Albany, New York

David Thacher
Research Associate
Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management
John F. Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University

Case Study Prepared for the Urban Institute


Albany, New York is a city of just over 100,000 residents and a rich political history. Though it has been the state capital since 1797, it is Albany’s local politics that have truly distinguished the city: Albany hosted the most enduring political machine in modern American history, one that kept a strong hold over most city affairs well into the 1970s and even the early 1980s. But towards the end of this period the party’s hold on civic affairs began to weaken: Although Democratic voters still outnumber Republicans better than 10-to-1 in Albany, the Democratic organization no longer holds the iron grip on power that it once held, and today party leaders share power with employee unions, neighborhood groups, civil service boards, and independent administrators.

The Albany Police Department has evolved over the past two decades in response to these changes, and recent reforms labeled “community policing” have played a part in that evolution. In some ways, community policing has meant a return to the past in Albany: Well into the 1980s, local police maintained a neighborhood-oriented force that emphasized foot patrol, and it was not until reform Mayor Thomas Whalen cut department staffing radically—from a patronage-swollen 415 in the 1970s to 300 by 1993—that the APD shut down its popular neighborhood substations. In part, community policing simply reversed these recent reforms by re-instituting foot patrol and by promising to re-open neighborhood substations. But it also promised the city something different: Whereas in the past local police had taken guidance mostly from the formal political system, under community policing they pledged to listen to Albany’s newly-powerful neighborhood and business groups, and also to unorganized residents.

This case study chronicles the history of the APD community policing efforts in three stages. Section I sets the context for change by reviewing the recent history of Albany’s police and its government more generally. Section two, the heart of the study, then chronicles the reforms of the past four years in some detail, focusing on the strategies APD administrators and others used to put community policing in place. Section three then sums up the consequences of change by briefly reviewing how the APD operates today.


1. Relationship to the Environment
All public agencies submit to some form of public oversight, often distributed among elected officials, public-minded professionals, community groups, and administrative law. But in the decades leading up to community policing, what was distinctive about the Albany Police Department was the degree to which this oversight was informally centralized in the hands of local politicians. The near monopoly of control that elected officials held over city agencies began to weaken in the 1980s, but many observers maintain that up until the 1970s, Albany government was firmly in the hands of a unified Democratic machine.

The Albany County Democratic Committee is the stuff of legends. Presided over for some five decades by party leader Dan O’Connell, Albany Democrats held tight control over everything from elections, to taxes, to the criminal justice system, using their influence over those spheres to earn loyalty and maintain their hold on power. Though a few veteran city officials downplay the influence of the machine, most report that as late as the early 1980s, the party’s appointed ward leaders held sway over many important decisions—including where code inspections would be made, whether or not the city would collect on a parking ticket, and who the police department would hire and promote (civil service tests were widely considered toothless in Albany, one of the few large cities in New York to administer the test locally, and the state repeatedly admonished city officials for lax administration of hiring regulations). Indeed, the special role of jobs in the patronage system led to an enlarged police department of some 415 officers in the 1970s, when LEAA funds boosted APD staffing considerably.1
Ward leaders, of course, did not exercise their influence independently. O’Connell and Albany Mayor Erastus Corning—whose 42-year tenure made him the longest-serving mayor in America—exercised strong discipline over party members: Well into the 1970s, it was highly unusual for any political position to be contested within the Democratic party, and to win the Democrats’ endorsement meant certain victory in open elections. (Even in 1985, after the machine’s inexorable decline had taken root, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 16 to 1 in Albany.) Indeed, “loyalty” has long been the watchword of Albany politics,2 and observers both credit it with making the system work and blame it for making it unbearable. On the one hand, loyal party members—even those of the most modest means—could often expect immediate responses when they brought neighborhood or personal problems to the attention of their ward leaders, who gave Albany government a strong neighborhood focus that so-called “professional” city halls around the country could rarely match. On the other hand, dissent was not welcome in Albany, and those who sought to organize their own power bases met with stiff resistance. One example of this dynamic comes from repeated attempts by police to unionize, which did not succeed until the mid-1970s after a bitter fight with the Corning administration. Another example emerged during the same period as neighborhood associations began to form in the city: Many observers report that Corning fought the groups and their proposals every step of the way, seeing them as an affront to the consolidated power of the political machine.3 Finally, Corning also resisted organizing attempts in Albany’s black community, which was scantly represented in the Democratic Committee. Indeed, Albany blacks have long had a contentious relationship with city hall—particularly the police department, which faced widespread accusations of brutality towards African-Americans.

These various organizing attempts presaged the machine’s gradual unraveling, which was punctuated by the deaths of O’Connell in 1977 and Corning in 1983. Corning was succeeded by Thomas Whalen, who at the time was the president of the city’s Common Council and had been hand-picked by Corning himself as his successor. Initially viewed as a Democratic loyalist who would simply continue with the status quo,4 Whalen turned out to be something of a reformer. Even before taking charge of the city, he had felt that voters simply would not accept the “bare-knuckles” strategies of the past,5 and two structural problems apparently encouraged his reformist bent. First of all, the tight link between the mayoralty and the County Democratic Committee died along with Corning, who left the mayor’s job to Whalen but the chairmanship of the Committee to a longtime party member named Leo O’Brien—a division that broke the machine lifeline connecting voters to city services. Second, years of patronage had swollen the city’s budget, to the point that Corning had allegedly begun borrowing to finance regular operating expenses (an illegal practice supported, again allegedly, by questionable accounting). As Whalen quickly recognized, the already-decaying city simply could not afford the old strategies of patronage.

Whatever the reasons, Whalen gradually extricated city government from the Democratic Committee and its offshoots, selling the water system to an autonomous agency, ending most no-bid contracts, and embarking on a massive enterprise to rationalize the city’s finances. At the same time, Whalen cultivated a relationship with the growing movement of neighborhood associations, which gradually began to displace ward leaders as shareholders in some city decisionmaking. The new Mayor’s supporters trumpeted his efforts as a professionalization of city government that had started to undo the damage done by decades of backwards politics—which, they argued, had left the city’s downtown in disarray, undermined effective service delivery, and destroyed city hall’s legitimacy. But opponents accused the new mayor of elitism and of catering to the wealthy and business interests, and many party loyalists treated him as a traitor. Moreover, some in the police department argue that political influence over policing actually increased under Whalen, who they say took a more direct interest in staffing decisions that Corning ever had, perhaps in order to advance his reforms there.

Whatever their objective merits, Whalen’s reform efforts touched the police department directly: Believing that patronage had swollen the APD’s ranks, the mayor stopped hiring completely for eight years, closing the department’s two neighborhood substations in the process. The effort put a serious strain into relationships between city hall and the police—particularly with the increasingly-vocal Police Officer’s Union, which fought Whalen on staffing and other issues for years. The result was that the Mayor found it difficult to push more substantive reforms: For example, despite four years of efforts to implement community policing towards the end of his tenure, Whalen was only able to establish a marginal special unit, leaving the rest of the department untouched. Other Whalen-led reforms to areas like internal affairs and minority hiring also led to serious dissent and were never completely implemented (one Chief resigned over disagreements with the Mayor about discipline).

Whalen did influence policing indirectly by encouraging active neighborhood associations (NAs), which began gradually to play more of a role in the APD and other city agencies. But while police were not exactly antagonistic to these groups (special units like the anti-burglary team and community services reportedly had close relationships with some NAs), they apparently never fully accepted the idea that they should look to the community for guidance about police priorities. Community activist Harold Rubin recalls an incident that illustrates this idea:

Rubin, whose Center Square neighborhood was the only one with foot patrol in the city after the Arbor Hill and South End substations closed, had perhaps the closest thing to “community policing” that the APD was offering at the time. Nevertheless, Rubin reports that even the foot patrol officer only occasionally attended association meetings, and that while he was an effective and welcome police presence, “he was not community-oriented.”

The Task Environment
Until the 1980s, the Democratic organization also influenced the APD’s dealings with other city and county agencies. In fact, interagency cooperation in this period was apparently reasonably good, as employees of both the police department and their agency partners remember making regular referrals to one another, particularly with regards to problem properties: Since public servants worked as much for ward leaders as they did for their respective agencies, the “barriers” between different agencies were not especially salient.

On the criminal justice side, the APD apparently enjoyed a good relationship with other nearby police agencies and with the County court system, which never faced the crisis of jail space that began to pressure many other U.S. cities. Some local officials feel that the APD had too little contact with State and Federal law enforcement agencies (both of which participated in investigations against the County Democratic Committee—ranging from the one led by presidential aspirant and New York State Governor Thomas Dewey in the 1940s, to a more recent FBI probe into fundraising practices in the early 1990s).6 But within the county, at least, some allege that the APD was enmeshed only too well into the machine-controlled criminal justice system, which elected its judges, its county attorneys, and (until 1968) its DA with the blessing of the Democratic Committee.7

2. Operations
Writing thirty years ago, James Q. Wilson described the Albany Police Department as a “watchman” style department that emphasized serious crimes and the maintenance of public order, paying less attention to minor violations like traffic offenses, gambling, and other misdemeanors. Many department veterans today insist that this policing style dominated the department well into the 1980s. For example, one officer who moved to Albany relatively late in life remembers that the department frowned on him when he did make arrests for minor infractions: “A lot of the older guys would look down their nose at that,” he explains. “I can remember my Lieutenant yelling at me for bringing in a drunken driver, or different things that were [about] quality of life.” Tolerance for vice and gambling declined somewhat under the glare of negative publicity (including an early-1970s investigation by the state into allegations that Albany police took payoffs from local prostitution rings), but the underlying watchman ethos remained.

The organization of the patrol force underwent more dramatic fluctuations. Several decades ago, the APD was divided into six precincts that assigned officers to relatively small areas of the city. But this decentralized structure eventually gave way to two relatively large patrol divisions within which officers did not have permanent beat assignments.

In the early 1970s, the department moved back towards decentralization again by using federal LEAA money to open up two neighborhood substations, located in the predominantly black neighborhoods of Arbor Hill and the South End. Tensions with police were high in these areas, largely because of accusations about police brutality, but also because of concerns that police were ignoring these neighborhoods’ serious crime problems. In response, the department assigned several non-uniformed officers to patrol these neighborhoods mostly on foot, charging them with delivering essentially all police services—from patrol, to call response, to investigation—and thereby creating what amounted to a new and separate police department dedicated solely to these two areas. One substation officer remembers:

This divisiveness may have contributed to the substations’ closing in the mid 1980s, and some former unit officers argue that growing union activism also undermined them (among other demands, the new union insisted that the administration fill jobs in the neighborhood units through the seniority-based bid system that began to govern most other APD assignments). But when Mayor Whalen eliminated the two units on the advice of an outside study, he presented the action as part of his more general downsizing of the police department, arguing that Albany simply would not have enough manpower to run these special substations any longer.

In closing the Arbor Hill and South End substations, Whalen returned the APD’s patrol force to the relatively centralized model it had used in the 1960s, which consisted of two divisions plus a traffic unit, with little focus placed on neighborhoods. The basic grouping during this period was the squad, and the Lieutenants who commanded them were charged with overseeing the entire patrol force during their hours on duty. It was not that there was no incentive at all to deal with neighborhood problems in this system: One department manager recalls, “I know when I was a Sergeant, if I had groups that were constantly congregating in one area between certain times, causing an uproar in the neighborhood, I didn’t want to have to go to the Lieutenant three times and tell him I couldn’t fix it. I’d fix it.” But the difficulty was that accountability for these problems was often fragmented or ill-defined. The manager continues:

As a result, some department veterans argue, chronic neighborhood problems never received the attention they deserved.

Outside of patrol, the relatively unspecialized APD of the 1960s (when operations divided into traffic, investigations, patrol, and communications) gradually added a number of dedicated units, including a juvenile unit, a community services unit, a drug unit, and an anti-burglary unit. Like the neighborhood substations, most of these special units operated autonomously, having little coordination with the rest of the APD. The drug unit, for example, worked flexible shifts and had little managerial oversight—to the point that by the early 1990s, some city officials felt it was getting out of control, as drug officers provoked a number of civil suits for excessive force and wrongful searches. Community services, which met with neighborhood groups, provided crime prevention services, and took care of other community relations functions, obviously did not create the same types of concerns. But many department members felt that it too was overly isolated, as the rest of the patrol force rarely attended community meetings with community services officers, who were expected to take care of such duties on their own.

3. Administrative Systems
These problems with organizational structure apparently reflected more general administrative weaknesses in the APD. In part, the department’s relative lack of emphasis on things like policy, procedure, and coordination reflected the strong influence of politics on Albany policing. For example, hiring and recruitment were directed less by internal needs assessments and standardized testing than they were by the political machine. (Even today, it is not hard to find department veterans who remember a time when the surest way to gain a police job in Albany was to contact one’s ward leader.) This particular form of strong political influence subsided when Corning died in 1983, but at that point a new form of political influence began to dominate personnel decisions, namely, the massive downsizing of the Whalen administration, which saw hiring stop cold for eight years, promotions slow to a crawl, and total staffing drop by one-third. In any case, other administrative systems also seemed to suffer due to political influence, as functions like planning, internal budgeting, and policymaking had little place in an environment where political leaders had final say in most important decisions. The party’s opposition to unionization also had the effect of maintaining informal administration, as evidenced by the fact that formal rules governing things like assignments and discipline proliferated in the APD after the union did gain power in the late 1970s.

Further back in time, the internal affairs system also received little attention in Albany. In particular, complaints against police were widely viewed as unwelcome, and the entire criminal justice system seemed to mobilize against those who made them.8 “Twenty, thirty years ago, especially in this city, you didn’t make complaints,” one department veteran explains. Mayor Whalen sought to revamp internal affairs in 1985 when he replaced its commanding officer in response to a high-profile case that he felt had not been investigated properly, and some department veterans argue that the complaint process became much more sophisticated around that time. But others maintain that low-level complaints still tended to be deflected, since the small internal affairs unit simply did not have the time to investigate every minor incident.

4. Management
The lack of structure and coordination that came with the APD’s informal administrative systems were something of a double-edged sword to department managers. On the one hand, the lack of emphasis on strict rules and procedures meant that the personal authority of a manager or supervisor carried considerable weight, and it is perhaps for this reason that many department members remember their organization as a fairly hierarchical one. “Back then,” one department member remembers, referring to the 1970s, “a Sergeant was a Sergeant and you did what he said. You didn’t question him, and you didn’t make suggestions.” Indeed, supervisors tried to keep close watch over their subordinates: For example, officers were not supposed to contact outside agencies like code enforcement without first clearing it with their Sergeant. And until forces like unionization and civil service began to erode upper management’s power in the 1980s, APD managers (working closely with elected officials) had essentially unilateral authority to make assignments, decide policies, and choose promotions. In this sense, authority was fairly centralized in the APD during much of this period.

On the other hand, the department’s informal, craft-like flexibility made for something of an unruly organization that management occasionally had trouble controlling. For example, many department managers felt that as attrition thinned out upper management ranks, individual units tended to go their separate ways, independent of oversight, coordination, and any overarching departmental strategy. One department manager explains:

These problems were particularly acute during the night shift, when the highest-ranking officers on duty would typically be the various division Lieutenants, who sometimes had trouble agreeing who should take charge of crime scenes and other situations. Finally, beyond these questions of oversight, some department veterans argue there was simply too little mentoring by upper management. “What was frustrating is when as a new supervisor . . . . you were just constantly bombarded with decisions and you weren’t necessarily sure what to do,” one department member remembers, going on to explain that the lack of upper management presence exacerbated the problem by leaving supervisors to their own devices. Thus in this sense, management was fairly decentralized in this period, leaving officers, first-line supervisors, or at least division Lieutenants with important decisions—to the point that some of them felt that they were overburdened with authority.


The growing national discourse about community policing began to touch Albany in 1991, when Mayor Thomas Whalen attended a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting on the topic and was prompted to direct then-Police Chief John Dale to implement it in the APD. Dale’s staff spent three months studying community policing efforts in other cities, and the Chief then announced plans to start up an outreach unit that would partly re-create the popular foot patrols that Whalen had abolished a few years earlier (residents in those neighborhoods had repeatedly complained that they wanted their stations back after Whalen closed them in 1986). This time, however, the effort would not involve physically opening up new police stations to which a large number of officers reported: Instead, the APD would assign eight officers total to four relatively small “quarters” in each of the Arbor Hill and South End neighborhoods, with a mandate to broaden their role beyond traditional police work. “I want the officers to be able to get on the telephone and call an individual to take action, not go through the red tape,” Dale explained to a newspaper reporter at the time. “[An officer might say] ‘I have a house that needs to be boarded up, I have a mother here who doesn’t have any food, you’ve got to help her.”9 Dale especially hoped that that the officers would build rapport with residents in these neighborhoods and thereby reduce the historic mistrust that had existed in Albany’s African-American community, telling a newspaper reporter, “My internal affairs department shouldn’t have much work if this works.”10
The foot patrols were apparently popular in the city, and some residents insisted that their community policing officers had helped clear out the most egregious drug markets in their neighborhoods.11 But many in the APD felt that the program represented a superficial commitment to community policing. One explains:

Others concur that in this incarnation, the outreach unit was even more isolated from the rest of the department than the APD’s other special units. The problem was not just that this version of “community policing” left most Albany officers untouched, but also that the unit itself sometimes did not get needed support. Then-Sergeant Arthur Phinney, who commanded the outreach officers for a year, reports that his team made some significant accomplishments but that at times he felt constrained by wider organizational issues:

The problem, perhaps, was that longstanding disagreements with Whalen made police less than enthusiastic about carrying his newest program forward: Patrol officers opposed the effort through their union, and when Dale advertised the position for a Sergeant who would head up the new outreach unit, no one applied for the job, forcing the Chief to fill it by inverse seniority. Some observers suggested that the union was politically-motivated, in that it was geared to oppose anything proposed by Whalen. But union leaders argued that they had serious substantive disagreements with this particular proposal, maintaining that too few officers were being committed, that the target areas needed to be “cleared out” with sweeps before foot officers took to the beat, and that a heavy load of traditional police work was diverting the officers from the job they were supposed to be doing.

