Discussion on police brutality held in Troy

Pat Gareau, Creative Editor

Approximately 100 people filled the community meeting room of Missing Link AME Zion Church in Troy on Wednesday, Feb. 26,  to hear from experts and discuss their grievances with the Troy Police Department.

The latest incident in what some see as a pattern of police brutality and minority targeting occurred at Kokopelli’s nightclub in late January. The owners of the club blame the police for starting a fight that resulted in multiple injuries. Those criticizing the Troy Police’s behavior that night believe the surveillance tapes back up the allegations of excessive force.

Since then, the Troy community has marched against police brutality and participated in two meetings held by the city’s Public Safety committee.

Alice Green, from the Center for Law and Justice in Albany, said the discussion was about asking the question, “Where do we go from here?”

Green laid out three goals for the community in Troy. According to Green, they must first resolve the Kokopelli’s incident, then improve the trust and accountability of the Troy PD, and ultimately improve the culture of the Troy PD.

Along with Green, the panel of experts included Fred Clark, from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Bob Keach, an attorney, Maria Dyson, an attorney, Ben Brucato, a doctoral student and activist from RPI and Terry O’Neill, an activist and former government expert on suing public officials.

Bob Keach is an attorney representing the owners of Kokopelli’s and has previously sued the City of Troy. In past cases he has been given access to internal documents at the department.

Keach said, “There is a persistent use of excessive force in the city of Troy.”

In a previous case, Keach won a settlement against the Troy PD on behalf of a client who sustained injuries from a beating after he was filming the officers beating someone else.

All of the panelists agreed that the incident at Kokopelli’s must be independently reviewed.

The Department of Justice and FBI are currently starting to investigate. The experts also agreed that the city should create a strong citizens review board to increase oversight of the police department.

Clifton Dixon, former Student Senate President at Hudson Valley, now works as a community leader and is involved in addressing the issues in Troy.

“Obviously one of the issues in the area is police brutality,” said Dixon. “It appears to be more prevalent in Troy.”

“As a citizen, as a black man, as a civil rights leader, it’s so alarming,” said Dixon.

Keach said, “The only thing in my opinion that is going to have an effect is the citizens in this community going to their legislatures.”

On Mar. 6, activists involved in this issue will speak during the public comments period of the Rensselaer County Legislature’s meeting.

Pastor Willie Bacote, who has been leading the way in organizing the community around this issue, said, “Now is the time that we the people stop the procrastinating.”

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