The Task Force on 21st Century Policing provides recommendations for rebuilding trust and including community stakeholders to promote a safer community for all. Some highlights include: promoting a guardianship mentality by policing from within, developing methods of communication and outreach between officers and the public, and engaging with communities in a non-enforcement manner.
In recent years, the Albany, New York, Police Department (APD) has taken an active role in addressing neighborhood-specific problems through community policing. Police officers—in tandem with community partners and resident input— have the ability to empower their local communities with the knowledge, resources, and support to promote public safety. In turn, community members provide police officers with valuable insights and information regarding specific crime and disorder situations, allowing officers to perform their jobs more efficiently.
The APD has made important strides in integrating department-wide practices that foster this collaborative relationship with the community. The change in philosophy began in 2009, when APD administrative staff recognized the need for a change in procedure to better serve the citizens of Albany. The answer was community policing, specifically, a process and departmental culture that valued residents’ input as a key ingredient for transformative and successful policing.
A core feature of this process is the Albany Community Policing Advisory Committee (ACPAC), a working group of community members and APD officers that aspires to:
- encourage citizens and APD officers to participate in committee activities;
- provide public forums to discuss community healing and community building;
- promote partnerships between community organizations, businesses, and the APD.
To successfully provide direct communication between the community of Albany and the APD, 25 members serve on the committee, one appointed by each of the following: the Mayor, the Albany Common Council President, each of the 15 Common Council Members; four appointed by the APD, and four at-large members appointed by the Committee.
The members of ACPAC serve as the “eyes and ears” for the Albany community by relaying complaints and issues directly to police representatives. For instance, at an ACPAC forum earlier this year, Albany residents were briefed by Acting Chief Robert Sears on current APD community policing programs and the department’s pursuit of body worn camera technology. In return, police representatives were presented with questions and concerns regarding neighborhood safety and traffic problems. Additionally, in an effort to be transparent with the community, ACPAC members have hosted implicit bias training, given media interviews, maintained social media pages, and appointed liaisons as the go-between for officers, the public, and the Committee.
The efforts of ACPAC have built strong trusting relationships between the community and police in Albany. Community members have a direct link to officers and feel that the police department hears their concerns. Through essential feedback from the community, officers effectively mend differences immediately, pre-address concerns from the community perspective, and solve problems before they go too far.
The ACPAC model is straightforward. A proactive police department engages directly with its community by formalizing working groups that:
- exist separate from the department;
- are composed of key community champions that have deep insights into their neighborhood and its needs;
- convene regular meetings with other community members to voice their concerns/complaints to police while simultaneously learning about progress being made the department.
The city of Albany, the APD, and ACPAC are all working collaboratively to be a true example of community-policing. Determined to include the community’s voice in every aspect of policing, the ACPAC is striving to reduce crime within its community.
Would you like to know more about ACPAC?
- Follow the ACPAC Twitter page and view the ACPAC Facebook page, to see more on community-police engagement
- What’s going on in the media Forum, Student Neighbors
- Download the Brochure
- View the Website
This blog post is part of a series highlighting best practices in advancing 21st century policing as part of the IACP Institute for Community-Police Relations. Albany is one of fifteen sites selected for participation in the Advancing 21st Century Policing Initiative, a joint project of the COPS Office, CNA, and the IACP to highlight agencies who are actively embracing the principles in the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.