1. A New Mayor and a New Push for Community Policing
Community policing thereby sputtered along slowly in Albany for about three years until 1994, when a new Mayor brought not only a broader vision for the effort, but also, and perhaps more important, greater credibility with the rank-and-file. That Mayor was a man named Jerry Jennings, an Albany alderman for thirteen years who had long stood up for police interests against Whalen’s budget cuts. Community policing had a direct connection to at least one of these battles, as Jennings joined one other alderman to oppose the Mayor when he shut down the Arbor Hill and South End substations. Jennings did not represent either ward at the time, but he explains that as a school administrator (a position he had held since the 1970s), he “understood the importance” of these units, which he felt did an excellent job of holding the line against growing crime problems. Moreover, when Whalen began pushing his new version of the outreach unit in 1991, Jennings felt that the efforts left much room for improvement. “The community was crying for more,” he maintains.

Public safety was not the only area in which Jennings clashed with Whalen: Long something of a dissident who had insisted on the Common Council’s independence, Jennings alienated the party mainstream and became a pariah to many Democratic stalwarts. For example, when he sought to defend his alderman’s position in 1989 elections, the party not only failed to endorse him, but it actively worked to disqualify his Democratic primary petition, forcing Jennings first to run a write-in campaign, and then, when he lost that campaign by seven votes, to run as an independent in the general election (which he won).

This history poised Jennings as a maverick candidate for mayor, and he found himself running against a well-financed candidate named Harold Joyce, who had the Democratic party’s endorsement and had only recently been the party’s chairman. The contest was a highly unusual one for Albany: No one had upset the party pick for mayor since World War I, and even lesser races were still rarely contested. But Jennings gradually assembled a diverse coalition of supporters who helped him win a close Democratic primary and then an easy victory in the general election. Part of this coalition came from those who disapproved of Whalen’s reforms, including a number of Corning loyalists who felt Whalen had betrayed their patron’s legacy, as well as a few dissident ward leaders who lamented their declining clout in city decisions.12 But Jennings also had strong support from organized labor, receiving endorsements from the Albany Permanent Professional Firefighters Association, its statewide parent organization, and the New York state police union. The local Albany Police Officers’ Union declined to endorse either candidate, citing potential conflicts of interest if someone in a campaign became the target of an investigation.13 But most Albany police officers clearly supported Jennings, who they were grateful to for his opposition to Whalen, and who was close friends with then-union president James Tuffey.
Substantively, Jennings ran on a mixture of issues, but public safety was among his most prominent themes. “Crime was a major concern as I walked the neighborhoods, talked to people, and tried to become Mayor of the city,” Jennings explains. “And it’s something that we quickly focused on.”14 Jennings saw public safety as part of the larger issue of quality of life, which he considered indispensable for further economic development in the city. At the same time, Jennings sought to build “community trust” in the police, primarily by increasing their visibility. “You only do that [build trust] by maximizing the exposure of the men and women in the department,” Jennings explains.

In contrast with his opponent, who intended to commission a professional management study to make recommendations about the APD because he felt “it’s not the mayor’s job to run the police department,” Jennings laid out a fairly specific plan, arguing that a management study would be a waste of money that could better be spent on manpower. Three proposals stood out in Jennings’s plan: First, he intended to add 25 officers as a way to increase patrols in the city. Second, he intended to restructure the department’s management team by adding two new Assistant Chief positions and dividing accountability among them, by filling the long-vacant Deputy Chief slot, and by adding two “non-union” commanders who would ensure loyal, 24-hour supervision. (At the time, the highest rank working nights was a Lieutenant, and the most important supervisors during days were Captains. Both ranks belonged to the same union, and Jennings and others felt this situation created a conflict. “That doesn’t work,” Jennings told an audience at the time. “Where’s the allegiance?”) Finally, Jennings wanted to implement community policing department-wide, expanding foot patrols and creating a special unit focused on crime hot spots in the process. Jennings estimated his plan’s cost at $1 Million, but he felt that the money could be raised by cuts in other areas (including reductions in overtime expenses within the police department) or, in a pinch, by raising taxes. “It’s a matter of priorities,” Jennings told the crowd assembled to hear his proposal.15

Robert Grebert and the Vision for Community Policing
Jennings wasted no time carrying out his proposals for the police department, filling the vacant Deputy Chief’s position in his first week on the job. The man he appointed was a 42-year-old Lieutenant named Robert Grebert, who had started as a patrolman in the APD 20 years before and had served in the old neighborhood outreach units in the 1970s. In fact, Jennings cited that experience, together with Grebert’s strong educational background, in his decision to appoint the Albany Lieutenant to the APD’s number 2 slot.16 In any event, department insiders had for some time suspected that Jennings would appoint Grebert to the position, as he had been friendly with the mayoral candidate for a while and, together with union president Tuffey, he had apparently helped Jennings develop his strategy for the police department.

Grebert received a broad mandate for reform from Jennings, including scattered administrative issues like bringing overtime under control and reining in the APD’s special investigations unit. But Grebert’s central charge was clearly to work with Chief Dale to expand the APD’s community policing program. Indeed, Grebert remembers that if anything, Jennings’s initial resolve to put community policing in place struck him as too ambitious:

Grebert also felt that the department simply was not ready to embark on the effort immediately: He himself was among those most knowledgeable about community policing in the department, but he had only been exposed to it tangentially. (His first exposure came during a session at the FBI Academy in 1989, a period when many in the law enforcement community were beginning to question the so-called “professional model” of policing and looking for alternatives. He had since followed its development in the literature and learned about it from colleagues in his role as an adjunct faculty member at two local colleges.) As a result, he received support to spend some time at Michigan State University’s Center for Community Policing, where he was joined by another APD member; and a number of high-level APD administrators attended further training locally and through the Department of Justice’s Community Policing Consortium.

Grebert took away from this experience a better sense of what community policing entailed. “I [was] at least beginning to get my own handle on some of the concepts,” he remembers. Grebert particularly became convinced about the importance of giving officers a sense of responsibility for the areas they patrolled—something he felt the current assignment system did not accomplish.

Equally important, however, was convincing officers to pay attention to the full range of problems that arose in their beats—not just serious crime. Grebert explains the importance of this idea with a reference to the New York City Police Department, which at the time was beginning to carry out its now-famous focus on quality of life issues.

Grebert’s early forays into the community, which served to announce the department’s plans, confirmed that this focus made sense:

This focus would grow even stronger over time as it dovetailed with a citywide effort led by Jennings to improve quality of life in the city.

The First Plan
Grebert sought to flesh out this vision by crafting a long-range plan, one that would lay out the specific reforms needed to make this version of community policing a reality. To be sure, the newly-minted Deputy Chief was realistic enough to recognize that Albany politics could easily overwhelm a naïve and overly ambitious plan; he explains:

Nevertheless, Grebert apparently felt that it was possible and helpful to lay out some sense of the direction that community policing would entail, even if it were not a detailed “five year plan” that programmed every element of reform.

To that end, Grebert put together a “transition team” made up of fifteen officers from different parts of the department, asking each to outline necessary changes that would orient their unit towards community policing. (At the time, some criticized the planning effort for failing to involve the community, but Grebert insists that the group met with Neighborhood Associations, and in any case he was happy with the results.) Some of the team members came with Grebert to local seminars on the subject, and all reviewed the literature collected from these events and Michigan State.

The document that emerged in the fall of 1994 laid out an ambitious plan to restructure the entire Albany Police Department. Patrol would undergo the biggest changes: The department’s two divisions would give way to six geographic sectors, and officers would have constant assignments to a particular sector until they bid into a new one. This arrangement, the planners hoped, would not only provide the sense of ownership that Grebert viewed as crucial, but it would also create teams of officers who could meet regularly to discuss troublespots in their areas.

The sector cars would be supplemented by 20 zones of foot patrol officers that were drawn, according to Grebert, according to “unofficial neighborhood boundaries” in those areas where foot patrol seemed appropriate (Grebert explained this decision to a newspaper reporter by saying, “In areas where the social life is in the family room or the backyard pool, foot patrol doesn’t work. In areas where the social life happens on the street corner and the porch, foot patrol is the ticket.”19) In his eyes, foot patrol had always been a valuable tool, and he looked forward to bringing it back to Albany. “I’ve always been a believer in foot patrol,” he explains.

Each zone was to be staffed with a single officer who would serve as “an ombudsman of positive change in the neighborhoods he patrols.” With flexible schedules and minimal 911 responsibilities, these officers would have ample opportunity to get to know their assigned communities and the conditions that most concerned them. The plan made a special effort to clarify the scope of concerns that these officers might encounter:

Finally, the plan particularly encouraged foot patrol officers to access other city agencies for help dealing with these problems, calling for the department to authorize them to make the necessary contacts. The foot patrol officers would be managed by a Lieutenant (who would in turn report directly to “a person above the rank of Captain who has the responsibility of overseeing Community Policing”), but he would act more as their support staff than their supervisor, helping the officers by following up on their requests to other agencies and departmental units, bringing serious crimes on their beats to their attention, and maintaining files on neighborhood and business groups.

Other units would undergo less dramatic transformations, but all were affected in some way. Detectives, for example, would for the most part begin assigning cases by sector rather than by incident type, allowing them to get a better overall picture of crime patterns in individual neighborhoods. (The main exceptions were illegalities like white collar crime, which was felt to have a citywide rather than a neighborhood character—for example, these criminals often committed crimes at banks far away from their own neighborhoods.) The Administrative Services Bureau, charged with jobs like evaluation of the entire effort, would be expanded by three positions, including two in the training division, which would see its duties grow exponentially: Not only would the community policing effort demand significant training for all staff at its inception, but the department would also have to revise its curriculum for recruits, and it would need to train volunteers to perform outreach duties. Finally, the plan gave all units a mandate for improved coordination, calling, for example, for SIU to include foot patrol officers in drug raids.

In the deliberations that underlay the report and the reactions to it when it was released, a few areas of controversy turned up. First of all, while the report proposed that the foot patrol officers would walk one-man beats, officers themselves insisted that many areas were too dangerous for that; as a compromise, the plan allowed some officers in adjacent zones to walk together. Second and more important were disagreements about how to fill new assignments like the foot beats: Management wanted to use the so-called review board process, which governed special assignments like detectives or the traffic unit and gave the Chief significant say in who got particular jobs. The union, however, insisted that the positions should be filled through the seniority-based bid system. Despite its misgivings, management conceded to officer demands on this issue, and in return the union agreed to the proposed flexibility in the foot patrol officers’ hours.20 (The existing union contract required fixed schedules for officers, but the union agreed to make an exception for the foot patrol officers, who would be allowed to flex their own schedules with supervisory approval, and who would sometimes be ordered to work different hours when the need arose.)

2. A New Chief for Albany
Before the new effort could make much headway, dissent broke out in the department after Chief Dale’s February, 1995 announcement that he would retire, explaining only that he was “in the 37th year in my profession, and when it’s time to go, you know it.”21 The problem was Jennings’s choice for a replacement—State Police Sergeant Kevin Tuffey, brother of the department’s recently-departed union president, and a long-time friend of the Mayor’s.
Union leaders were up in arms about the choice even before Jennings formally announced it (like Dale’s retirement, the appointment of Tuffey had been rumored for months). Albany had not made an outsider Police Chief in over a hundred years, and the Civil Service Commission—prompted by Jennings and opposed by the police union—had only made it possible to do so a few months earlier, adding language to the position’s job requirements that would allow candidates to have “equivalent experience in a municipal or State Police unit within the state of New York.” In any case, union leaders accused Jennings of cronyism for appointing his long-time friend, and they insisted that Deputy Chief Grebert was the most qualified man for the position. “I don’t think Kevin Tuffey is up to the job,” then-union president and APD Detective James Galante told a Times-Union reporter at the time. “He has no urban policing experience, [and] I don’t feel that [he] has a real feel for the goings-on in the city of Albany. I believe the people we have are more qualified and experienced and educated.”22 Regardless of Tuffey’s qualifications, union leaders and others (including two Common Council members) criticized the fact that there would be no formal search process at all for the important post.

When Jennings finally made the appointment official in a March, 1995 press release, he defended his choice of Tuffey as someone who would bring “loyal, progressive leadership” to the APD, insisting that he selected Tuffey “not because I am his friend or because I do not recognize the talent that exists within the Albany Police Department, but because he shares my vision for the future of the department and he has the experience, energy, and qualifications to implement it.”23 “As an elected official, you go with your gut, and I went with my gut,” Jennings explains of the appointment today. “I was confident that he would be forthright and up front with me, and tell me, ‘You’re wrong. You’re right.’. . . . I went with someone that I was confident in, that would be someone that would work with the present police structure and change it if appropriate.” Jennings also points to Tuffey’s experience with the State Police, which had given him experience in its own fledgling community policing program, and which had helped him to develop strong connections in regional law enforcement circles.
Local media at the time made much of the fact that Tuffey and Jennings were close friends, and some commentators suggested that Jennings appointed him for that reason—a suggestion that Jennings rejects. But while the media interpreted the friendship through the lens of “cronyism,” Tuffey argues that his close association with the Mayor meant that the two shared a view about the challenges facing law enforcement. “The Mayor and I have been friends for a long time,” Tuffey explains. “So we would always sit and talk about visions, and about where we thought the Police Department should go, and what I thought. And we would sit and talk for hours.” Tuffey remembers several recurrent themes in these discussions, including the importance of training in police work and what he saw as problems with the APD’s command structure. But at the broadest level, he simply tried to convey his underlying convictions about policing:

This idea was particularly important for his conception of community policing, which he and Jennings also discussed in their conversations. “Community policing is—again, I mean call it community policing, call it what you want: All it is just doing regular, honest, basic police work,” Tuffey explains. For example, for Tuffey, foot patrol is “getting back in touch with the community.”

Thus over the course of years of conversations like these—including discussions about Jennings’s plans to run for mayor— the two men came to share important aspects of their vision for the APD. Moreover, beyond the question of personal loyalty came from a long-time friendship, Tuffey recognized that it was his job to carry out the Mayor’s vision: “If I’m not following his philosophy, you know what? I’m not going to be here,” Tuffey explains. “Whether he and I were personal friends, or whether he just hired me, I will tell you the exact same thing.”24

Dealing with the Backlash
Nevertheless, many APD officers still resented the choice of Tuffey for police Chief, and it began to sour the once-amiable relationship between police and the Mayor. That relationship had already begun to deteriorate a few weeks before Dale’s retirement because of continued tensions around staffing issues: Union leaders argued that Jennings had been dragging his feet on filling promotions, and they were become impatient about the pace at which he was fulfilling his campaign promise to put 25 new officers on the street (Jennings attributed the delay to unanticipated budgetary problems; the new hires had been chosen in 1994, but some had not yet entered training because of concerns about funding them). The Tuffey appointment only exacerbated the situation, leading the union to pull its ads from Jennings’s weekly radio show and causing its president to threaten that he would withdraw support from the Mayor in his 1997 re-election bid.

Tuffey himself pointedly stayed out of the fray, telling a reporter he didn’t “have any problem” with the criticisms being levelled against him by the union and explaining, “they have to do what they have to do, and I’ll do what I have to do.”25 Perhaps because of this attitude, union leaders increasingly qualified their attacks in kind, saying that they were not so much personally opposed to Tuffey as they were upset with Jennings for his methods. Still, sentiment regarding the new Chief was guarded at best: Many police officers refused to attend Tuffey’s swearing-in ceremony, and a wishful group of detectives hosted a “retirement party” for the Chief one month into his tenure.26 Thus as he entered the APD in the middle of an organizational change effort, Tuffey faced a clear need to build support for his leadership.

The new Chief was able to capitalize on the fact that he was not entirely the “outsider” that union officials had pegged him as. His brother, a long-time union leader and a 19-year veteran of the force, was the most obvious example of Tuffey’s ties to Albany. Indeed, the Tuffey family had a history with the department, as the two brothers’ uncle had been Albany’s Police Chief from 1953 to 1968, and both of their grandfathers had worked for the APD. (As Chief, Tuffey keeps photographs of these relatives on his office wall and an old service record for the department in his desk, as if to remind department members how his genealogy connects him to Albany.) Finally, outside of his family ties, since Tuffey had grown up in the city and associated with law enforcement circles, he had a few friends and colleagues in the department (for example, he and Grebert had occasionally run together before Tuffey came to the APD). All of these ties together meant that Tuffey was not without influential allies in the APD, and at the very least he was able to get a sense of the department’s goings-on more quickly than a complete outsider would have.

More substantively, officers got some reassurance about their new Chief when he made a few long-sought staffing decisions that filled six vacant promotional slots and brought twelve new hires onto the force. In part these moves helped simply by addressing what had been the burning issue with the police union, which simply wanted to see these opportunities for its members made real. But Tuffey argues more generally that this wave of promotions and those that followed over the years helped him to gradually build a core of loyal supporters. “I think by everybody knowing that they have their position because I recommend them to the Mayor, it helps a lot,” Tuffey explains. “That’s how you develop your loyalty and trust.” Indeed, many department members—particularly those at high levels—openly acknowledge an obligation to follow Tuffey’s lead that stems from the positions they have been given in the department.
But some department members insist that the most important factor in neutralizing the “Chief Tuffey” issue was a perception that Grebert was still making most of the APD’s important decisions at first. Tuffey himself hardly discouraged this view: When a newspaper reporter asked him about his inexperience in urban policing (the implication being that he did not understand Albany), Tuffey answered: “The architect of that plan [the department’s community policing plan described above], or one of the architects, was Deputy Chief Grebert. Deputy Chief Grebert’s still going to be there. So as for my lack of knowledge of the inner workings of the city of Albany Police Department and urban policing, he’ll be there to assist me.”27 In any case, Tuffey had no plans to upend the plans the department had recently put together, except that he wanted to beef up departmental training even more, and unlike Grebert, he wanted to physically open up at least one new substation to advance community policing.

