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Albany police review board chair accuses veteran officer of making racist remarks

May 06, 2021 2:45 pm

Robert Gavin is reporting for the Times Union the chair of Albany’s Community Police Review Board is accusing an Albany police detective lieutenant of making “several racist and disparaging remarks” during a meeting of the city’s Citizens Police Academy last month. In a letter to the Common Council posted on the board’s Facebook page, CPRB Chair Nairobi Vives said that on April 14, Detective Lieutenant Howard Schechter made pejorative comments about the majority black neighborhoods of Arbor Hill and the South End and referred to victims of sexual assault as promiscuous. Vives identified Schechter, a 35-year veteran of the department, as a presenter at the meeting. Vives said Schechter, while referring to an officer-involved shooting, said in his opinion it was the “only bad one." She said that without any warning, he showed several graphic images mostly of bloodied and beaten black and brown bodies. “He then made the statement that ‘they’ only care when a cop shoots someone but ‘they don’t care’ about the hundreds of other shootings when they are killing each other,” Vives said. Vives said she corrected Schechter but it ultimately led to her walking out of the meeting with Melody Harkness, the CPRB’s program manager. Vives said Schechter spread the racist myths that members of the black community do not care about so-called "black on black" violence in their communities. Schechter declined comment. The goal of the Citizens Police Academy is to increase understanding between citizens and police through education. Vives said In the wake of the incident she wants city police to hire an outside consultant, approved by the Common Council and CPRB, to reform the academy program. Vives also asked the Common Council to enact an amendment so police review board members are not required to take classes at the Citizens Police Academy. “CPRB members should not be required to complete this program until the Common Council can be assured that racist myths are no longer part of the ‘education’ it offers,” Vives wrote. David Galin, the mayor's chief of staff, said of the incident, "The city of Albany is taking the claims very seriously as the representations described in the complaint do not reflect the values or expectations of this administration." Vives said it was troubling to learn later that Schechter allegedly made similar comments four years ago that led to a complaint. Read the full story in the Times Union.