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Oh, SmAlbany!

Daily posts and occasional longer essays about politics, culture, and life in the Capital Region...updated M-F, midmorning

"I write this not as a booster of Albany, which I am, nor an apologist for the city, which I sometimes am, but rather as a person whose imagination has become fused with a single place, and in that place finds all the elements that a man ever needs..." -W. Kennedy, from O Albany!

Racial Profiling...

Trumped-up charges: Albany Commom Council member Michael Brown is proposing legislation to ban racial profiling in the Albany police department. According to WRGB, specific incidents have led him to propose the legislation:
Brown says that Albany Police are targeting potential criminals based on their skin color and his proof is from a friend that was pulled over twice in one week..."Racism is running amuck in this city. Racial profiling is in one of the worst cases of racism today. Racial profiling is wrong, it must be stopped and it will be stopped."
Of course, the Albany cops deny the charges:
Police deny this saying the reason his friend was pulled over likely had nothing to do with race, but with breaking the law...Albany Police say that Brown is wrong in his accusations and that officers go through strict diversity and sensitivity training to prevent these sorts of things. Detective James Miller said, "If someone is going to get pulled over in a traffic stop, if they're going to get issued a ticket, obviously they've done something wrong."
A few points here:

Point #1: Councilman Brown is almost certainly engaging in hyperbole when he declares racial profiling "one of the worst cases of racism today." If anything, racial profiling is one of the least problematic forms of racism today, since it purports to have a public good associated with it - catching criminals. In that sense it's like affirmative action. Both policies may be racist, but they both have an objective (forgetting how they work out in practice) that is undeniably beneficial for the community. I happen to disagree with both of these policies, but i'm not going to pretend that they compare to race-based job discrimination, which has absolutely no redeeming social value, even in theory.

Point #2: Aren't Brown and the cops talking past each other a little bit here? It's not clear to me that the Albany PD is defending a profiling policy as much as all together denying that they profile. It's not like they are saying, "yes, we profile, but the benefits outweigh the costs." In fact, they seem to be saying the opposite. I doubt Brown's legislation would have stopped his friend from being pulled over twice, there doesn't seem to be a department policy that is being followed here. However, it is clear that...

Point #3: Brown's proposal would create one heck of an administrative nightmare! In addition to barring racial profiling, Brown's legislation:
would require police to file detailed reports about all traffic stops and submit that information to the Citizens Police Review Board and the Common Council.
Whoa. That's a little too much paperwork. I suppose all of this is just Brown blowing a litte campaign bluster out there to rally some support, but i don't know enough about Ward 3 politics or its upcoming elections. However, Democracy in Albany sure does, and he's no fan of Brown.
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At 7:41 AM , Anonymous Terry O'Neill, Esq. said:

One appreciates Councilman Brown's desire to send a clear message to the Albany Police Department on the issue of racial profiling. There is, however, a better method for looking into the problem he alleges exists. A 1994 federal statute oddly numbered section 14141 authorizes the Department of Justice to look into the practices of police agencies that have been alleged to have engaged in a pattern of excessive force or discriminatory enforcement. If such a pattern is found, a court order may be crafted to address these practices. Probably the best known use of this statute involved racial profiling by the New Jersey State Police on that state's interstate highways.    

At 2:48 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said:

Be assured, Mr. Brown is not really interested in finding a solution to his alleged scurge on Albany citizens. He is all about whipping up fear and perpetuating unsubstantiated third person tales of the "man" keeping folk at the back of the bus just to keep himself in office. He is a deficient Councilmen and horrid representative of our 3rd Ward. He stoops to the race card at every turn because his record in office is appalling.    

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