In any case, while many officers still see Tuffey’s appointment as evidence of cronyism in the city of Albany, outright opposition to the Chief died down over time to the point that he became at least as well-accepted as his predecessor. Jennings’s reputation, too, rebounded from its low point at the time when he appointed Tuffey—largely, union members explained, because promotions and staffing did begin to increase under the new Chief, even if the total force never reached the promised 345. In any case, Jennings never became a bête noire for the police union, which eventually endorsed him in his bid for re-election in 1997.

3. Reforming the APD
The Tuffey appointment and the Grebert plan laid the two central foundations of the reforms that would follow. On the one hand, the plan Grebert spearheaded set the basic course for organizational change in the Albany Police Department—and indeed it had already begun to do so by the time Tuffey took over the Chief’s job. On the other hand, Tuffey brought a strong commitment to the Mayor and his vision for Albany, and these forces would elaborate, modify, or strengthen some elements of the initial plans.

Consolidating Authority
Tuffey’s first elaboration of the community policing plan came barely three months after he took office, when the new Chief called a group of a high-level department members together to develop a plan to reorganize department management. This second plan was not an attempt to revise the community policing blueprint that Grebert had spearheaded: Instead it helped complete unfinished elements of that blueprint, notably its vague but significant exhortation to establish “a command structure . . . that clearly defines duties and outlines the chain of command” (p. 15).

The team that examined these issues consisted of a half-dozen APD managers who would eventually become Tuffey’s command staff. As one of the participants remembers their meetings, the group tried to understand and improve upon the department’s organizational structure.

The main conclusion that emerged from these sessions was that the department needed to restructure upper management essentially along the lines that Jennings had laid out in his campaign platform: First, the APD would add two assistant Chief positions to bring the total to four, dividing responsibility among them for patrol, investigations, administration, and special operations (which included things like the K-9 unit and the mounted patrols). Second, the department would create three new appointed positions with the rank of Commander. Two of these non-unionized positions would oversee all department operations after 5 P.M., and the third would oversee the communications unit.

A number of goals underlay the new command staff positions. One was simply to provide more high-level management, which many felt had declined too far in recent years: During the Whalen era of little hiring and few promotions, the number of APD Captains had fallen from 10 in the late 1970s to 2 by 1995, and many blamed the problems of coordination and oversight—particularly during the night shift and in the narcotics unit—on the lack of high-level management. “There was lack of hierarchy to give those mid-managers their direction,” one participant in the planning sessions explains. “You need the pyramid effect, [where] the Chief is at the top and then it gets wider as it goes down. What we found was there was really no upper pyramid—it kind of flattened off.” Jennings too agreed with this diagnosis, and he argues that the lack of upper management was particularly inappropriate in Albany because of its retirement system: “When you have twenty year retirement,” he explains, referring to the number of years officers must work in Albany before they are eligible for their full pension, “you end up having a very young police department [that] necessitates a lot of supervision, or good strong supervision.”

But beyond this somewhat abstract desire for “more management,” there was a more specific intention to shore up the authority of the Chief’s office compared to the union. Union power was a comparatively recent force in Albany, where city hall and the Democratic party had long resisted organized labor. But after the initial unionization of police officers in the mid-1970s, other ranks in the department quickly followed suit, and by 1994, the only non-union positions left were the Chief’s job, two Assistant Chiefs, and a vacant Deputy Chief position. Just as Jennings had argued during his 1993 campaign, the planning group felt that this situation undermined effective management. “There were situations where decisions were made by the ranking officer on duty that clearly benefited the union position rather than the department’s agenda,” one APD manager explains. Another argues that union presence on the command staff was undermining the authority of the Chief’s office, pointing out that a Captain who also worked as a union official was essentially “wearing two hats” (an idea department managers and city officials use often when justifying the changes they made).28 He gives this hypothetical example of the problems that arrangement led to:

Participants in the planning sessions hoped that new command positions would help solve this problem for them. “That’s the reason for these [new] ranks,” one explains. “He [Tuffey] wanted them on board with the command staff, not on board with the union.”

Finally, Grebert agreed with the need for more non-union command staff positions, but he also saw the reorganization as an opportunity to rationalize department management. “When I was in grad school,” Grebert explains, “one of [my professor’s] things was that what makes police organizations so complex—and it always stuck with me—is that they have to be organized on three separate dimensions: Task, geography, and the time of the day.” Community policing had already begun to entrench geography as an organizing principle, and the reorganization offered a chance to firm up organization by task and time:

Grebert concedes that these goals came somewhat at the expense of geographic focus: For example, by putting shift-based commanders on duty during the night and evening shifts, the department essentially re-centralized authority not just from the six recently-created “sectors,” but even from the two divisions that had existed for years.29

In any case, the six sectors were still intended to have some degree of autonomy, and in the near future the department would take further steps towards decentralization.

Putting the Plan in Place
At the time, the most controversial aspect of the plan had nothing to do with decentralization and everything to do with the question of union power. “It’s classic union busting at its best,” union president Leonard Crouch said of the plan to a Times-Union reporter. Crouch went on to lambaste the administration’s tactics in putting the plan through, insisting that the Chief’s office shut the union out of decisionmaking about the reorganization and that it even tried to hide the reforms it was making—to the point that he himself did not learn of the new positions until he ran across an entry in the newspaper’s legal notices that advertised the required public hearing for the new positions, which the Civil Service Commission had to approve. “I don’t like reading it in the newspaper first,” Crouch explained. “This is back to where we were”—an apparent reference to the poor relationship the police union had with Mayor Whalen.30

Charges of “union busting” aside, many in the APD simply disliked having so many appointed positions, and they expressed concerns about what one calls “politicization of our upper ranks.” When the plan was first announced this was simply an abstract concern about the potential for political influence over high-level promotions. But as Tuffey filled the new jobs with people who some viewed, rightly or wrongly, as part of Jennings’s “inner circle,” some of the old sentiments about cronyism re-emerged.

These objections from the union and some of the rank-and-file did not, however, derail the reorganization proposal. “They resisted,” one department manager remembers. “[But] we kind of did it by the books, according to New York State civil service law . . . So, although the unions griped about it, ultimately there was really nothing they could do about it.” The Civil Service Commission’s cooperation was obviously crucial in this process, and APD management took pains to present a clear rationale for the new positions to them (including many of the reasons already described), and the reorganization ultimately received the Commission’s endorsement.31

Different concerns arose in the political world, where some city leaders decried a plan that proposed “too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.” But here too one key ally was all that was needed: Jennings clearly approved of the proposal, which essentially reproduced a significant element of his campaign platform (which in turn apparently emerged out of discussions Jennings had had with friends and acquaintances in the policing world—including Tuffey and Grebert). In any case, the Mayor was more than willing to sign off on the roughly $100,000 price tag the plan carried.

Tuffey filled most of the new positions in January of 1996, when he appointed three Commanders and one new Assistant Chief (the second Assistant Chief would be appointed the following year). The move gave the Chief his first chance to put his own stamp on the department’s direction, and he sought to assemble a “young command staff [that was] innovative, creative, [and] that wanted to move forward,” as he puts it. The Assistant Chiefs had responsibility for reforms that (for the most part) fell under each of their assigned functional areas, and these reforms will be described below. The Commanders, however, had newer and therefore less-familiar responsibilities.

One of the first people to be appointed to this position was a 23-year veteran named David Epting, a Lieutenant at the time who had worked in patrol for most of his career. Epting remembers his charge from the Chief clearly: “He called me in and said to me, ‘I’m going to make you Commander. You’re going to run the City from five to one.’” But Epting admits that it took his subordinates some time to adjust to his new role.

Over time, Epting maintains, middle managers did get used to the new Commander role, and he believes that the new position has worked out well.

For many in the APD, this reorganization was far from a minor issue: When asked about organizational change in their department, they insist that the restructuring of upper management—not community policing or any other substantive reform—has been the most significant recent change in the Albany Police Department. Consequently, it is perhaps not surprising that the reform sparked the initial resistance it did, and that it took some time to settle in. In any case, most department members seem to have become accustomed to the new arrangement: When asked what happened to the initial concerns about creating the new positions, one department member explains, “I think it’s just an accepted fact.”

The Retirement of Robert Grebert
The reorganization helped consolidate support for reform among upper management by giving Tuffey the ability to appoint much of his own command staff. But that process did not come to completion until early 1998, when the APD and the city as a whole underwent a large-scale turnover of personnel.

Tuffey made a total of four more command staff appointments during this second wave of personnel moves, but the central APD figure in the effort was Deputy Chief Grebert. More than anyone else in the department, Grebert had been inextricably associated with community policing, which to the public, at least, was the single most prominent reform in the APD. But although top management, city officials, and community leaders all credited Grebert with making that reform possible, the Deputy Chief was becoming increasingly unpopular with his immediate superiors. “The relationship went downhill from [my first day],” Grebert says of his rapport with Jennings.

Indeed, Grebert was frequently a voice of dissent on many of Tuffey and Jennings’s initiatives, including their decision to open a substation in Arbor Hill and the Mayor’s decisions about the composition of a community advisory board.

Such simmering tensions apparently boiled over in January of 1998, when Tuffey asked for his Deputy Chief’s retirement and got it. Tuffey and other local officials refused to comment on the reasons for his request, and Jennings insisted that he had nothing to do with the decision, telling a reporter, “I’m the mayor—I’m not going to micromanage the Police Department.”32 But the refusal to comment only fed speculation, and many local observers concluded that Grebert had been ousted because he had gone overboard responding to recent allegations of police harassment. The case in question centered on a local college basketball star’s claims that two off-duty officers had handcuffed him and beaten him after a bar fight. When the officers were suspended without pay and subjected to a thorough investigation, many APD officers attributed this zeal partly to Grebert. Unpopular with the rank-and-file, and perhaps at odds over the case with Tuffey, Grebert, this theory held, had to go.

But even on the issue of discipline, Grebert’s unpopularity extended beyond this one incident, for officers and other managers alike had long complained that the Deputy Chief favored punishments that were too strong. Even more broadly, some department members explain that Grebert simply was not on board with Jennings’s and Tuffey’s vision, pointing to disagreements like his dissent on the Arbor Hill station for evidence. In an environment where loyalty was prized highly, such independence simply did not sit well: One department member explains broadly that “Grebert had to go because he wasn’t grateful to the people who made him [i.e., promoted him];” and a local political scientist commented on Grebert’s situation by saying that although there was a fine line between legitimate political influence and unacceptable meddling, it would be well within Jennings’s right to let someone who didn’t share his vision go:

Thus although a specific incident may have catalyzed Grebert’s ouster, it seems unlikely that it alone could have caused it, particularly given these much broader disagreements over the APD’s direction.

Decentralization and Problem-Solving
In any case, well before Grebert’s star had fallen, the APD began its implementation of the community policing plan he had spearheaded, and which had been handed back to him for implementation after the group that wrote it disbanded. Manpower constraints and other considerations forced Grebert to make a few changes to the plan at that stage (for example, the number of foot beats was cut from 20 to 18). But for the most part Grebert sought to implement the plan as it was.

Reforms to the patrol force were the central thrust of this community policing effort, and they divided into three distinct elements: The creation of a 6-officer directed patrol unit, creation of an 18-officer community outreach unit, the and the organization of six coherent teams defined by geography that focused the APD’s attention on individual neighborhoods. Consider the latter two reforms here.

The Community Outreach Unit
Foot patrols had a long and visible history in Albany in both the old neighborhood outreach units and in the Whalen-era community policing efforts, so it is perhaps not surprising that public attention focused most intently on that element of the APD’s reforms. For example, the many newspaper articles that announced its arrival tended to mention the directed patrol unit and the reorganization by sectors only in passing, saving most of their reflections for the foot beats.34
The foot patrol officers took their assignments in late November of 1994 after a week of training arranged by Grebert, in which officers learned about the resources other city agencies could offer to solve community problems. After that orientation, the officers took to their beats with a mandate to be visible in their assigned neighborhoods and get to know the people who frequented them—everyone from the block captains of local neighborhood associations, to area landlords and businesspeople, to those perceived to be troublemakers; and they were also expected to make contacts with city agencies like the Department of General Services, to which they could relay neighborhood concerns. The officers were freed up from most 911 responsibilities, giving them considerable time to take care of such business: In fact, as it turned out, some officers often found that they had too little work to occupy their shifts until their supervisors came up with ancillary duties—things like following up on domestic violence calls or trying to serve outstanding warrants in their zones.

Indeed, the potentially light workload, as well as the flex-time options the beat officers enjoyed, initially created something of a problem fo the outreach unit, which reportedly attracted some veteran officers for less than virtuous reasons. Management had little recourse to block bids from these officers, since it had agreed during the planning phase to assign the positions based on seniority; and supervision problems made it hard to motivate officers who simply wanted an easy assignment. As Grebert puts it.

Grebert admits that he would have preferred to have more supervision for the unit, but he explains that the department was unable to increase the number of Sergeants in the budget, so it had to make do with one outreach supervisor. In any case, he and others insist that most outreach officers took to their jobs with enthusiasm, and that most of those who did not were eventually “weeded out” through the disciplinary process: Thus the result, after some fine-tuning at the start of the program, was a good group of officers who the department has been satisfied with. Many community members were also happy with the outreach program, feeling that the officers had markedly improved APD visibility and begun to tackle longstanding problems in their areas. A few neighborhoods complained that their officers were not visible and that they tended to keep banker’s hours, but for the most part the outreach program received strong praise from Albany residents.

Bringing a Neighborhood Focus to the Patrol Force
Less widely-noticed by the public were the APD’s reforms in the rest of its patrol force, where officers were assigned to six geographically-defined “sectors” in order to create viable teams for problem-solving and instill a sense of ownership over particular neighborhoods.

The APD kicked off the effort with directions to its commanding officers about how to form the six sector teams and some suggestions for how to run them. At first officers received no direct training about how their jobs would change: It was simply expected that neighborhood assignments would somehow lead to ownership and problem-solving. As Grebert explains it, the main change at this stage was in holding periodic team meetings in each sector for everyone assigned to that area, including cruiser officers, the foot patrol officers, and investigators (most units within the detective division began assigning their cases by sector, and special units like SIU were directed to designate a liaison for each sector). On occasion, some sectors also invited community members, and others invited representatives from neighboring police agencies to help deal with problems crossed jurisdictional boundaries. “That sort of thing was never done before,” Grebert explains of the meetings.

The monthly team meetings turned out to be fairly informal events (one department member describes them as “brainstorming sessions”). For the most part they simply focused officers’ attention on the areas identified by the group as troublespots along the model of what other police agencies refer to as “directed patrol.” For example, in a Spring meeting, Sergeants might remind officers that they could expect activity to increase in a sector park as the summer approached, and that they should therefore make a particular effort to drive past it and enforce quality-of-life laws. The Sergeants who ran the meetings summarized their proceedings in an interdepartmental correspondence to the Chief, focusing on new issues raised and on the progress made in dealing with older problems.

In a few cases, sector teams went beyond the directed patrol model to craft less traditional responses to area problems. For example, a number of department members mentioned one sector’s novel attempt to deal with the problem of false robbery alarms from local convenience stores. “We were having problems with the stores that were open on the midnight to 8:00 tour, [which] were obviously like little mom and pop [stores],” explains then-Sergeant Lauren Signer of the A sector’s midnight shift. “They would hit their panic alarm for a lot of things, and we’d get there and the people would just not be able to communicate with us.” Officers were particularly concerned with a Clinton Avenue store that, as they later discovered, had generated 117 calls for service in the first five months of the year. Assembled for their monthly sector meeting in June of 1995, the A sector officers on the midnight shift identified two major problems with the store: First of all, employees were apparently treating the panic alarm as an all-purpose way to summon the police, and officers reported being called to the scene for relatively minor suspicious person calls; in police eyes, the alarm was to be reserved for serious incidents, and when they got a call from it, they assumed that a robbery was in progress. The second problem was simply that responding officers had trouble communicating with employees, for the store was owned and operated by recent immigrants from Afghanistan who did not speak English very fluently. Moreover, some APD officers felt that the store owners simply were not cooperative when they did show up to investigate incidents.

The problem fed in to a larger team project to assign “liaisons” to various community institutions, including hotels, neighborhood bars, and convenience stores. Responsibility for the Clinton Avenue store fell to Officer Michael Romano, who had taken the assignment as convenience store liaison. After discussions within the team about how to handle the problem, Romano began meeting with the owners during his regular patrol in order to establish better communication. The APD officer used these encounters to ask the owners what safety concerns they had, to suggest possible ways to manage them (including controlling the number of people allowed in the store at one time), and to explain to them when and when not to use the panic alarm. Since Romano was also the liaison to all other area convenience stores, he began applying the same techniques in other locations, making a particular effort to educate store employees on the proper use of their panic alarms.

By late fall the team began to feel that the Clinton Avenue store’s problems in particular were subsiding, as officers reported fewer false alarms and better cooperation when they responded to calls. As Romano’s supervisor, Signer decided to verify the progress statistically, and with Grebert’s help she was able to get call data on this particular store over time. In the department’s eyes, the statistics showed a clear improvement: In the five months immediately before the team established its liaison, the Clinton Avenue market had made 117 calls for service, but in the next six months it made only 78; and unfounded calls fell from 15 to 8 over the same period. It was not feasible to do the same analysis for all the sector’s convenience stores, and Signer concedes that the analysis did not constitute a full-blown study of the liaison program’s impact. But it provided the department with rare statistical evidence of community policing’s success, which otherwise had been restricted to anecdotes.

