Police on the other side of the two-way mirror, facing pressing questions from students
By Kassie Parisi
Assistant News Editor
Most students at the University at Albany encounter the Albany Police (APD) or University Police (UPD) at some point during their college stay. Whether the encounter is good or bad, there are things that a student is expected to do while dealing with an officer. Likewise, there are things an officer is supposed to do while dealing with a student.
On April 9, UAlbany’s Student Association held the “Open Forum: Off Campus Behavior and Safety Issues,” in which a panel of law enforcement officials answered questions that students had. These officials included members of the UPD, members from the Albany Police Department and Nancy Lauricella of UAlbany’s Office of Conflict Resolution and Civic Responsibility.
Students also were curious to know what APD does to control apartment break ins and burglaries. Chief Cox explained neighborhood engagement officers are stationed around residential areas during the weeknights along with the normal officers who are there to ensure maximum coverage of the downtown area.
Cox also mentioned a system in which students are able to register their apartment with the department in order to ensure protection while a student is away. Students can sign up for this through information provided by the University.
He strongly urged all students who are currently living downtown to embrace this service, as it could potentially stop a burglar.
Many of the questions pertained to what police officers can and cannot do. For example, one student said, “Does a cop need permission to enter my house? What happens if I say no?”
One of the officers replied with the remark, “Well if it’s an open house party and everyone else is coming and going, why can’t I?”
He went on to explain that police officers do not go out with the specific intention of shutting down parties and arresting the hosts. He said each situation is different, and they will only knock on the door if there was a complaint or if there was an obvious reason to go knock on the door, like music at an excessive volume.
The officers repeatedly said they typically only go to houses to shut down parties if they receive a call. Cox urged students to “introduce yourself to your neighbors. That way, there will be more of a chance of them understanding if you chose to throw a party.”
But he then reminded students they must remember the areas in which they live have more than just students living in them. He noted there are many families and residents living downtown who have to get up early and work, making loud music at 3 a.m. a problem.
A student followed up with “If my neighbor is just an unhappy person who hates their life then why should I have to turn my music down?”
According to the officers, they do try to keep track of who complains to see if there are trends of people calling where there may not actually be a problem, but a complaint is a complaint, and they have to respond.
“We know you’re in college and that you want to have fun. We want you to have fun, but you have to be respectful. You can’t take an area and just make it your playground. Just remember that your neighbors are there and be respectful,” Cox said.
One student brought up the point that even though police claim downtown is safer now, the fact that there are less people walking around as a result of less random parties on every street makes her feel more at risk.
“It just feels more shady,” she said.
The panelists expressed regret that she feels this way, but they assured the audience the crime rate had in fact gone down from what it was four years ago. The panelists did not provide any statistics to prove that statement.
One major issue that kept reappearing was the issue of maltreatment of students at the
hands of officers and police brutality.
Recent reports have come in of student claiming to have been brutalized, treated rudely, and even subjected to a Taser. Cox urged students to file a complaint if this happened.
He said that though he understands that it may be intimidating for a student to walk into the police department building and ask for a complaint form, there are other ways to do it, such as going on the website of the Albany Police Department.
He told students to never be afraid to ask for an officer’s name and badge number, which they are obligated to give. Some students claimed that when they asked for a name and badge number, the officer refused. Cox said that if this happened then to ask for the name of the supervisor.
This can be done by simply calling the station and asking to speak with a supervisor.
The most important message at this meeting was that although a student may feel uneasy dealing with the police, if they he or she feels violated in any way, they must make a complaint.
Keeping the incident a secret will not help you, and it will not help the Albany Police rectify problems.
Cox agreed that sometimes officers will act incorrectly, but students must remember that they are dealing with authority officials and if an officer tells them to please leave the scene, the student would be ill advised to go against that, even if a friend is involved.
If the claims of mistreatment are true, the police can only do so much without the help of the students. This is a two way street. As Assistant Chief Cox said,“we are public servants. You are the public, and your safety is important to us.”