Ever since I moved from NYC to Albany, I’ve been trying to tell the Albany Police Department how to do The Job — I mean, the way we did it when I was a cop in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I guess they heard me, at least in the beginning, because I wrote the directions down in an Op-Ed piece the local paper, The Albany Times-Union, published, and TV interviewed me on the street in front of my house. The spokesman for the police duly made an official response: That I was an OLD cop and things were no longer done that way in a modern police department. Yeah, right.
Can’t say I was really surprised. “The Commission” was the usual gathering of mopes from academia, a couple of black Reverends from local churches whose primary loyalty was to Albany’s Mayor-for-Life, Jerry Jennings, who obviously has them in his pocket for some reason — makes me want to get Al Sharpton up here to get folks up on their feet shouting — and some civilians, including a handful of mothers whose children had been gunned down on the streets like 10-year-old Kathina Thomas. Months later, the Commission published its Grand Plan to study The Problem, bring in SNUG, fund a Gun Buyback Program. What’s new?
My advice, though nobody asked? Skip the study. Create a mobile roving patrol now, staff it with three smart, aggressive cops supervised by an experienced, savvy sergeant: their primary function to spot and intercept the gunmen on our streets. Create a second unit similarly staffed and schedule it to work shifts opposite the first: that way there is always a Street Crime Unit (that’s what the NYPD calls them) on Patrol. Being a retired cop, I’m a keen observer of crime in my new hometown (and in Troy and Schenectady as well). I know four young cops who’d be perfect for the job: the partners who grabbed NahCream Moore out of that car on Grand Street and spotted the gun in his belt before he could use it on them, and the pair who stopped the parolee who tried to run them down last year, the loaded semiautomatic pistol on the car seat beside him.
The police are empowered to stop “suspicious” persons on the street and detain them to ask questions such as Where are you going? What’s your name and address? New York State’s Criminal Procedure Law Section 140.50, commonly referred to as the Stop, Question & Frisk law authorizes this.
To illustrate, here’s the play-by-play: A group is tooling along on the street (it’s always multiple mopes, never just one) looking for targets of opportunity. The Street Crime cops follow along, unconcerned at being seen since it makes the boys nervous. The cops hail the group ordering them to stop, the four officers pile out of the car and surround them. Four officers, acting in concert, has proved an adequate force to effect such stops. The questioning begins, and if the officer feels his safety threatened he may pat down the outer clothing of the suspect for a weapon. It is a commonplace of police experience that if a man is carrying a gun, he will walk in a somewhat tentative fashion, favoring the side of his body where the gun is concealed (guns are typically heavy). Faced with a barrage of questions, the gun-toter often takes off running, or occasionally the loaded gun will slip down a pant leg and clunk at the cop’s feet.
Stop & Frisk is the best friend a cop has, the primary tool he employs on the street. Last year, New York City police conducted in excess of 600,000 stops. That is why the City’s streets are safer that they’ve been in decades.
So, Chief Krokoff, what are you waiting for? The shootings did not stop with Kathina Thomas. This month, over an eight-day period, there were five separate shootings on the streets of Albany resulting in one dead, one on life-support and three wounded. All these incidents occurred in the South End, Arbor Hill or West Hill — communities that are worlds away from the gentrified precincts of Center Square and Hudson Park in the heart of Downtown Albany. Is that why no one cares?