The team went on to develop its other liaison programs as well, and Signer made a special effort to document her officers’ projects, going so far as to publish a regular newsletter that reported sector activities and that printed the minutes of its meetings. All of these projects pushed the envelope of Albany’s young community policing program at the time: The sector was the only one to turn informal pressure to “get to know the community” into a formal liaison program, and Signer paid much more attention to documentation than most teams.

In developing the A sector’s community policing program along these lines, Signer admits that high-level support was crucial, and happenstance played an important role in helping her to get it. A newly-promoted Sergeant at the time, Signer had recently completed her Master’s degree in criminal justice at SUNY Albany on a competitive scholarship for police officers. While she was away from the department attending school, her contact in the APD had been Grebert, and the two began to talk frequently about community policing. “I had that open communication with him that in some organizations you shouldn’t have, because you’re violating the chain of command,” Signer explains.

The convenience store liaison was itself an example of this process, as traditionally officers had been discouraged from socializing with store owners. “Sometimes people think it is an invitation to corruption because you don’t want the officers to hang around these businesses,” Signer explains. But Grebert was quick to approve of the idea:

Moreover, when Signer decided to evaluate the project statistically, Grebert was able to help her expedite the data request by telling the administrative services division to expect her call. (At the time, the APD did not have anyone assigned full-time to crime analysis, and its computer system did not make it particularly easy to process the sort of request Signer was making.) Indeed, on several occasions Grebert was able to help the team get needed resources, including things as simple as a file cabinet for the team’s problem-solving records, as well as larger expenses like a color printer for the sector newsletter. Signer points out that these are “things that normally take a long time [in] organizations,” but she and her officers were able to get them done quickly by showing upper management what they were trying to accomplish.

Not all of Signer’s officers were enthusiastic about the many projects her team embarked upon, and some viewed her interest in their work as “micromanaging.” But she received recognition for her efforts from the department’s top management, and she was even able to get Tuffey and Grebert to attend one of her team’s 6 A.M. sector meetings. “People were totally astounded,” Signer explains of the two Chiefs’ arrival. “The fact that they physically came and showed that they thought this was important enough to put on their sweat suits and drag their butts out of bed to come to a meeting at 6:00 o’clock in the morning was tremendous support. It legitimizes what you’re trying to do.”

Signer found the experience immensely rewarding, and she attributes the team’s success not just to help from Grebert, but also to the freedom she was afforded by her Lieutenant. “I had a great Lieutenant who, while not convinced that community policing was necessarily the way to go, saw that the things that we were trying as a team, did, in fact, meet with law enforcement goals,” she explains.

Some of the APD’s other teams had similar experiences, in that they were able to generate new ideas for handling problems in team meetings, and they had the flexibility they needed to carry those ideas out. But many department members also report some difficulties with the fledgling community policing effort, and it is useful to examine how the department responded to them.

Particularly at the outset, many officers simply felt that they had not been sufficiently informed about what community policing meant for their jobs. “Community policing was a phrase that many people didn’t understand,” one APD manager concedes, going on to explain that in response, the department decided to offer a wave of in-service training for officers on community policing and related topics, such as cultural diversity. The department took particular care to give these sessions a community focus, bringing in neighborhood leaders and representatives from other community groups to one forum in order to introduce them to sector officers and to give a sense of what community concerns were. But the main message the training sessions tried to convey was that sector officers should look behind the incidents they responded to for underlying problems, and that they should feel authorized to develop solutions on their own—including making contacts with other divisions and other agencies. Indeed, describing the resources that other agencies could offer was an important part of the training sessions.

Many department members report that these training sessions and growing experience with the new style helped diffuse community policing ideas through the force, but most also maintain that there is more work to be done, and they concede that the training efforts got “mixed reviews.” As one department manager puts it:

Still other department members reportedly rejected community policing at a more fundamental level. For example, though Grebert insists that after the first year many officers did begin to develop a sense of ownership for their areas, he admits that the department is “still a long way from [having] complete acceptance of the concept,” and he attributes this problem to some officers’ preconceived notions that community policing is “soft.” “I wish we had used any other expression rather than ‘community policing,’ because ‘community’ is a soft word,” Grebert explains. “Cops are tough guys . . . . If we called it ‘Assertive Policing’ or something they all would have jumped on board.” Other officers did not necessarily reject the message entirely, but neither did they completely assimilate it: As one department manager puts it, officers were “pretty accurate in identifying law enforcement-related problems,” but they had more difficulty coming up with solutions other than patrol and arrest. Finally, a number of officers and Sergeants report that there was uneven support for community policing at higher levels as well, as some squad Lieutenants simply did not see the need for change. “It was like, ‘Do it this way because I’m the Lieutenant. This is the way we’ve always done it,’” one department member recalls.

Management was not unprepared for such reactions, and it tried to get the message out to officers to be patient: “We tried to tell them that you don’t go from here to there without doing some transitional work in between,” one APD manager explains. In particular, upper management often reiterated the idea that it would take a generation to fully implement community policing, in order, as one puts it, “to get rid of the older guys that are used to doing it a certain way.”

In the meantime, the department continually revised its in-service training to meet the needs upper management identified. It did not, however, decide to repeat the entire community policing curriculum, despite the desires for some department members to do so. For different reasons, many APD managers explain that staffing limitations partly underlay this decision: First of all, given the vagaries of the police workload, management felt that it was difficult to schedule the entire department for training on any given week. As it was, the APD—like most police departments—found it logistically difficult to give large groups of officers their yearly in-service training, and it often needed to shift work hours and use other officers as backfill to do so. So instead of repeating the training en masse, the department opted to repeat key sections of the original community policing curriculum—like problem-solving and interagency service referral—as part of its standard in-service training, which came to at least 40 hours a year per officer (including firearms training).35 Second, the training division itself had somewhat limited manpower, as even by the time of my Spring 1998 site visit, only three officers worked for the division that covered not only training, but also research and computerization. The APD’s original community policing plan called for the addition of two new full-time training specialists to Administrative Services, and for another staffer to be added to help with other administrative functions. But in an era of tight budgets, these positions did not materialize for some time. Recently the department did expand ASB, adding two officers, a Sergeant, and two civilians in June of 1998, and in comments on a draft of this paper, one department manager expressed optimism that these new positions would help improve the APD’s ability to offer training.

In any case, some department members argue that the challenges in building support for the young community policing effort had less to do with training than they did with other administrative practices. For example, one argues that department decisionmaking has been too closed, and that the result is too little sense of ownership and understanding about the reforms:

Others argue that the zone meetings were and are too “unwieldy” to focus attention on problems effectively, and the lack of administrative systems to document and track problems may have contributed to this sense. Finally, important secondary reforms did not always go off as planned. For example, although the community policing plan called for a close relationship between SIU investigators and the sectors (particularly community outreach officers in the zones), many department members report that SIU still rarely notifies patrol officers when they execute search warrants in their neighborhoods—a practice that the plan explicitly encouraged. (In fact, one officer goes so far as to say that “the main [problem] with community policing is that this relationship with the special units isn’t there.”) On the other side, some special units maintain that sector teams sometimes fail to notify them about their team meetings even though they are supposed to attend.

Monitoring Change
In any case, department managers have not always been able to tell for certain whether or not community policing is “working” in the city. Arrest data for low-level offenses did seem to show that officers were beginning to take quality-of-life problems more seriously—as described below, that element of community policing seems to have made the most progress in Albany. But without any type of record keeping on neighborhood problem-solving or any new forms of performance measurement, it has been difficult for department managers to tell for certain how well other aspects of community policing—such as problem-solving and the development of community trust—have taken hold in the city.36

To be sure, when asked how they know whether or not community policing is both accepted and effective in the city, many APD managers are able to point to an overall decline in the city’s crime rates since 1994, when community policing began in earnest. But Grebert, at least, concedes that these aggregate trends are somewhat ambiguous: “It was happening all over the country,” he explains, referring to the decline in crime rates Albany began to experience at the time, and admitting that “people talk about demographics and there being that crack cocaine epidemic [as explanations of crime trends].” (Some historical perspective is helpful here, for the city’s recent drop in crime reversed the trend that immediately preceded it: Index crimes gradually rose from 6,800 per 100,000 residents in 1990 to 8,600 by their peak in 1994, and then they fell again to 7,700 by 1996.) But Grebert insists that community policing may have had something to do with Albany’s trends, continuing his concession to the possibility of other explanations by saying: “Other people do talk about police tactics as being part of that movement to bring the crime rates down.” In any case, he maintains that for all the problems in untangling its cause, the drop in crime rates did convince some in the city that community policing was effective: “When that happened, more and more people said ‘Gee, maybe some of this stuff is working,’” he explains.
The absence of any alternative way to evaluate community policing did not result from a lack of interest in the subject. For example, early on in the APD’s reforms, the local newspaper called for comparisons of crime rates in foot beat areas versus car patrol areas, saying, “it will satisfy more than idle curiosity to record exactly how effective one officer on the beat is in comparison to one officer in a car. It will give the city a better idea how to spend its money and how to protect its citizens.”37 And within the department, the community policing plan itself charged the Administrative Services Bureau with “developing and implementing an evaluation system that will determine the effectiveness of the community policing plan and recommend changes to the plan.” Indeed, the department did begin to identify a few novel ways to evaluate the community policing, and in some cases it even drew up fairly elaborate plans to do so. But in the end, nothing apparently came of these ideas. For example, Grebert explains that the department had “a fairly well-developed plan” to hire interns to administer a community survey that would measure perceptions of safety and of the police department, and that he himself supported the idea. But in the end, the department did not follow through on it. So absent more formal measures, APD managers have looked to anecdotes and other indicators to get a sense of the progress of reform.

Modifications to the Plan
As implementation of the original community policing plan was taking shape, some department members and city officials began talking about ways to extend and hopefully improve it. The major effort that emerged came to be known as the “four station plan.”

That plan emerged out of a 1996 proposal to re-open or simply replace the old Arbor Hill substation, which was championed at the highest levels of city government—including both Tuffey and Jennings. “I always thought that was wrong,” Tuffey says of the decision to close Arbor Hill.

During his campaign for Mayor, Jennings had said that he did not think the police department needed to open a new station. But after hearing “loud and clear” from neighborhood residents that they wanted one,38 he eventually came around to Tuffey’s view. Today, he explains his thinking on the matter in essentially the same terms as the Chief:

The two men also saw a new substation as a way to help alleviate long-standing tensions with the largely-black Arbor Hill community, which had repeatedly complained of police harassment (most recently when state correctional officers swept the neighborhood in search of an escaped convict). “In all honesty, there’s some distrust between the minority community and the police,” Tuffey explains of Arbor Hill. “And I felt that putting a station over there [would help]. We have a community room there where people come in and use it. It’s a step to build up the trust between the community and the police. Because a lot of times all they see over there is a cop . . . making an arrest. And we have to build that trust back up again.”

Jennings announced the plan to open an Arbor Hill station in March of 1996, and while his first proposal fell through over cost considerations, a second and more modest design eventually garnered support in the Common Council. Even then some Council members expressed concerns: For example, Alderwoman Sarah Curry-Cobb, whose ward encompassed some of the neighborhoods that the new station would serve, argued that a building alone was not enough to deal with tensions in Albany’s minority communities, and she proposed further reforms designed to fill the gap. (One proposal asked the APD to offer Arbor Hill officers added training on topics like cultural sensitivity, and another asked Jennings to institute a neighborhood advisory board for the area.) Other aldermen worried that the new station would rob their own wards of police staffing, and one simply felt that the proposal was rash. “It’s not well thought out,” Alderwoman Shawn Morris told a reporter. “There isn’t a plan for this building other than to put one person on the desk. . . . Do we need a 3,500-square-foot, $400,000 building to do that?”39 All told, five Albany aldermen expressed opposition to the plan, and their votes alone would have been enough to derail it: In order to expedite the project, the city intended to sell the site to a quasi-public agency called the Albany Local Development Corporation, which was exempt from regulations like bidding requirements. But to do so it needed 12 votes on the 15-member Council.

Nevertheless, Jennings refused to compromise on the plan, and he dismissed Curry-Cobb’s proposals as an attempt to “bog this thing down with additional legislation,” specifically rejecting the idea of a neighborhood advisory council on the grounds that his citywide Police-Community Council—then nearing completion, and described in detail below—made more sense.40 Ultimately, his position prevailed: The five council members who initially opposed the substation eventually backed off, and the vote for the new substation was unanimous.

From Arbor Hill to a Four-Station Plan
Some people within the APD agreed with the dissident aldermen, arguing that Jennings and Tuffey were placing too much faith in physically opening up a station. Deputy Chief Grebert was the most prominent among them. “Albany is not that big of a city,” he argues.

Grebert eventually became resigned to the fact that the city was not going to build a new headquarters or even put money away for such a project, and given this reality he conceded that it “was not a bad idea” to put a station in Arbor Hill. But he and others still had concerns about the potential for the new station to fragment the patrol force, worrying that the need to reassign existing staff would wreak havoc with the existing pattern of patrol deployment.

These concerns eventually led Tuffey to appoint a 5-member committee headed up by Grebert to study how the new substation would affect the APD. The group’s main conclusion was that the substation should not simply be grafted on to the existing organizational structure: Instead, the department used the opportunity it presented to reorganize the patrol force completely. Physically, Arbor Hill would allow the APD to decentralize into four separate stations: The existing Division I and Division II buildings, Arbor Hill itself, and an old underutilized substation in the West end of the city—a station that had opened in the late 1970s with roughly 8 officers per shift but was now down to only one or two. Organizationally, the department would do away with the old divisions and give officers permanent assignments to the four stations, and it would reorganize management at the same time.

Lieutenants would see their roles change most dramatically, trading in their current responsibilities for squads for a new responsibility for the stations. In doing so, they would take on responsibility for handling community concerns and identifying neighborhood troublespots, thereby replacing Sergeants (who had overseen the sectors) as the department’s primary point of geographic accountability. The old temporal structure would still be superimposed over this newly-strengthened geographic logic: The night and evening Commanders would still have final say over the street during their shifts, and two of the department’s six patrol Lieutenants would take on new assignments as their assistants. But the new plan clearly sought to strengthen neighborhood focus, which it essentially pushed up in rank and therefore importance.

Grebert was still concerned that the Arbor Hill station would upend the department’s patrol deployment: Although his committee had broad scope to examine organizational roles and structure, it had to work within a fixed budget, and that constraint in turn affected the distribution of manpower. The result was that staffing for Arbor Hill was fixed by the capacity of the building that the Mayor had proposed there: “Rather than saying, ‘OK, how many officers do we need over there to staff this?’ it was built in terms of, ‘OK, here’s so much money that we have to spend over there, and for that amount of money, put there what you can,” Grebert maintains. In part, Grebert simply worried that the neighborhood would be disappointed when they found out that their new station had far fewer officers than the old neighborhood unit. But more important, he felt that the lack of staffing would make it impossible to avoid violating beat integrity: “What’s going to happen when they open it [is that] cops from the other stations will constantly be called into that neighborhood, and it will really screw up this ownership idea that we were trying to create.”

Despite reservations like these, many department members are optimistic about the four station plan, believing that it will improve officers’ sense of ownership and solve some of the problems that exist under the sector plan. Its implementation, originally scheduled for 1997, is still delayed as of this writing because of construction problems with the Arbor Hill station. But management is confident that the station will open shortly, and that community policing will take an important step forward when it does so.41

4. A Focus on Quality-of-Life
If decentralization and problem-solving were one strand of the APD’s community policing efforts, a second and equally important strand centered on quality of life enforcement. This shift in priorities was a dramatic one for the APD: As noted earlier, the department has had a long tradition of what James Q. Wilson called a “watchman” style of policing, in which officers on patrol paid little attention to minor violations like traffic offenses, gambling, and other misdemeanors. As one department veteran puts it: “Twenty years ago, if you brought that stuff into the station house—if you arrested somebody, say, for an open container— people would have said, ‘Get out of here. We’re not going to book this guy on a charge like that.’” One APD manager attributes this sentiment directly to the desires of upper management, explaining: “I don’t want to throw rocks, but with the command staff that was here before, nobody cared [about quality of life offenses].”

But the advent of community policing began to change this situation markedly. As already described, early training for the community outreach unit and later for the sector officers and the directed patrol unit began to stress the importance of quality-of-life offenses. Tuffey reiterated this message with his command staff, who in turn took it to their subordinates to emphasize with patrol officers. One crucial link seems to have been with the Sergeants, who were addressed as a group by the command staff and told that what had long been considered “low-level” offenses should in fact be treated seriously. Sergeants, in turn, have repeatedly stressed that message at roll calls and sector meetings for the patrol force. “I’m trying to convey that to them, that all these things all add up to dissatisfaction,” one APD supervisor explains. “The poor man didn’t get a night’s sleep because somebody was waking him up with their boom box in the middle of the night. And then he goes outside to get his paper and he steps in a pile of dog poop. And then he comes out and his car has been vandalized.”

This message about the seriousness of “low-level” violations came directly from Albany’s political leadership—most notably Jennings’s two campaigns for mayor, when he made quality of life a major theme. “Basic policing is getting to know the community [and] dealing with issues that are quality of life,” Jennings explains. “Then hopefully the larger crimes will dissipate and diminish.” Once in office, Jennings’s very public pronouncements on the subject, his high-profile tours of some of Albany’s most deteriorated neighborhoods (sometimes accompanied by Tuffey), and his specific directions to department heads all apparently fed a growing emphasis on quality-of-life issues not just in the police department, but in many Albany agencies.

