough spot here in our city, and we want to see some positive changes,” he said.

Muller and others in the city hope Hawkins will be a strong leader who is tough on crime and works with the community.

“Putting more patrols out here and making it safe for our kids – that’s what we need,” Asian Graves, of Albany, said. “Safety, you know, I want to be safe coming home from work also.”

“He needs to come out on the street more often and see what’s going on out here,” former Albany resident, Joe Walker, said.

Alice Green, of the Center for Law and Justice, interviewed Hawkins in person as part of the review committee. She said he’s prepared to take on the job.

“He’s dedicated to bringing the community together on this issue,” she said.

He already has ideas about working with the youth and has plans to build relationships with residents when he gets to Albany.

“I just hope things change, you know,” Graves said.

“I am honored to be chosen to lead the men and women of the Albany Police Department,” Hawkins said in a statement. “The Albany Police Department has a rich history of working with the community in resolving issues and enhancing safety and security.  I look forward to continuing that tradition.”

The Albany Common Council can confirm or reject the appointment within 45 days of receiving written notification, but if the Council does not act within that timeframe, the appointment is considered confirmed and Hawkins will start in late summer.

The Albany Police Department has been led by acting police Chief Robert Sears for more than a year and a half and is set to retire next week.

Chief Eric Hawkins Biography

Chief Eric Hawkins joined the Southfield Police Department in 1990, starting as a Police Cadet and appointed as a sworn Police Officer in 1991. Chief Hawkins rose through the ranks of the department and was formally appointed as police chief in October of 2012. His assignments have included:  oversight of the department’s tactical unit; command of the department’s downtown sub-station, which involved coordination of all the police department’s community-related programs, including crime prevention, D.A.R.E., traffic, and school officers; and assignment as Patrol Division Coordinator. Most recently Chief Hawkins implemented initiatives designed to enhance police-community relations, including citizen and youth police academies and a Police Chief’s Citizens Advisory Board.

Chief Hawkins earned a Juris Doctor from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University, a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration from Central Michigan University, and an Associate’s in Business Administration from Oakland Community College.  He is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy, Eastern Michigan University’s School of Police Staff and Command, the FBI Command Institute for Police Executives, and Central Michigan University’s Law Enforcement and School Liaison Program Institute.

Chief Hawkins’ professional affiliations include:  International Association of Chiefs of Police, FBI National Academy Associates, FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association, and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • Oversaw implementation of strategies that resulted in a 45% decrease in crime during tenure as Chief.
  • Initiated a five-year strategic plan that involved a major organizational restructuring.  The plan increased service delivery and saved the City of Southfield over $3 million annually.
  • Oversaw a $600,000 renovation of the police lobby.
  • Updated the technology within the police department, including: in-car laptops, in-car citation modules, thermal imaging cameras for police cars, pole cameras, laser scanning system, electronic speed signs, and computer/cell phone forensic software and equipment.
  • Implemented mental health and substance abuse diversionary programs.
  • Researched, introduced, and oversaw implementation of a Neighborhood Watch program. 
  • Strengthened community relations through implementation of citizen and youth police academies, creation of a Citizens Advisory Board, and volunteering as a board member for several community-oriented non-profit organizations.
  • Minimized liability risk exposures through implementation of various trainings, including: cultural competency, implicit bias, emergency vehicle operations, annual legal updates, annual lethal force, mental health awareness, and sexual harassment. 
  • Strengthened relations with the local school system through: (1) increasing the number of school resource officers, (2) gaining access to the camera system for all campuses in the city, and (3) partnering with the school district on several safety-related initiatives.
  • Initiated the process for departmental accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).
  • Identified alternative revenue streams (e.g. grants, forfeiture, etc.) that averaged about $150,000/year.  Those funds were used for police training and equipment. 
  • Implemented several departmental health and wellness initiatives designed to promote healthy lifestyles, minimize the risks of injuries and chronic conditions, and increase productivity.  The initiatives included adjustable-height work stations, treadmills in work areas, a fitness program, and allowing for exercise time for officers during certain parts of their work shifts. 

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