McCoy decries 25 Albany shootings, Cuomo urges police reform

— Still frame from June 18 Albany County press briefing

“It’s not the wild West, people … That’s not the answer,” said Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy of 25 shootings in Albany in the last three weeks.

ALBANY COUNTY — Recently, both the governor and the county executive have used their daily COVID-19 press briefings to address racism and civil unrest.

“Today is 110,” said Andrew Cuomo at his Thursday briefing, referencing the days since the pandemic started in New York. He went on, finishing the sentence, “Twenty-five days since the civil unrest from Mr. Floyd’s murder.”

George Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. His murder, caught on a disturbing and widely circulated video, has caused protests across the country and around the world.

Cuomo went on to talk about the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative, which he said is “going to be transformative if we do it right.” To keep state funding, each municipal police department in the state has to work with its community to come up with a policing plan by April 1 to reinvent and modernize police strategies.

The governor on Thursday asked, “What does public safety mean today in this society? We haven’t reevaluated what it means. We’ve been talking about the expansion of the criminal justice industrial complex; we’ve been talking about how many people we put in prison that we put more people in prison in this nation than any industrialized nation on the globe. We’ve been talking for decades that it costs more to keep a person in prison than it would to educate a child at Harvard University, but nothing has changed.”

With Floyd’s death, Cuomo said, “Finally, people said enough is enough and now is the moment to change.”

He went on, urging, “Have the hard conversation. Come up with a plan. But get it done by April 1 if you want funding from the state.”

He urged looking at what function a police department should have and then budgeting to pay for those functions. He stressed the importance of transparency in discipline and of a system for  reviewing citizen complaints.

Cuomo also asked a series of unanswered questions that presumably each municipal police department will consider: “How do you use data to drive deployment? How do you address bias within the police department, which is so real and has been in existence for so long? How do you link the police with the essential services, with the mental health, with the substance abuse, et cetera?”

“Answer the tough questions that will actually bring about change,” he said.

For his part, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy followed Cuomo’s lead in declaring Juneteenth a county holiday just as the governor had declared it a state holiday.

McCoy said of Union soldiers reaching Texas on June 19, 1865, “It not only celebrates the end of slavery in the United States but it is also a day to recognize the sacrifices and achievements of African-Americans and their countless contributions to this country.”

The press applauded as McCoy signed the executive order near the start of Thursday’s briefing.

David Brown, Capital District YMCA president and chief executive officer, was the featured speaker, to talk about day camps opening in five locations on June 29.

Brown also focused on racism. “We’re actually fighting two pandemics right now: COVID-19 and racism,” he said.

He urged food donations to the South End Café in Albany and attendance at a virtual town hall meeting on July 1 put on by African-American CEOs of the national YMCA, which Brown chairs. Workshops will address the topic of “Unlearning Systemic Racism.”

“We really want to bring people together,” said Brown.

McCoy concluded the briefing by decrying the 25 shootings in Albany since the protests began.

“There’s nothing wrong with peaceful protest … We want to have change,” McCoy said.”They need a seat at the table,” he said of protesters. “It should be them telling us what they want going forward.

“But being a city resident my whole life, growing up in the South End, running around the streets and seeing that there was 11 shootings last night — 11 — is disturbing. We’ve had 25 shootings in downtown Albany since the first protest three weeks ago.”

McCoy said he would make the county’s mental-health team available to help those hurt by the shootings. “It’s a shock wave in the community,” he said of the shootings, speculating it could cause post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It’s not the wild West, people … That’s not the answer,” said McCoy.

He concluded, “We can’t have this. To have 25 shootings in three weeks is just unfathomable and the summer’s just beginning so we need to try to work together.”


More Regional News

  •  Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday joined with the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut to lift most industry capacity restrictions, beginning May 19. He cited the success of vaccination programs and the decline in cases of COVID-19.

  • Albany County Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen said she has received word from the state’s health department on the “likelihood that in the next week the FDA will give the OK for the 12-to-15 age group.” Her department is preparing to vaccinate youth, communicating with local schools and pediatricians, urging the doctors to become certified vaccinators through the state’s Department of Health.

  • “We tend to socially distance as a norm,” nurse practitioner Jill Martin said of Hilltown residents. “Even our houses are situated far apart.” And many Hilltowners work independently — say, as farmers — and don’t regularly go to crowded venues like theaters or restaurants, she noted. “It gives a false sense of security that we don’t have the virus,” Martin said.

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.