More general public sentiment also pushed the APD to re-emphasize quality-of-life problems. A few high-profile incidents, like a shooting associated with a craps game gone bad, created some public pressure to take formerly neglected categories of crime seriously, as some city residents began to believe that minor violations could escalate into serious crime. But as community policing brought police into greater contact with neighborhood groups, they simply began to hear about low-level offenses more often. “A lot of those issues,” Tuffey explains, referring to concerns about quality-of-life, “we hear from community groups, whether it be CANA, Council of Area Neighborhood Associations [a citywide umbrella organization for Albany neighborhood groups]; Beverwick, which is part of Washington Park; Park South; or Mansion Hill. That’s a big issue for them, [and] if it’s a big issue for them, then it’s our big issue.”

Finally, police themselves began to feel that it made sense to target these low-level offenses in order to get at their underlying goal of reducing serious crime. In this vein, many Albany officers recite something like the “Broken Windows” theory to explain how left unchecked, low-level disorder can escalate into serious crime—and indeed, department training tried to make this link explicit, both through in-service sessions with officers and through the Citizen’s Academy for residents.42 As explained by Commander William Bowen, who oversaw the department’s training division during the early months of community policing:

Using a somewhat different logic, many officers also argue that enforcing misdemeanor laws can have a more direct relationship to the control of serious crime, for offenders stopped on minor violations often turn out to have signs of serious criminality like drugs, concealed weapons, outstanding warrants.43 As Tuffey puts it:

Finally, one Albany officer argues that by citing people on minor violations, police effectively alert the courts to a potential pattern: If police fail to write these citations, a first offense for robbery may look like a forgivable aberration, when in fact it is the culmination of years of unrecorded petty crime.45

Building Support for Quality-of-Life Enforcement
Thus for all these reasons, the public and political pressures on APD officers to take low-level violations seriously did not strike all of them as unreasonable demands, and some had wanted to enforce these laws all along—they had simply felt constrained by organizational norms. But none of this is to say that APD officers took to the new style of enforcement without pause, nor that all APD officers embraced it wholeheartedly.

Officers had a number of reasons for resisting the idea of quality-of-life enforcement at the outset, ranging from distaste for the required paperwork, to a belief that it was not “real police work,” to a firm conviction that it was counterproductive. For example, one Albany resident, echoing the sentiments of some department members, argues that some officers had a deep-seated aversion to enforcing the laws against minor crimes, feeling that it is “beneath them” to do things like write parking tickets—even when neighbors feel strongly about the issue. Officers themselves sometimes insist that it is inappropriate to crack down on minor violations in some neighborhoods, which will view such actions as harassment, and they sometimes interpret management directions to the contrary as naïve to the point of being dangerous. (When asked why the department did not crack down on disorderly behavior in one Albany neighborhood, one officer explained: “You would have a riot on your hands.”) Moreover, even those officers who agree with the principle of “zero tolerance” in the abstract find many exceptions in practice. For example, one officer who insisted that he would unequivocally cite people for open container violations admitted that he excluded a certain group of corner drunks from the rule, since they had useful knowledge about what was going on in the neighborhood, and “they aren’t bugging anyone” anyhow.

Unprincipled reasons like the aversion to paperwork proved relatively straightforward to handle: If too much paperwork was getting in the way, the department could cut that paperwork down. For example, when community policing got started in Albany, existing procedure required officers to fill out as many as four different forms to make a so-called “field booking” for less serious offenses—a process that one department manager describes as “cumbrous.” In response the department sought to streamline the process down to a single short document that would reduce the officers’ workload greatly. Local courts initially resisted the change, arguing that the APD had eliminated important information with the new forms, and that in effect its zeal to “streamline” had gone too far. But with some fine-tuning, all parties wound up reasonably satisfied.

Officers who simply did not want to enforce quality-of-life offenses—however simplified the process—were more difficult to deal with. Few officers would refuse direct orders about specific problems (though that apparently happened on occasion). “If I told them, ‘I want you to tag and tow the cars at 300 Lark Street,’ they’re not going to disobey,” one department manager explains. But direct orders aside, these officers are unlikely to be proactive about quality-of-life enforcement. “What they might not do is notice it on their own,” the department manager continues. “In fact, they’ll sort of play dumb about it. You’ll say, ‘Hey, didn’t you see those cars at 300 Lark Street?’ And the guy will say ‘No, I didn’t.’” In these situations, the onus is on supervisors and managers to identify specific quality-of-life problems for officers to focus on, perhaps by reviewing citizen calls, or perhaps by listening to complaints in neighborhood meetings. Unfortunately, at least one department manager reports that fifty to eighty percent of his officers fall into this category, and he, like many APD managers, says that at least with the most recalcitrant officers, “nothing will turn these men around”; the only strategy that avails is to wait for these officers to retire, replacing them with younger and more malleable personnel.

Support for quality-of-life enforcement clearly varies considerably around the department. For example, most department members argue that the 18 APD foot patrol officers are very willing to cite people for minor offenses, while other officers who are less in tune with community sentiment are less enthusiastic. “Our outreach guys, they know a lot of people in their neighborhoods,” one department manager explains.

Nevertheless, the bottom line, top management insists, is that quality-of-life enforcement has gone up (though despite repeated requests, the department was not able to provide statistics to support these claims). “We have a lot of young, new police officers here that are learning it,” Tuffey explains. “But you know what the nice part about it is? They believe in it, they really do. You can see that by a lot of the quality of life issue arrests.”

In any case, many community members noticed and appreciated the new emphasis on these matters. To be sure, some decried stronger enforcement as harassment, arguing that police were singling out the homeless, the poor, and minorities for attention (a charge that police invariably deny). “No one is happy when their children are arrested for drugs,” one department member explains. “Nobody likes a speeding ticket. No one likes parking tickets. Nobody likes to get an open container ticket. These are unpopular things.” Another explains:

Such mixed messages from the community clearly create a dilemma for police, and Albany managers like this one recognize the complexity of their situation and do not take the decision to “crack down” lightly:

In any case, the manager continues, when backlash does arise, it is necessary to “take some action.”

Many of these situations have arisen in Albany, as vigorous enforcement has pleased some groups who called for it but alienated others—or even the same ones—who feel harassed. In a few cases, like the department’s crackdown on underage drinking, some APD members believe that the department has faced political pressure to back down entirely, both from parents of the underage youth and from well-connected tavern owners. But in other cases the department has resisted efforts to rein in quality-of-life enforcement by explaining the rationale behind it.

In any case, for most department members these concerns do arise, but the opposite message predominates. For example, asked if complaints about harassment have been common at the community meetings he attends, one department manager responds that they have not been, pointing out that “usually the people that are at these meetings are the people who want arrests made: They want enforcement of the difference ordinances. They want DGS to go after someone. They want the animal control officer to take care of the dog problem.” And when asked the same question, Jennings insists that most citizens he hears from do not complain about stepped-up enforcement: “I hear about us not enforcing it,” the Mayor explains.

5. Building Support in Outside Agencies
Close collaboration with other local agencies was woven into the fabric of Albany’s community policing efforts, but this focus on quality-of-life offenses made it particularly important. At the very least, growing police attention to low-level offenses would create a larger workload for the local criminal justice system. At the most, this attention, as well as the growing focus on community problem-solving, would lead police to use entirely new avenues for protecting public safety: Police would call on agencies that had had little or no interaction with them in previous years to do things like board up dangerous buildings, channel the flow of traffic, and clean up neglected streetscapes. The fact that most city agencies have been responsive to these growing demands from police stems from a few structural changes in local government.

The Criminal Justice System
Quality-of-life enforcement had a particularly strong impact on local courts and the rest of the criminal justice system, which saw its caseloads grow and change in character. Where previously Albany police handled minor violations informally if at all, around 1995 they began bringing in cases of public lewdness, open containers, and disorderly conduct in droves. The sheer growth in the volume of cases shows up in records of the local police court, where filings shot up markedly after community policing’s debut in late 1994—a period when serious crime was actually declining in the city. (Annual filings rose from 7,500 in 1993 and 7,200 in 1994 to 9,500 in 1995, 9,000 in 1996, and 9,800 in 1997, according to records from the New York State Unified Court System.) Some department members attribute part of the increase to the county’s new 911 system, which was launched barely a month before community policing, but most believe that changing police priorities played a role as well.46 “I attribute it to our increased calls for service and more proactive, . . . more enthusiastic response from our officers for enforcing the law and making a stand,” one APD manager explains of the justice system’s growing workload.

The criminal justice system initially resisted some of the new cases patrol officers brought in—from the point of intake all the way to the judges. For example, one department member maintains that employees at the local jail complained when police first began bringing low-level violations in for processing, saying that police were “wasting their time” with petty offenses. Some judges at the local police court also reportedly chastised officers who brought minor offenders directly into their courtroom for arraignments. But when top management in the APD heard about these problems, they were apparently able to convince the judges and other justice workers that police needed their cooperation by explaining the APD’s new direction: The same department members who report early problems in the justice system maintain that for the most part, these problems have subsided. In any case, one suspects that the problem could have been worse, for Jennings had the opportunity to hand-pick the primary police court judge only a month after community policing got started, and he openly expressed his intention to choose an individual who could “deliver a strong message to the city relative to crime.”47

Philosophical agreement with the new APD program did not, of course, necessarily solve the capacity problem created by heightened police enforcement. To be sure, jail space has not been an issue in Albany, where county jails are so flush with cells that they have been able to rent out space to other agencies like the Federal Government. But local courts have reportedly strained under the growing workload police brought them—to the point that in the first two years of community policing, courts disposed of a much smaller proportion of the filings brought before them than they had in previous years. (Specifically, while police court disposed of 64% of its cases in 1993 and 73% in 1994, it disposed of barely half in the next two years of increased workload—52% in 1995 and 51% in 1996.)

In response to the city’s growing caseload, state government stepped in to fund an additional judge for Albany’s city court beginning January 1, 1997. As a result, the court’s backlog apparently subsided: In 1997, the ratio of dispositions to new filings returned to 69%, even though court personnel report that the workload strain still feels severe. As part of its promise to fund the additional judge (who now works in temporary quarters), the state asked city government to foot the bill for a new courtroom, and construction for the addition is currently underway in an already-cramped police headquarters, which is where the police court is located.

City Government
Much of the push for quality-of-life enforcement lay outside the criminal justice system altogether, encompassing as it did conditions like dirty streetscapes, illegal parking, and dilapidated buildings. To deal with these problems, police needed help not from the local judiciary but from other municipal agencies.

The APD began to address this need by teaching its own officers about the resources other agencies could offer. One department veteran insists that Albany officers had been savvy about these matters in the past, but that the massive downsizing of the Whalen years had undermined the informal mentoring whereby older officers passed such knowledge on to their younger colleagues:

In response to this perceived weakness, the department tried to pay particular attention to interagency relationships in its community policing training sessions.

To prepare the partner agencies themselves, the APD began its community policing effort by meeting with all city department heads, explaining what police intended to do differently, and asking for their cooperation. In many cases they found a willing audience, for the public service in Albany has always been a tight-knit community. For example, Code Enforcement Director Mike Whelan, who worked in the Department of Public Works for many years and moved to the newly-created Department of General Services in 1996, was a long-time acquaintance of both Jennings and Tuffey (who attended high school with Whelan’s older brother). “There are a core of people here,” one APD manager says of the city. “Although we have some big city problems, it’s really kind of a small town in a lot of ways.”

Reinforcing this sense of a shared history and community was Jennings’s leadership as Mayor—particularly, once again, through his emphasis on the quality of life theme. One milestone came in 1995, when Jennings consolidated the departments of Public Works, Traffic Engineering, Parks and Recreation, and Engineering into a single Department of General Services (DGS). Though partly motivated by budgetary pressures, the move did not ultimately have much financial impact on the city,48 and perhaps a more important effect was to “streamline the quality of life focus by bringing all of these [jobs] under one roof,” as Whelan puts it. This was particularly true in Whelan’s own area, as the city combined the responsibilities to enforce city codes for things like lighting, curb cuts, trash, and graffiti.
Whelan and police alike report a strong relationship between the two agencies, and Whelan has become something of a catch-all “go-to” for police who notice physical disorder like trash, graffiti, or broken streetlights. According to Whelan, police demands are not at all problematic for his agency, which simply sees the officers as another set of eyes on the street to help it identify neighborhood problems: Since the agency does not do its own periodic inspections, it relies on complaints to spot relevant code violations, and it is just as happy to receive these complaints from police officers as from private citizens. In any case, since Whelan’s new position was defined precisely in terms of bringing coordination and zeal to quality-of-life enforcement in the city, it is not surprising that he and his staff responded willingly to police referrals.

Even more dramatic than the creation of DGS was Jennings’s decision to shift building and housing code enforcement over to the Fire Department, an effort that formally got underway in January of 1995. Until that time, Albany buildings had been inspected by the small Building Department, which had never had enough staff to make periodic inspections a reality. The result, as many saw it, was that city buildings were becoming deteriorated, and Jennings made stronger code enforcement one of the linchpins—along with community policing—of his quality-of-life message in his Mayoral campaign. “Let’s face it,” one city official exclaims. “Albany is an old town. You can drive around and look at the plaques on the building—eighteen hundreds, late eighteen hundreds. Most of these buildings are well over a hundred years old.”

Jennings’s plan was to certify every Albany fireman as a code inspector so that the city could—in the words of one Times-Union headline—“deploy an army to fight building code violations.”49 Albany’s Fire Chief immediately lent his support to the idea, arguing that “it’s just so beneficial to the department and the people in it to know what the hell they’re walking in to.”50 Some firefighters turned out to be less enthusiastic, and their union president eventually claimed that the new duties were reducing the department’s response time.51 But the AFD had long been something of an eclectic operation, having been one of the first in the state to get into Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and many firefighters apparently saw code enforcement as the latest form of job security. As Fire Captain Michael Macie puts it:

Some problems did arise as the Fire Department took on its new duties: Many residents initially complained that fire trucks were blocking their streets on inspections; historic preservationists argued that the city had taken code enforcement too far, and that it was tearing down historic buildings to make way for businesses; and landlords complained about excessive zeal and unprofessional inspections—pointing out, for example, that unlike the old building inspectors, firefighters made imprecise inspection appointments that could keep them waiting hours. In the end, the Fire Department was not able to accommodate all of these complaints, but it did make some concessions, such as leaving their fire trucks behind when they went on inspections, and making an effort to schedule specific times for inspections.52

Despite the outside complaints, many Fire Department employees took to their new duties in earnest, and eventually almost every firefighter in Albany went through 88 hours of training that qualified them to inspect structures for compliance with building and housing codes. Moreover, Macie insists, firefighters who hit the streets on inspections discovered a natural alliance with police. “We’re doing the code enforcement, the police are getting into the community policing aspect, and we bump into each other on the street,” he explains.

Macie saw in the community outreach officers a smaller battalion of eyes and ears who could help him keep tabs on city properties. “The community officers . . . know everything that goes on in [their] neighborhood,” he insists, going on to explain that some will now jot down elaborate lists of potential code violations that fire fighters can follow up on. Over time, the relationship between the fire department and the community outreach officers on code enforcement issues has grown, a process that Macie attributes to word-of-mouth. “You know, I speak with Timmy Toraine, and later I get another call from Officer Wilcox on Second Avenue. He says, ‘I think I’ve got a problem here,’ because [Toraine] has said to him, ‘Geez, we could call Captain Macie. He’s a good guy to work with and maybe he can resolve the issues that you have.’”

Macie concedes that APD officers are not experts in city codes in the way that the newly-trained firefighters now are, and that there is the potential for police to send his men on wild goose chases. But he insists that he takes every complaint seriously, and that he has been able to educate police officers about some common misconceptions when they arise. “If [a complaint] is not founded, . . . then I will return to get back to that community police officer and say, ‘There’s nothing we can do about that because they’re well within the law,’” Macie explains. “He’s going to remember the next time when he sees that [situation]. So it’s really an educational tool for them.” In any case, Macie simply says that he is willing to check out any concerns police raise “because that’s my job. . . . If I didn’t follow up on every complaint, then the liability falls back on me: We knew about the situation and we didn’t do anything about it.” Finally, the fact that Macie now has over 250 certified inspectors relieves some pressure that the building department may have felt to ignore questionable reports of violations.

Other Institutional Partners
Though mostly restricted to the community outreach officers, these partnerships with DGS and the Fire Department have clearly taken firm root in the APD, which has found a ready outlet for the non-criminal quality-of-life issues that police often confront. Department trainers report that the collaboration has helped bring many APD officers into the community policing fold: At first, officers often expressed skepticism about a new philosophy that called on them to deal with issues like trash, lighting, and code violation—issues that they did consider to be a central part of police work. But as department trainers explained that the officers did not themselves have to solve these “non-police” problems, and that they were simply expected to channel them to the appropriate partner agency, many officers reportedly conceded that the approach made sense.

But if the Fire Department and DGS have been clear success stories for the APD, some other agencies appear to be outside of the fold. For example, a number of APD members maintain that the local power company is not always responsive to concerns about streetlights, and there has apparently been no partnership with area social service agencies on the same scale as the partnerships with Fire and DGS (though the department has stepped up cooperation with a local domestic violence agency as part of its nascent domestic violence program, described below). Indeed, some potential partners have found themselves on the defensive since the start of community policing and the Mayor’s quality-of-life campaign. Homeless shelters and advocates are one example, as these groups have decried stronger order maintenance as a violation of civil liberties, and they have resisted what they see as an effort to push the homeless and the agencies that serve them out of town. Many city landlords have taken equal umbrage at recent police and city policy changes, viewing some efforts to “clean up the neighborhood”—including the stepped-up efforts to enforce building codes and Jennings’s proposals to increase fines for violations—as direct attacks on their livelihoods.

Many patrol officers seem fairly resigned about the potential for cooperation with these groups—particularly landlords, who through tactics like lease enforcement, tenant screening, and physical security have a potentially enormous influence on public safety. One potential strategy for forcing landlords to cooperate has emerged in discussions of Pasadena’s Safe Streets Now program, which holds property owners liable for tenant behavior by imposing fines for chronic problems. A coalition of neighborhood leaders, Fire Department officials, police, and Common Council members has emerged to press city hall to adopt a similar program, and aldermen have reportedly received some encouragement from Jennings to move forward. But these discussions have not yet led to new legislation, and some in the city are skeptical that it will be possible to overcome landlord clout in the Common Council.

