Community relations at center of new Albany Police training

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A new layer of training for Albany Police recruits aims to bridge the gap in community-police relations.

“I don’t want to be known as my neighborhood or my zip code. I want to be known as an individual,” said community leader April Purcell-Bacon. She said that there are natural biases held by both Albany residents and officers. She’s helping develop a program to undercut prejudice and foster better relationships between the two groups. 

“A lot of these officers don’t know us until they are already officers and, nine times out of ten, we’re not having great contact with you when you meet us,” Purcell-Bacon said.

The Police Liaison Partnership will get recruits out into the field, cycling through the wards of Albany, getting to know the community and its members. That’s something Chief Eric Hawkins said traditionally can take up to 10 months to do for an officer after they receive their badge.

“The members of the community will be actually helping us to train these recruits. So, if we get negative feedback from a community member, then that allows us to take a closer look at this recruit,” Hawkins said. 

Hawkins said he hasn’t seen a program like this in his career. He hopes it changes the overall culture of his department. “This is a homegrown, organic, program that started from ideas from the community. And they came to us and said, ‘This is something that could work,'” he said. “This is what community policing is about.”

The next recruitment class starts in either October or November. Recruits will begin meeting with community members through the entirety of their training. 

“We learn how to really talk to each other and it really humanizes the police, but it also really humanizes a lot of our community members because there’s judgment both ways,” Purcell-Bacon said.

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