Albany police looking into why officers covered their badge numbers before clearing South Station
Pete DeMola is reporting for the Times Union Albany police have launched an internal investigation into why officers covered their badge numbers before taking part in the forceful clearing of an encampment outside of South Station last week. Police Chief Eric Hawkins said the decision to obscure identifying information was a violation of department policy, but denied it was done with "nefarious" intent. It was simply a way to protect against threats to their families by activists. “This was widely known among the officers,” Hawkins said. “And they felt like they could minimize the risk to their families by concealing their badge numbers.” The department is also looking into whether officers covered the badges believing that police brass authorized them to do so. Hawkins addressed the Albany Common Council Wed., Apr. 28, and doubled down on his decision to clear the encampment outside of South Station, a measure which drew swift condemnation from activists and civil rights leaders. The chief said any officer's effort to avoid identification as a way to elude charges of wrongdoing would be futile because surveillance cameras would have captured any officer engaged in inappropriate conduct. Mayor Kathy Sheehan called their actions appalling. “That’s not OK and that erodes trust,” Sheehan said. The Albany Police Officers Union did not immediately comment on Wednesday night. Hawkins presented video from body-worn cameras and surveillance cameras that depicted activists barricading the camp and tending to bonfires before it was cleared by officers in riot gear. “It was very clear at that time that they were not peaceful protestors,” Hawkins said. Alexis Figuereo, an organizer who was arrested last week, said police cherry-picked the footage. “The video was purposely set to make us look like monsters,” Figuereo said. Several lawmakers expressed discomfort with the application of Blue Lives Matter insignia on department riot shields. Councilwoman Ginnie Farrell noted that activists view the iconography as representing a belief system that is diametrically opposed to the movement for racial justice. City police should find another way to honor fallen officers, she said. “It’s quite frankly seen as a racist image,” she said. Hawkins acknowledged the insignia was unauthorized and that the situation was being dealt with.Read the full story in the Times Union.