The Committee on University and Community Relations
A more hopeful development in Albany has been the Committee on University and Community Relations, which predated community policing but dovetailed into its aims. The Committee had its inception early in 1990, when police and community concerns about college student parties boiled over—particularly near the large University at Albany. At that time, Mayor Whalen asked university President Vincent O’Leary to convene a task force to study souring town-gown relations and to recommend a strategy for improving them. Eventually the task force came up with a list of twelve recommendations, ranging from reforms in the way the University licensed fraternities to changes in the way the city handled code violation complaints. But perhaps most important was its creation of a standing committee that would monitor not just these specific recommendations, but also any new concerns residents had about University students.

Thomas Gebhardt, who as Director of Off-Campus Housing for the university became the committee’s chair, explains that the first few meetings between university officials and the community were tense: “[There were] a lot of angry people yelling and screaming,” Gebhardt remembers, conceding that some residents harbored suspicions that the effort would end up as “a smoke and mirrors committee.” In his eyes, one of the largest underlying problems was that the two sides simply did not understand each other. “There were a lot of stereotypes that both groups had about each other,” Gebhardt explains. “Many long term neighbors thought that every single university student was a party animal, didn’t care about anything. And many students felt that every long term neighbor was some old fogey that wanted it quiet twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.” Some of these perceptions broke down as the two sides began to interact with each other, and Gebhardt also made an effort to explain what the University could offer to the neighborhoods. “There were a lot of myths that needed to be cleared up when the task force was created about what the University could and couldn’t do in terms of their judicial process and things like that. So we had to clarify all of those.”

This issue turned out to be an important one in the Committee, for part of its strong reputation in Albany seems to stem from its ability to go beyond the University’s own authority; and that ability, in turn, stems from the diverse group of players that have gradually come to join it. Begun as an appointed body made up mostly of students, residents, and University officials, the Committee gradually evolved into a much more fluid and expansive body—one whose membership seemed instinctively driven by the need to match authority to the concerns participants were raising. For example, because many complaints about students had to do with alcohol, the committee developed a close, if initially reluctant relationship with Albany taverns; and as residents and city officials discovered that the University at Albany was not the only local college with rowdy students, most other area college joined the committee as well.

Police came to play a particularly important role in this effort to match authority to problems. As Gebhardt explains, the University’s own authority over unruly students off campus can be quite limited, but a close relationship with police helps to compensate.

Not everyone came willingly to the committee at first: For example, Gebhardt reports that some area colleges seemed wary of joining the committee because “to join the committee would be to admit that you were part of the problem;” and he reports that fraternities have been inconsistent participants (though this may be changing as national fraternities—increasingly in the spotlight because of problems with alcohol abuse—pressure their local chapters to take more interest in their public image). But despite occasional reluctance, the Committee has had enormous success expanding its membership, and by 1998 its roster listed nearly 80 participants from a wide variety of Albany neighborhoods, agencies, and businesses.

The Committee’s growing clout in both the community and city government made it attractive to police as they pursued their own interagency efforts. For example, asked why the department embraced the University Relations Committee so quickly, Assistant Chief Robert Wolfgang (who first represented police on the Committee) explains that the body “brought everyone together again.”

The result, many department members argue, has been extraordinary success in dealing with the problems that stem from the minority of students who have been unruly. “That’s been a home run for us,” Tuffey says of the Committee, pointing to one particular troublespot for evidence: “In three years, the complaints I get from that area has gone from maybe fifteen a year to none or one or two or three.”

6. Building Support in the Community
If interagency collaboration has played a key role in Albany’s community policing effort, partnerships with the community have been even more central. In part, the APD views Albany residents and the associations they have formed as a resource police can leverage to fight crime more effectively, and the department has helped facilitate activities like citizen foot patrols to increase its effectiveness. But the driving ideal behind Albany’s police-community partnerships is apparently a desire by police to better understand community priorities. “I firmly believe that we work with the people, and that’s when police departments work best,” recently-promoted Deputy Chief Jack Nielsen explains. “I always tell people that they need to go to a country where there is martial law to understand how important it is that that be the philosophy of the police department: That you work for the people.” Nielsen concedes that there need to be limits to community control over the police, but beyond those limits community sentiment becomes absolutely central to the decisions police make. “I don’t think that they should have hands on influence [on policy],” he explains. “[But] beyond the housekeeping phase, beyond the officer safety, beyond the fiduciary responsibility to the tax payer . . . the philosophy has to be that what is most important is the perception of the part of the people of how they are policed.”

Tuffey echoes Nielsen’s sentiments, explaining that he considers community reactions to be an important means for monitoring department performance and fine-tuning its programs. As an example, he describes the process whereby the boundaries of the department’s foot beats have evolved. “We always get letters or we go to community meetings and we get input from them,” Tuffey explains. “There have been times when we had to extend one beat a different way because some of the people thought it should be extended a little bit. So, you let the guy walk a couple of extra blocks or walk on the other side of the street.” Asked if such requests don’t have the potential to dilute the program that was designed, Tuffey responds:

Tuffey’s concern for providing the community the services that they seem to want is equally apparent in his refusal to consider call-diversion schemes, despite some officers’ perceptions that their workload was too heavy for them to undertake some of the new tasks the department expects of them. “That will never, ever, happen as long as I’m here,” Tuffey says of call-diversion programs like phone reporting.

But if community policing aimed to “give people what they want,” the APD faced a need to learn what exactly it was that the community wanted. Of course, the APD had always kept a window open to community sentiment through the formal political system. But in the era of community policing, department managers apparently felt a need to find other ways to strike up a dialogue with the residents they served.

Patrol officers on the beat answered this need most directly for Albany. First of all, foot patrol officers presumably had a particularly fine-grained understanding of community leadership and community concerns. But the rest of the patrol force was also encouraged to develop closer ties with the public, and while some department members feel that their sectors were too large to make this proposition a reality, there are some stories of success, like the “liaison” programs spearheaded by Signer’s team.

Neighborhood Associations and Community Policing
Off the street, the APD redoubled its efforts to make contact with the city’s community organizations—especially its maturing system of Neighborhood Associations (NAs). Here too the patrol force played a central role: “Rather than this centralized community relations [unit],” Grebert explains, referring to the APD unit that had traditionally responded to NA requests to talk with police, “it was the members of the [sector] teams and their supervisors that would go to [NA] meetings.” To help jump-start this relationship, the APD included many community leaders in some of its early training sessions, including not just NA presidents, but also representatives of non-neighborhood community groups like a citywide Gay and Lesbian Association and a few business groups. Moreover, at the outset of Albany’s community policing program, Grebert and other department managers met extensively with city Neighborhood Associations to solicit their ideas about their plans.

The APD further cultivated its ties to city neighborhood groups by creating a citizen’s advisory board called the Community Police Council that counted NA leaders prominently among its members. The Council first came up during the early discussions of community policing in 1994, when some APD members proposed creating a broadly representative body that could serve as a regular forum for airing neighborhood concerns. The idea went nowhere at first, but neighborhood leaders who remembered it eventually decided to try to put it back on the agenda.

The first step came in the fall of 1995, when the Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations (CANA) presented a draft of its own plan for an advisory board to Jennings and the police department. Maria Parisella, who drafted and revised the original plan, explains the idea as follows:

While some police apparently saw the proposal more narrowly as a forum where citizens would nominate their current neighborhood problems, Parisella had broader ambitions, hoping that the new Council would serve as a way citizens could help make corrections to the APD’s evolving community policing program. “I said it to my own neighborhood association: I think we need to have a group that just keeps looking at how this is going and how we can improve it,” Parisella remembers. “We know we have to address some of the day-to-day issues, but this is not to replace the beat cop sitting down in his neighborhood.”

Parisella’s first plan suggested that each of the city’s 28 NAs should send a single delegate to the Council, and that this group would be joined by representatives of the police department. Jennings and Tuffey, however, had a different idea. “We sent the proposal to the Mayor and he broadened it,” Parisella explains. “He said, ‘That’s a great idea, but I would like to also have some common council people in and some community reps and some people from community organizations.’” Over the course of the next several months, CANA revised its draft, and the final proposal called for a “broadly representative” council that included police, residents, business, education, clergy, government, community organizations, and the media.

How closely Jennings followed the CANA plan—for in the end it was the Mayor who appointed most of the Council’s membership—is a matter of interpretation. Parisella reports being fairly happy with the Council that emerged.

But Deputy Chief Grebert, who had been one of the police managers to push the Council idea in its initial incarnation, was somewhat disappointed with the process that emerged. “We originally wanted to do it [with] representatives of neighborhood associations, representatives of business associations and civic associations, school district, religious community, media,” Grebert remembers. “[But] I was surprised to see many of the same faces on this as on many of the other police-related committees. We certainly appreciate people’s commitment, but we were looking for some fresh faces to work with.” The problem, Grebert explains, was not so much that some groups were under-represented: It was simply that because of their other commitments, Council members were not fully invested in the new body and its aims. “I don’t think I’ve heard, ‘Gee, we’ve been left out. What I have heard is, ‘Gee, I couldn’t make it because . . . I’m also on the community police relations board [a ten-year-old board that reviews complaints against police] and I had to go to that meeting last night.’ . . . Four or five of the people who were on that group were also put on the community police advisory council.”

In any case, the Council began its monthly meetings in November of 1996, exactly two years after the community outreach officers hit the street. During its first year, the Council mainly sought to understand how community policing works in Albany, and it invited managers and officers from essentially every APD unit to help delegates understand how the department operated. But the group has also sought to push for a few substantive reforms, such as a comprehensive brochure that explained community policing to the community, bicycle patrols as part of the community outreach effort, and more community involvement in department ceremonies. “If anyone who we represent asks us to bring an issue to the table, we will,” Parisella explains.

Some of the Council’s proposals have already come to fruition, notably the bicycle patrols, which Parisella points to as a significant example of the group’s influence. “Bicycle patrols had been proposed at times and the Deputy [Chief] said, ‘This is not something that’s in our plan,’” she remembers. “[But] at the CANA meeting, . . . we had been asked in particular by an association to bring that to the table. [And] there was enough support both on the Council and in the community that the Mayor went ahead and started a bicycle patrol last summer.”

The Rise of Neighborhood Power in Albany
Reforms like the Community Police Council and the initiatives it has spawned would clearly not have been possible without Albany’s well-organized system of Neighborhood Associations. In fact, one of the major differences between the community policing efforts of today and the neighborhood outreach units of the 1970s is organized community involvement. “There was none of the emphasis on partnerships,” Grebert explains of the neighborhood outreach unit where he worked twenty years ago. “The community was still the bad guys.” Indeed, it is hard to see how things could have been otherwise in the earlier period, for neighborhood organization was a new and somewhat renegade force at the time: A few groups had been around for many years, notably the Center Square Association, whose 1958 birthdate makes it the oldest NA existing in Albany today. But neighborhood organization did not truly take off until the 1970s, and it is worth reviewing that history here.

At that time, Center Square residents in particular pressed the city more and more insistently to enforce zoning laws and building codes, feeling that their neighborhood was losing its historic character as landowners illegally subdivided one-family homes. The city, however, seemed to have no intention of responding to Center Square’s complaints. “Everytime we called the city, I used to hear the song and dance about how busy they were dealing with the concerns of the United Tenants association,” explains Harold Rubin, Center Square’s president in the early 1970s and the chairman of its zoning committee for many years before and after that time. “So I contacted the head of that Association . . . I assumed [city officials] were telling United Tenants they could not deal with their problems because Center Square was bugging the hell out of them.”

Roger Markovics, then the head of United Tenants of Albany, was apparently somewhat wary of Rubin during their first meetings in 1974. “Center Square has a reputation of being . . . a bunch of gentrifiers over here, middle class types—not the type of people he normally dealt with,” Rubin explains. “And so [in] our early meetings, they were looking at who the hell we were.” But after discussing their respective and mutual concerns, they were able to find some common ground, and the two organizations joined up with a number of other groups—including five more neighborhood associations and interest groups like the Albany Taxpayer’s Association and the League of Women Voters—to form what would eventually become known as the Coalition for Effective Code Enforcement.

The Coalition quickly came up with an eleven-point plan that described an agenda of issues it wanted to take up with the city. “It was a very radical program,” Rubin remembers sardonically of the plan.

At first the city moved slowly on the new Coalition’s sometimes elaborate proposals: For example, after researching the subject with three national code enforcement agencies, the Coalition presented the Building Department with a 43-page document—complete with sample inspection forms—that they unsuccessfully asked the city to adopt. But whatever its immediate successes, the coalition served as a starting point for Albany’s future alliance of neighborhood associations.

One milestone down this road came in 1975, when a regionally-based nonprofit called the Council of Community Services successfully petitioned the United Way to fund a new agency called the Neighborhood Resource Center (NRC). Over the years NRC provided many forms of help to struggling neighborhood groups, including secretarial services like sending out meeting notices, advice about organizing and maintaining groups, and space for holding neighborhood meetings. NRC did not try to organize neighborhood groups on its own, believing that communities should be organized from the inside rather than the outside.53 But by providing a focal point for neighborhood energy, the new agency effectively helped organize existing groups into a larger and more powerful coalition. That process got started in the Spring of 1976, when NRC director Tom Mayer hosted a meeting of eight neighborhood associations that was the first in what was to become a series of informal meetings for many of the city’s NAs. By 1977, the participants (which then numbered eleven NAs) adopted a formal “Statement of Goals” that highlighted such policy concerns as housing, service delivery, and education; and by 1981, the group (then grown to eighteen members) adopted a set of by-laws and formally incorporated as the Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations.

CANA markedly advanced the neighborhood movement by gaining significant power in city politics—particularly through its relationship with Mayor Whalen. CANA had begun cultivating that relationship in 1981, when Rubin learned that Corning intended to nominate Whalen for President of the Common Council, and by implication as his successor for the Mayor’s job. “I called him up to meet with him,” Rubin remembers of Whalen at the time.

Whalen agreed to speak before the emerging CANA group once he took office in 1982 as Council President, and that appearance set a precedent that has continued on to this day: Even after he became Mayor, Whalen addressed the January CANA meeting with such regularity that the event eventually became known as the Mayor’s “State of the City Address.” At times, Rubin reports, there was some tension about exactly who set the terms of these appearances: “What I would do is write a letter to the Mayor and suggest certain topics, and one time he wrote back that I was trying to give the Rubin agenda,” Rubin remembers. “I said, ‘Look, the floor is yours, [but] these are things that have come up during the past year which are of concern.” Nevertheless, despite such minor disagreements, the January speeches helped to reshape CANA’s relationship with the city fundamentally. Not only has Mayor Jennings continued the tradition set by Whalen, but Rubin believes that at the time, Whalen’s appearances helped coax some wary heads of Albany agencies to talk directly with the neighborhoods: “At the very beginning they were very, very reluctant,” Rubin remembers of agency heads he invited to speak. “But when Tom Whalen kept coming to the meetings, he established a precedent: If the Mayor can go, it was kind of hard for them to turn us down.”

It would, however, be an oversimplification to say that Whalen handed CANA its influence in city hall, for the neighborhoods were willing and able to be confrontational when necessary. One example centers on required public hearings for the city budget, which CANA reportedly used to great effect. Most simply, the neighborhoods made many critical comments on both the form and substance of annual city budgets, and Rubin believes this input had a real impact. But he also explains that CANA did not stop there:

In an equally confrontational spirit, Rubin describes one of the neighborhoods’ central strategies as going to court, and this was particularly true of Center Square: “We went to court lots of time,” Rubin remembers. “Some times we won, and some times we lost. But the very fact that we were ready to go to court probably stopped some of the worst abominations that would have occurred otherwise.” To be sure, navigating the machine-influenced legal system was not always easy, as attorneys had to know which judges they should try to go before, and they sometimes had to appeal cases out of the local system altogether. But Center Square in particular was usually able to get pro bono legal help either from its own residents or from other NAs, who, Rubin insists, “understood what we were trying to do, and were prepared to help out.”

CANA’s sometimes confrontational relationship with city hall contrasted with its hands-off attitude towards the political party. Conscious that local politicians might view Neighborhood Associations as a threat, Rubin and others constantly tried to dispel that view. “In the early years, everybody would ask me, ‘When are you running for office?’” he recalls. “They assumed that I became president of the Center Square Association and later head of CANA because I had a political agenda—that I was going to run for some office.” But Rubin overtly tried to distance himself and CANA from electoral politics, insisting that he was “not enrolled in the party” and that he was “not a spokesman who was out shopping around for a higher level job.” This philosophy became a matter of organizational policy with CANA, which asked any NA official who ran for public office to step down from the NA position first.

Indeed, Rubin and the rest of CANA’s board made a more general effort to focus neighborhood groups away from Democratic Committee headquarters and towards city hall. Rubin explains:

Rubin concedes that over time CANA may in fact have taken over aspects of the role of the committeeman, in the sense that residents often turn to him and other neighborhood leaders for help getting better city services.54 But he insists that CANA did not make this goal its mission, and he suggests that its nonpartisan strategy helped it gain influence without inciting a political backlash. “If you go through the [newspaper] clips of Albany, you’ll find various articles talking [about] how we took over the role of the ward leaders,” he explains. “It may have happened, but that was not our goal. We were just doing our thing, and we weren’t concerned with what they were doing on their side.”55
Finally, CANA also tended to potential fault lines inside the neighborhood movement itself. Most simply, the organization tried to build camaraderie within the group by hosting events like its citywide “conventions,” which offered speakers, awards, workshops, and even political theater. But CANA’s founders also tried to guard against the group’s potential for faction, which existed in any alliance between diverse neighborhoods. For example, Rubin explains that he tried hard to discourage CANA from tackling potentially divisive issues like parking.

Indeed, CANA institutionalized this focus on non-controversial issues by requiring a two-thirds vote for most resolutions.

By 1998, CANA had grown to twenty-one members and played a significant part in city politics. Its rise carved out an important new space for Albany residents to influence their government, and one that has played a central role in the APD’s community policing program: Without it, police would be left to the Committee system that had held sway in the 1970s and before. To be sure, ward leaders and committeemen still help some residents articulate their views about police services.56 But unlike in the earlier period, the ward leaders and the committeemen do not hold a monopoly on governmental influence, and NAs have become a vehicle for demands that the committee system historically excluded. In part, the difference is simply scale, for while committeemen traditionally brought forth individual complaints, the NAs began to challenge service delivery for entire neighborhoods, and CANA actually began speaking out about citywide policies. But the neighborhood movement also brought a change to the kind of input citizens had in government, for by challenging policies and entire patterns of service delivery, residents were expressing their views at a level that the committee system had traditionally stifled. As one neighborhood leader put it in 1987: “Before there was a childlike relationship that said the party would take care of [citizens]. Now there’s a more adult relationship, that people can talk directly to their government.”57 It is precisely this type of relationship that underlies institutions like the Community Police Council.

8. The Title I COPS Grants in Albany
Throughout the past four years of reform, the APD has pursued several federal policing grants to help advance its community policing efforts. As a matter of philosophy, the department and the city have sought to go after any and all available funding opportunities. For example, asked if the city has considered holding back on the COPS grants given concerns about phase-outs and matching requirements, Jennings responds that it did not. “When I was at the conference of Mayors about a month and a half ago, there was a concern [in] some of these cities that had opted into this program [about] not having the monies there to continue with the police officers,” Jennings explains. “But if you’re a good manager, and you know that it’s important . . . you’ll find that extra million or two million . . . that you’ve committed as a match to pick up the other side of it.” In the same vein, Tuffey insists that he has no doubts that the city will be able to pick up the grant costs when they expire. “That’s an issue down the road, there’s no question,” he explains of the phase-outs. “But you know what? . . . I would rather hire them now and deal with them later because I’m not the budget director, so I don’t have to worry about that stuff down the road. . . . Any grants we can have, we’ll ask for, absolutely.”

Given this philosophy, the department was not at all averse to the hiring grants that dominated the COPS offerings, and in fact it received a total of 28 officers (14 of them from a Police Hiring Supplement grant) and 14 civilians through the COPS programs to help advance community policing. Grebert concedes that some might not think Albany needed any more hiring, for even at the end of Whalen’s downsizing spree the city had the highest ratio of sworn officers to city residents in the state. “Obviously when I was in the department we needed it,” the now-retired Grebert says sardonically of the calls for more hiring. “Manpower had gotten down to two hundred ninety eight, and we said, ‘Oh boy, we need more manpower to do this community policing thing.’ And at the same time COPS grants were becoming available. So we got a COPS grant and got the manpower up to about 320 and 340 for the last couple of years.”

The first round of hiring actually came from the PHS grant, which the Whalen administration had applied for but which did not arrive in city coffers until February of 1994. The grant allowed Jennings to make good on part of his campaign promise to add 25 officers to the APD and bring its total to 345, and the department itself planned to use the new officers to staff its community outreach unit (or, more precisely, to backfill the senior officers from the patrol force who eventually bid for the community outreach jobs).

Later that year, the APD applied for its first formal COPS grant from the COPS AHEAD program, through which, as local officials understood it, the city would qualify for eight officers. Jennings apparently hoped to use the money to pay for cadets he had recently hired to round out his campaign promise, telling a group of downtown businessmen that he had no plans to hire past 345.58 By December, that plan seemed to city officials to be on course, as the city received a letter from the Department of Justice explaining that Albany had been “authorized to hire eight officers.”59 But a few weeks later, Justice unequivocally told local officials that they could only spend their authorization if they used the money for new recruits, in effect telling the APD that it needed to expand its ranks even further. Already facing unexpected budget troubles, the city withdrew its application and forfeited the money.60 The APD hired no new officers for the next two years, and Jennings eventually revised the department’s authorized strength back down to 320.

The APD’s next hiring move came in December of 1996, when the city applied for a 14-officer COPS Universal Hiring grant and revisited the supplantation debate all over again. This time, according to newspaper reports, the city planned to use the grant money to effectively extend its expiring PHS grant, funding a class of recruits that was slated to enter the academy in January in order to make up for two years worth of attrition.61 The Justice Department, however, refused to accept this proposal, and the controversy spilled over into Albany’s Common Council, where one city Alderman exclaimed that losing the grant could put community policing in jeopardy.62 Eventually Jennings and Tuffey conceded to the Justice Department’s position, agreeing to hire fourteen more officers on top of the January class to bring total department strength to 334. As Tuffey explains it today, the grant was necessary for the department to keep community policing going. “I need more people to do it,” he explains. “If you want all these programs—and we didn’t have the overtime grant at the time [referring to a COPS MORE overtime grant, which had been awarded but apparently not spent]—you either pay overtime to do it or you suffer with losing patrol. We can’t afford to lose the patrol officers.” In any case, one of the new slots was pegged to fund a full-time officer at the local high school.

On top of these straight hiring grants, Albany applied for two COPS MORE grants split between civilian hiring and overtime money.63 The civilian hiring came in two phases, starting with a 1995 grant that paid for 5 clerical employees, and continuing with a 1996 grant that paid salaries for 7 booking clerks.64 (In the 1996 grant, the department originally requested 10 positions to civilianize not just booking itself but also related jobs like fingerprinting. But the Justice department refused to fund those positions, which are still filled by sworn officers today.) In both cases, the department saw the civilianization money as a way to put more officers out on the streets and thereby increase community interaction. In any case, department members report that the civilian hiring went relatively smoothly. But they also report that it went more slowly than grant guidelines automatically allowed, and in both cases the department needed to get an extension even after taking shortcuts like designating some of the positions as non-competitive “community aides.” “What the federal government doesn’t understand,” one department member explains, “is the fact that you’re awarded a grant like this, you have to got through . . . a civil service process. . . . We had to write up the positions, we had to submit them to our civil service people. That’s why we changed [our timeline].”

The overtime portion of the COPS MORE money came as part of the 1995 grant application, which asked for a total of $124,000 for this purpose. Initially part of the money was slated to fund officer participation in youth centers at the Albany Housing Authority, but when the AHA’s funding for the effort fell through, the APD received permission from the Department of Justice to reprogram the money for the more general overtime plan. Designed primarily by Grebert, the overtime effort sought to use flexible funding to target foot patrol officers in temporary troublespots. “It gives us so many opportunities to put people in problem areas,” Tuffey explains.

Moreover, Grebert felt that strategic use of overtime made more sense that new hiring. “You’re using veteran, trained . . . officers rather than new kids on the block,” he explains. “[Recruits] are essentially not of any value to you for two years after you hire them. It takes them that long to get up to speed. So the debate over do you want more cops or do you want to put more cops on overtime, I prefer the overtime. I think you’re getting a better product.”

Grebert distributed the money across several projects that he identified with input from others. “We’d have meeting with the Sergeants, [and] I’d say, ‘Come on, fellows. Tell me what problems you’re having that we can throw some of this money into,’” he explains. For example, one of the MORE overtime projects put a special detail in a neighborhood that had suffered a rash of burglaries, another funded a “party car” that would take all calls about college parties on a night that University officials had heard would be especially busy, and yet another carried out a Jennings proposal for a truancy patrol (officers on this detail were assigned to patrol certain areas for school-aged youth during school hours, and they were expected to send any truants back to their high school). A few proposed projects ran into trouble: For example, some of the money was used to target alcohol sales to minors, but that effort eventually fell victim to political pressure (or so some department members report). In any case, once Grebert had selected specific projects, the department posted sheets in the division stations that allowed officers to sign themselves up for the special details.

The APD’s final Title I COPS grant came from a 1995 application for a Domestic Violence grant, which eventually funded a two-person civilian unit charged with helping victims navigate the sometimes-complicated criminal justice and service systems. The project fed into a longstanding priority in the APD, which had adopted a mandatory arrest policy for domestic violence before many New York agencies, and in its application the department argued that the project would advance its problem-solving capabilities. Most important, department members explain, is the opportunity that the unit’s civilian staff have to talk with domestic violence victims and explain to them what their options are—including the services offered by a local nonprofit called Equinox, which offers shelter space, counseling, and court advocacy, and which served as the APD’s partner agency for the grant.

The contacts with victims mostly come from the unit’s own direct calls to victims, which it identifies by reviewing police reports. (New York State recently required all police agencies to fill out special reports for domestic violence cases, and these reports have made it easy to separate out domestic violence cases.) But the civilian staff have also gone before department roll calls to get the word out to officers about their services, and by their presence in court they hope to become known to the judges and DAs. In any case, the grant is scheduled to run out at the end of this year, and while the department does not yet have a plan for funding, city officials have begun searching for money from the state and the county.65


Albany’s community policing reforms are still making progress today, and indeed, the department is about to turn a major corner when it reorganizes around four decentralized police stations this year. But for the sake of laying out where the Albany Police Department stands after four years of reform, it is worthwhile to briefly review and elaborate on the way it operates through the same lens we used to examine its past—focusing on its relationship to the environment, its operational and administrative systems, and its management style.

1. Relationship to the Environment
Since the onset of community policing, the APD’s outside relationships have changed in several ways. One of the most obvious differences is in the political system, where the once-contentious relationship with Whalen has given way to a more friendly rapport with Jennings. This is particularly true at the highest levels of management. “I have an open door with the Mayor,” Tuffey maintains. “We have a very good relationship, both personal and professional. And if I need something, he knows that when I go to him, it’s a worthwhile program and it’s going to benefit everybody.” Indeed, some department members feel that the relationship is too close—sentiments that had their peak when Tuffey was first appointed as Chief. Jennings insists that he does not micromanage the department, and Tuffey concurs that the mayor “doesn’t interfere if I let him know what’s going on.” Nevertheless, other local observers disagree, with one going so far as to put it this way: “[The Chief] is very beholden to the Mayor. If the Mayor wants the guys on this side of the city to wear green shirts today, they’re going to do it.” Indeed, many department members do believe that political leaders have great influence over the APD, and they feel that top management is more likely to respond to political interests than their own. But they do not believe that is anything new in the city, and Jennings received the police union’s endorsement for re-election amidst his opponent’s support for a civilian review board.

The one area where political leaders have lost some influence in the APD—though this change is more a long-term trend than a community policing reform—is in the ward system, for today police seem more likely to handle local problems through neighborhood associations than committeemen. Committeemen do still relay some citizen concerns to police. But a few APD managers have started asking them to have citizens contact police directly, and the ward system is no longer the only conduit between citizens and their government: At the citywide level, the Community Police Council has begun offering some policy advice to the APD (though some APD managers do not quite view its role in that way, seeing it instead as another forum for citizens to raise neighborhood problems); and at the local level, most city neighborhoods now host active neighborhood associations, while several business districts also have business associations. Both types of organization have contact at least with their community outreach officer. On the other hand, other officers do not reportedly attend NA meetings very often, and community activists rarely attend the department’s own sector meetings to discuss neighborhood problems. Moreover, a few NAs—particularly those in minority neighborhoods—are reportedly still critical of the APD, believing that officers are alternatively unresponsive and overbearing, and this position is shared by the local NAACP and a self-styled criminal justice watchdog group called the Center for Law and Justice (though both have also expressed support for the direction that the APD is going with community policing).

Finally, interagency collaboration has made some strides in Albany, notably in the area of code enforcement, and there largely because of citywide efforts to streamline and put more resources into the process. (Most police, however, do not have a personal relationship with code enforcement employees, but they are satisfied with the paper system they use to refer potential code violations to other agencies.) These efforts, as well as the remaining opportunities for new interagency efforts, have been extensively described above.

2. Operations
As already described in detail, the APD’s community policing efforts have sought to reorganize and refocus the attention of the patrol force in several ways. Organizationally, most of the patrol force and even parts of the detective division now revolve around six-geographically defined sectors within which officers have quasi-permanent assignments. Substantively, officers have a new mandate to handle neighborhood problems proactively, and especially to enforce the low-level quality of life offenses that had previously been neglected in Albany. Many department members suggest that a large proportion of the patrol force has not fully accepted these new duties yet, and there are few examples of “problem-solving” in the city that do not focus directly on arresting or citing specific offenders. But the APD has always expected it would take at least a generation to gain complete acceptance of community policing, and in any case, special units like the 18-officer community outreach unit and the 5-officer directed patrol unit are reportedly more invested in community policing concepts—particularly the newfound emphasis on quality of life offenses.

3. Administrative Systems
The APD’s recent reforms have not involved many modifications to departmental administrative systems. There are a few exceptions: For example, the department has tried to improve its internal affairs system by making it more accessible to citizens and by creating a new system for handling less serious complaints, which are now collected centrally but handed to supervisors for investigation. (In the past these complaints were given to internal affairs, but many felt that it did not have the time to investigate them thoroughly.) But many administrative systems have remained the same over the past four years. For example, the department has made no major changes to its centralized budgeting, despite a general trend towards “decentralization”; and it has also made few changes to its recruitment, hiring, and training (though in-service training, which has always been programmed year-by-year, has evolved somewhat).66 Finally, although the city has begun talking with other County police agencies about sharing information, internal information systems are still fairly rudimentary—patrol officers do not have mobile data terminals in their cars, and few department members report using crime analysis to identify or monitor neighborhood problems. In this sense, administrative reform has not been a key component of community policing in Albany, which has focused most of its attention on the street.

4. Management

Management has undergone more substantial changes in Albany, especially at its upper levels. The department is still, like many police agencies, a mix of centralized and decentralized authority, and recent reforms have furthered both. On the one hand, community policing—and particularly the sector plan and the upcoming four-station plan—have put more stock in department supervisors and Lieutenants. Under today’s sector system, Sergeants in particular have great responsibility, for it is largely through their leadership of the zone meetings that the department identifies neighborhood problems for officers to focus on; and they are increasingly expected to help officers get the problem-solving resources they need (such as contacts with other agencies or help from other units). Officers, moreover, have a new mandate to exercise discretion in choosing problems to focus on and crafting appropriate solutions—for example, they have been empowered to make contacts with other city agencies on their own.

On the other hand, the APD’s command staff reorganization has clearly consolidated authority in the highest reaches of management. The new watch Commander positions are the clearest example of growing centralization in the APD, for these managers have final say over all major decisions during their watch. But the new Assistant Chief positions, and the filling of the once-vacant Deputy Chief’s job, were also explicitly designed to consolidate authority in the Chief’s office over the various department divisions that had once had freer reign. This, of course, is not necessarily to criticize the APD, but simply to characterize its changes accurately—though it is also important to note that some APD members feel excluded from major departmental decisions.

1 The Democratic organization in Albany has been chronicled in many places, among them William Kennedy. O Albany! Improbable City of Political Wizards, Fearless Ethnics, Spectacular Aristocrats, Splendid Nobodies, and Underrated Scoundrels (New York: Viking, 1983); Frank S. Robinson. Machine Politics: A Study of Albany’s O’Connells (Transaction Books: New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1977); Paul Grondahl. Mayor Erastus Corning: Albany Icon, Albany Enigma (Albany: Washington Park Press, 1997); Kate Gurnett. “Albany Democrats: 75 Years of Power,” Albany Times-Union, December 8, 1996, p. A-1. For specific reference to Albany police in the 1960s, see James Q. Wilson, Varieties of Police Behavior (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1968), pp. 237-43.

2 Barely two months ago, the Albany County Democratic Committee reinforced this norm with a rebuke to erstwhile Mayoral candidate Jack McEneny (who had challenged incumbent and party favorite Jerry Jennings) by declining to endorse his re-election bid for the state assembly. “It’s no secret there’s a lot of discontent with McEneny for having run that primary against Jennings,” Committee Chairman Leonard Weiss told a reporter. “If you’re not loyal, it doesn’t matter how smart you are, or how experienced you are, or how rich you are. What good are you if you’re not loyal to a party? Party loyalty is the first requisite.” Lara Jakes. “Party Panel Declines to Endorse McEneny,” Albany Times-Union, May 5, 1998, p. B-1.

3 Deborah Gesensway. “Neighborhood Groups Carry Clout Quietly,” Albany Times-Union, December 6, 1987 , p. C-1. Harold Rubin, perhaps the central figure in the neighborhood association movement, suggests that Corning was not exactly antagonistic to the neighborhood associations, but he concedes that the Mayor was not enthusiastic about them. “Corning himself would address neighborhood associations,” Rubin remembers. “He didn’t oppose it or anything like that. But he didn’t view it as an asset—let’s put it that way. He viewed it like Castor Oil: You had to swallow it, but he wasn’t too supportive of it.”

4 Josh Barbanel, “The Loyalist Who Was Groomed to Lead Albany,” The New York Times, June 2, 1983, p. B-2.

5 Grondahl, Mayor Erastus Corning, p. 289.

6 Moreover, the APD has apparently not had a very high profile in the police professional community. To be sure, the department has for some time sent some managers and detectives to outside training and conferences (it spent $9,000 on such expenses in 1991, and by 1993 it was budgeting $15,000 for such expenses). But national practices did not necessarily take root in the city, which had a strong tradition of local control. For example, one APD supervisor reports earning a reprimand from the Deputy Chief for counseling an officer using the method he had recently learned in a state training school—through an interoffice memo addressed to the Chief. In Albany, the Deputy Chief explained to the young supervisor, things were done more informally.

7 There are even those who allege that the Democrats influenced jury lists, pointing to a 1960s study that found disproportionate representation of city residents, Democrats, and party workers on both trial and grand juries. See Robinson, Machine Politics, ch. 14.

8 Robinson, Machine Politics, ch. 14; Wilson, Varieties of Police Behavior, pp. 167 ff.

9 Richard Wexler. “Foot Patrol, ‘Outreach Offices’ Slated for Arbor Hill, South End,” Albany Times-Union, August 2, 1991, p. B-1.

10 Richard Wexler. “Critic Says Police Ignored Public’s Role,” Albany Times-Union, August 3, 1991, p. B-2; The Chief expressed similar sentiments in Wexler, “Foot Patrol, ‘Outreach Offices’ Slated for Arbor Hill, South End.” Dale was himself Albany’s first black Chief.

11 Jay Jochnowitz. “Community Policing Helps Residents Feel Safe,” Albany Times-Union, July 12, 1992, p. C-1.

12 On Jennings’s support among Corning loyalists (including a few who jokingly branded themselves as the “Corning Government in Exile”), see Carole DeMare. “Democratic Party Traditionalists Are Thrilled by Jennings’ Victory,” Albany Times-Union, September 19, 1993, p. C-3; Jay Jochnowitz, “Jennings Declares He’ll Run,” Albany Times-Union, May 27, 1993, p. B-1; and Jay Jochnowitz, “Jennings Watches His Options Flourish,” Albany Times-Union, March 15, 1992, p. A-1, which also discusses Jennings’s support among disaffected ward leaders, as well as early rumblings that Jennings would oppose Whalen. (Together with his confrontational stance as alderman, this early opposition likely garnered him support among those who disliked Whalen’s reforms.)

13 Off the record, one union member also suggested that an endorsement ran the risk of alienating the other candidate, who might ultimately end up as their boss. Jay Jochnowitz, “Police Decide against Endorsement,” Albany Times-Union, July 16, 1993, p. B-6.

14 The issue had also been placed on the agenda by a Whalen-initiated think tank called the Albany Civic Forum, which in late 1992 had been charged with identifying ways to improve the city’s quality of life. The Forum set up a public safety panel to focus on police, and union president James Tuffey joined then-Lieutenant Robert Grebert in discussing community policing with that panel. The panel formally endorsed community policing in December of 1993, making a few suggestions and cautions about the subject in its final report.

15 Jay Jochnowitz. “Jennings Has Plan for Cops,” Albany Times-Union, August 12, 1993, p. B-1.

16 Michael KcKeon. “Jennings Picks Detective as Deputy Chief,” Albany Times-Union, January 8, 1994, p. B-1.

17 The reference is to James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. “Police and Neighborhood Safety: Broken Windows,” The Atlantic Monthly, March, 1982, pp. 29-38, which argues that when left unchecked, low-level “disorder” problems like aggressive panhandling can escalate to create more serious crime problems.

18 Cf. academic discussions of the tensions between planning and politics. Alan Altshuler. The City Planning Process. Edward Banfield and Martin Meyerson. Politics, Planning, and the Public Interest.

19 Sarah Metzgar. “Foot Patrol Returns to Albany,” Albany Times-Union, November 27, 1994, p. A-1. Other department members report that calls for service and past community requests were also taken into consideration in drawing the zone maps.

20 A later effort, in which the department sought to use Local Law Enforcement Block Grant money to start a major offender task force, collapsed because of the seniority issue: “What we were going to try to do with the block grant money [to] grab more pro-active cops and say, ‘Give us ten names of everyone who is going to cause the most trouble next summer in your neighborhood. And get on their case, see what we can do,’” Grebert explains. But the union would not approve of the proposal to select only those officers that management deemed “proactive,” insisting that the positions needed to be chosen by seniority. Without the discretion it felt it needed to make the program work, management abandoned the task force.

21 Joe Mahoney. “Dale Resigns as Chief of Albany Police; Fight Feared over Successor,” Albany Times-Union, February 16, 1995, p. A-1.

22 Mahoney, “Dale Resigns as Chief of Albany Police.”

23 Joe Mahoney. “Tuffey’s the Choice for Albany Police Chief,” Albany Times-Union, February 25, 1995, p. A-1.

24 At the time Tuffey told a reported essentially the same thing: “I am 1,000 percent loyal to the Mayor, both as a friend and as the Mayor,” Tuffey insisted. “Because when I’m sworn in, I will be working for him. In my opinion, if you work for somebody, you work for them. I will do nothing to embarrass him, nor will I let anyone else do anything to embarrass him.” Jochnowitz, “Hands-On Role Suits Tuffey.”

25 Jay Jochnowitz. “Don’t Look for the Union Label,” Albany Times-Union, March 8, 1995, p. B-1. During the ceremony that swore him in, Tuffey further said: “Let’s forget about the past. Forget about all the negatives and concentrate on the positives,” Joe Mahoney. “A Call for Unity,” Albany Times-Union, March 17, 1995, p. B-1.

26 “Dinner April 28 for Chief Tuffey,” Albany Times-Union, April 18, 1995, p. B-3.

27 Jochnowitz, “Hands-On Role Suits Tuffey,” Albany Times-Union, March 9, 1995, p. A-1.

28 Jennings, for example, explained the need for non-unionized command staff positions by telling a newspaper reporter that “you can’t be answerable to two masters.” Jay Jochnowitz. “Just a Brief Fling for Jennings, Cops,” Albany Times-Union, July 21, 1995, p. B-5.

29 Another participant in the planning sessions simply did not believe that the reform would have this effect. “We felt that what was needed was an overall manager to manage that de-centralization. [We would still] put the proper responsibilities in those various precincts, . . or the ownership as we talked about in community policing. But within those precincts, there are multiple functions that need to occur. And it was the functions that we were finding problems with, to have people work cohesively together. And that’s where the overall manager came in—not to detract from the de-centralization.”

30 Jay Jochnowitz. “Just a Brief Fling for Jennings, Cops,” Albany Times-Union, July 21, 1995, p. B-5.

31 Some department members also speculate that top management silenced union objections by handing out promotions to top union officials.

32 Lara Jakes, “Politics and Police Don’t Mix for Ex-Deputy Chief,” Albany Times-Union, February 1, 1998, p. D-1. See also Lara Jakes. “Police Hierarchy Shake-Up Continues,” Albany Times-Union, February 11, 1998, p. B-1; Lara Jakes, “Police Put Best Face on Change of Guard,” Albany Times-Union, February 14, 1998, p. A-1.

33 Jakes, “Politics and Police Don’t Mix.”

34 One announcement of the entire community policing effort, written by Times-Union reporter Sarah Metzgar, was titled simply “It’s Official: Albany Foot Cops Are Ready to Patrol City Streets,” Albany Times-Union, December 1, 1994, p. B-4.

35 The department has further plans to take advantages of new technologies for training (such as video training and computerized training) that allow for more scheduling flexibility.

36 Grebert does point to the importance of anecdotes and some ad hoc indicators in gauging the progress of reform. For example, he argues that one indicator of community policing’s acceptance is the presence of volunteers for the zone officer positions: “When you post an opening in one of these teams where a much busier sectors you just see tons of volunteers for it,” he explains. “A beat officer would move one and you’d fill his beat—tons of applicants for the position.” And with investigations, Grebert argues that it became clear when detectives became invested in community policing: “They’d get a big case in, and it would take them away from their team and you’d begin to hear things like, ‘Wait a minute. I’ve got these cases working in my neighborhood that I’ve got to deal with’ . . . You began to see the sense that they were buying into identifying with the neighborhoods.”

37 “Back on the Beat,” Albany Times-Union, November 28, 1994, p. A-8.

38 Jay Jochnowitz. “Arbor Hill Police Unit to Re-Open,” Albany Times-Union, March 28, 1996, p. B-1.

39 Jay Jochnowitz. “Dissent on Substation Dissolves in Unanimity,” Albany Times-Union, October 22, 1996, p. B-1. Morris apparently made this statement after reluctantly voting for the plan. See also Jay Jochnowitz. “Aldermen Hold Key to Arbor Hill Station,” Albany Times-Union, October 19, 1996, p. B-1; Jay Jochnowitz, “Arbor Hill Station Hits Roadblock,” Albany Times-Union, October 8, 1996, p. B-5.

40 Jochnowitz, “Aldermen Hold Key to Arbor Hill Station.”

41 The station recently opened.

42 James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. “Police and Neighborhood Safety: Broken Windows,” The Atlantic Monthly, March, 1982, pp. 29-38

43 Cf. George Kelling and Catherine Coles. Fixing Broken Windows. New York: Free Press, 1997.

44 Tuffey also uses this logic to explain his resistance to call diversion schemes, explained in more detail below. He explains: “Mrs. Jones gets her bicycle stolen from her garage, and you call it in. I take a report on the phone, click. What’s going to happen to that report? It will get filed. The police officer working that area, are they going to know about that stolen bike? What if Harvey Smith who just committed a murder three doors away and we don’t know about the murder yet, walked down the street and stole that bicycle? He’s going to ride away on the bicycle into the sunset. I don’t even know about that murder but I do know Mrs. Jones saw a bicycle going down the street. If I never take that report, I never show up, I don’t know what’s going on in that area.”

45 To be sure, some APD officers seem to see quality-of-life as an important issue in its own right, regardless of its link to serious crime. One explains: “I really believe you [should] take care of the small things: The open container on the corner; the group of kids with their boom boxes . . . ; the skateboarders, if they’re an annoyance and you’re getting calls from the community over this . . . You don’t tolerate that. You don’t tolerate people putting their trash out two days early in the summertime. Unacceptable. . . . That’s not chicken stuff. If you’re trying to go to sleep and you can’t sleep because some person is outside with a loud stereo, and it’s rattling your windows, you have the right to a night’s sleep even if you’re living in the city.”

46 One statistic tends to support the police priorities explanation rather than 911: In 1995—the first full year of both 911 and the new community policing program— arrests climbed by 20%, while calls answered climbed only 3%. (Part I crimes fell by 9% over this period.) A third possible explanation is the growth in the patrol force, but filings per sworn officer rose by 20% from 1993 to 1997.

47 Jay Jochnowitz. “Panel to Help Jennings Choose City Judge,” Albany Times-Union, November 10, 1994, p. B-4.

48 Jay Jochnowitz. “Jennings to Merge Traffic, Engineering, and DPW Services,” Albany Times-Union, June 14, 1995, p. B-4.

49 Sarah Metzgar. “Albany to Deploy an Army to Fight Building Code Violations,” Albany Times-Union, December 13, 1994, p. B-1. Jennings simultaneously proposed to give police some power to enforce building and housing codes, but this proposal got a cooler reception, with some arguing that the work would divert police from more important duties. The proposal has recently re-emerged in the city.

50 Jay Jochnowitz. “Building Inspection by Firefighters Endorsed in Albany,” Albany Times-Union, July 27, 1994, p. B-3. A few city officials worried about potential ethical conflicts, since many firefighters worked as building contractors on the side. But the Fire Chief promised that he would guard against the potential for corruption, explaining that firefighters would not be allowed to solicit business. “They won’t be able to say, ‘You have an electrical problem. Here’s my card,” the Chief told a newspaper reporter at the time. See Metzgar, “Albany to Deploy an Army.”

51 Jay Jochnowitz. “Fire Union Criticizes Double Duties,” Albany Times-Union, February 21, 1997, p. B-1.

52 Jay Jochnowitz. “Landlords Fight City Hall over Code Violations,” Albany Times-Union, May 8, 1995, p. B-1; Jay Jochnowitz. “Mayor’s Code Enforcement Plan Hits Snag,” Albany Times-Union, September 8, 1995, p. B-12; Jochnowitz, “Fire Union Criticizes Double Duties.”

53 Rubin, who became an NRC board member in 1976, explains this philosophy and the steps he and NRC did take as follows: “Other organizations like NYPIRG tried to come in and organize neighborhoods. We don’t believe in that: You don’t organize from the outside, you organize from the inside. And when we get a call from people who want to form a neighborhood association, we say, ‘Fine. We’ll give you the publication of how to organize an NA; if you want copies of bylaws, contact NRC, they have copies of the various neighborhood association bylaws. If you want a speaker, we’ll send you a speaker.’ I spoke at early meetings of forming the New Scotland Whitehall NA. . .. I spoke to a whole variety of groups about how you go about forming an association, [and] how do you keep it going. And answering questions. Because people don’t know. ‘What are your boundaries?’ ‘Do you have dues?’ ‘Who can be a member? Is it the husband and wife? Do the kids become members?’ ‘How do you decide on the boundaries?’ ‘Should you be incorporated or not?’ ‘How often do you meet? Do you meet on a monthly basis? Do you have a board which runs the organization between meetings, or is every meeting a public meeting?’ ‘How do you communicate with the people?’ These are all the sorts of questions which we can talk about, because we have dealt with them over the years . . . . We don’t tell them what to do. What we do is tell them the alternatives, and they have to decide what’s best for their own area. And we still get these sorts of calls.”

54 Rubin offers this anecdote as an example, “to this day, I get calls from people for service. I got a call the other day from a guy who lives in a suburban community who owns a house around the block . . . for investment purposes. The house next to his has five units where they play loud music at all hours. The person who owns that building lives in Florida. There’s a manager in the building who has an apartment rent-free to run the building, but he can’t evict tenants. The suburban owner asked for my help. And what I did was speak to our community policeman. I gave him my caller’s name and all the information I had, and he is going to follow through with it. I get these calls all the time.”

55 At the beginning, at least, this disinterested posture acted very concretely as a survival tactic. Rubin remembers: “In the early days, [at] every meeting we had of the Center Square Association, we just assumed that somebody there was a mole reporting to . . . the party people. But again, the positions we took were governmental”—the implication being that they left as little as possible for the party to be concerned about. In any case, Rubin insists that he never knew of any attempt to punish him personally for his activism. “All those years, as far as I know—my name and picture appeared in the paper quite often—no one in the State [where Rubin worked] ever told me to slow down or do this or do that. Never once.” In any case, Rubin held a civil service position that made him relatively invulnerable.

56 For the record, Tuffey insists that this influence is entirely proper: “I have to tell you this, I’ve never in three years here, I have never had a Ward Leader, alderperson, [or] any political person, call me up and ask me to do anything out of the ordinary—ever ask me to promote somebody, transfer somebody, hire somebody. Absolutely not, no. . . . Because you know what I’d tell them? They know what I’d tell them. . . . I mean, they’ll call you up and say, ‘Look, they have a traffic problem here.’ But that’s part of their job . . . That’s done by everybody—that’s not just done by political people. I get letters from citizens all the time, “Can you put a stop sign at the end of my street?” I might get that from an alderperson, but that’s . . . nothing out of the ordinary. And it won’t be a demand; it will be a request: ‘Would you look into this and see if it’s possible?’ Some times it is and sometimes [it isn’t]. And if it’s not possible, then we can’t do it.”

57 Deborah Gesensway. “Neighborhood Groups Carry Clout Quietly,” Albany Times-Union, December 6, 1987, p. C-1. Another community activist explains more fully what the “childlike” relationship entails: “In this town, . . . traditionally people have done what they were told. There weren’t too many voices of rebellion or even at a lower level than that—[of] dissent.”

58 Jay Jochnowitz. “Crime Bill Means $8.5M for Albany, Jennings Says,” Albany Times-Union, September 15, 1994, p. B-4. In theory, the 14 PHS officers plus a net total of 11 officers hired separately on city money would bring the APD from its Whalen-era authorized strength of 320 sworn officers up to a total of 345, which is what Jennings budgeted after taking office. Attrition in both the existing force and the recruit classes, of course, meant that the total would never reach that figure, and by 1995 sworn strength was hovering around 330 officers (just as under Whalen, the actual total had hovered around 300 rather than the authorized figure of 320).

59 Jay Jochnowitz. “U.S. Says Albany Police Grant in Jeopardy,” Albany Times-Union, December 29, 1994, p. B-3, citing a December 19 letter from Assistant Attorney General John Schmidt.

60 Two years later, Grebert would comment to a newspaper reporter that the city had been particularly concerned about picking up the cost of these officers when the grant expired. See Carol DeMare. “Strings Attached to Albany’s Police Grant,” Albany Times-Union, June 17, 1997, p. B-1.

61 Jennings and budget director Chris Hearley are paraphrased to that effect in Jay Jochnowitz. “Albany May Reject $1M Grant for 14 Cops,” Albany Times-Unions, December 19, 1996, p. B-1, in which Jenning also explains “my initial thoughts were, it wasn’t for new cops.”

62 Kate Gurnett. “Alderman Presses for Cop Grant,” Albany Times-Union, December 23, 1996, p. B-1.

63 Asked why the department chose to target MORE money for these uses rather than technology, Tuffey explains that the department intends to pursue its computerization efforts—notably putting laptop computers in patrol cars, which currently do not have MDTs—as part of a regionalization effort, which will allow it to share costs with other agencies. In any case, he insists that the department is not yet ready for a massive drive to computerize patrol cars because it is only now testing out the technology on a small scale. “I wouldn’t buy fifty of them right now until I make sure the technology is working properly,” the Chief explains. “I’m sure there are going to be other grants down the road for those. I would rather do that and spend the money right now on implementing the quality of life [efforts],” a reference to the overtime grants targeted for Albany troublespots that are described below.

64 Both grants also included a small amount for related equipment, such as four personal computers that the booking clerks would use.

65 Lara Jakes. “Domestic Violence Program in a Financial Squeeze,” Albany Times-Union, January 20, 1998, p. B-1.

66 Budgeted expenses for training and conferences have actually fallen dramatically in recent years, from $15,000 in 1993 to $5,000 in 1997. Most training, of course, is handled at no budgeted cost by the department’s own administrative services division, and that division had not added personnel for three years after community policing’s debut. But in commenting on this draft, one department member points out that since the time of my visit, the APD has beefed-up staffing not just for training but also for information systems in order to improve its administrative systems.