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June 22, 2010
The Four Chiefs Beat The Old Boys
Congratulations to Albany’s new Chief of Police Steven Krokoff, let’s see if he can keep the promises that got him the job
The room was packed, corporate TV camera crews lined the walls getting in everybody’s way. It was an extraordinary, jaw-dropping event and we sat there stunned and amazed, wondering if this could really be happening. It was January 2010, the first Wednesday of the new decade, and the top brass of the Albany Police Department stood before us at the Council of Albany Neighborhood meeting (CANA) at the main library.
We had four chiefs in full dress uniform, all in a row, come to make peace with the taxpayers. There was Assistant Chief Steven Krokoff, Deputy Chief Steven Reilly, Deputy Chief Brendan Cox, and Assistant Chief Anthony Bruno. There was no Chief of Police in front of us because the last Chief of Police, James Tuffey, resigned in September of last year just before the elections.
And I almost immediately noted that all four of these chiefs were much younger than me. Only Chief Bruno could be called a baby boomer. The other three were too young to be identified as Old Boys, this was the new generation. I’ll get back to that.
The Four Chiefs At CANA, January 2010. From Left, Steven Krokoff, Steven Reilly, Brendan Cox And Anthony Bruno.
Chief Krokoff and company had come to tell us that there has been a lack of communication between the police and the taxpayers who support the police. That’s putting it mildly. And he stated that despite a recent drop in official crime statistics the public still has the perception that the police are not doing an adequate job. Now, where could that have come from?
I can’t speak authoritatively about other parts of the City, but I can speak about my own. Since I moved to my South End neighborhood in 1985, I’ve observed that until very recently the Albany police department has been engaged in open warfare against my neighborhood. This policy by the police department has worked very nicely with the anti-urban policies of the Albany City government, thus the police enjoyed no public oversight for a long time.
What do I mean by open warfare? I’m referring to cops coming to the doors of white homeowners (only the white ones) and telling them to move out of the City. I’m talking about cops who openly treat respectable hard working citizens (such as myself) the same way they treat repeat offenders. I’m talking about cops who practice Denial of Service, refusing to respond to emergency calls, or even do routine police work.
That’s for starters. I want to start ranting here, detailing one example after another how over the years in my neighborhood the Albany Police have effectively protected criminals and worked to downgrade my neighborhood. instead of interrupting the narrative flow, I’ll say that police pressure against my neighborhood is nowhere near as bad as it was, say, five or ten years ago. There has been a change toward the positive, slow in progress, but steadily better.
Future Chief Of Police Krokoff Choosing His Words Carefully At CANA (From ACT)
So to sit at the CANA meeting at the main library and hear the police top brass say that “there have been problems in the past” and that the police “need to work closer with the community” was like being part of an unreal dream. A good dream, not the continuation of the lingering nightmare. Chief Krokoff humbly proposed calling off the police war against the community once and for all:
We have gotten away from community oriented policing, the police have gone in one direction and the community another. We have had some successes, but the problem is we’re not working together... What we are hoping to do is bring a real community policing policy to the Albany Police Department.
Well. I’ve certainly heard Old Boy Baby Boomer police officials say similar things in the past, accompanied by a cop sneer. Usually what these Old Boys have meant by saying such things is that the citizens are not being cooperative enough with the cops and had better get with it or else. And one thing I’ve learned from hard experience is that although those Old Boys usually are lousy cops, they sure know how to retaliate against law abiding citizens.
But Chief Krokoff is not an Old Boy and he was not sneering at us. That in itself was jaw-dropping. Indeed, his manner was very respectful, if he had brought a hat he would have been holding it with both hands at his belt.
What we need to do is to consult with the experts, the experts in this situation are you. It’s the people who live in Albany, the people who care about their community and care about the future of their community. We need you.
Chief Steven Krokoff
We sat down a while ago to figure out how to address some of the concerns that we were hearing in the community. And we started to do what we in the police department have done so well. We were going to tell you how we were going to fix it.
We looked around the room, and Deputy Chief Reilly said, ‘What are we doing? We are about to recreate the same errors that we have done in the past.’ We are about to go forward without asking the people who rely on us, what their expectations are...
We are looking for broad input, all-inclusive input from the residents of Albany. We are looking at how we can set up an advisory panel of representatives of the people who live in this City, that can reach out to areas of the community that we may not even know exist... We want to reach those people and find out what it is we can do together. We hope to end up with a product that we can all go forward with and be proud of.
The chiefs were telling us they want to start working with the community, not against it anymore. Using words carefully chosen to avoid implicating the behavior of past police administrations, Chief Krokoff was, in effect, proposing the start of peace talks between the community and the police. Oh boy, have we been waiting to hear such a reasonable concession from their camp.
But one big question remained, who’s been running the Albany PD since last September? At the end of the questions and comments after all four chiefs had spoken, I raised my hand and asked the dumb question that no one had asked. I understand that my question and part of the reply ended up on several television corporate “news” shows.
After some hemming and hawing, Chiefs Reilly, Cox and Bruno each in turn pointed at Chief Krokoff and said that he was in charge. “ I have assumed a role, said Chief Reilly, that is supportive of Steve’s (Krokoff) position as Deputy Chief of operations... so for all intents and purposes, I look to him as though he‘s The Chief.” Chiefs Cox and Bruno in turn reflected Chief Reilly’s statement of support.
Chief Reilly (Gesturing) Declares Chief Krokoff Their Chief Administrator. After This The Media Called Him "Acting Chief Krokoff." (From ACT)
What we have here is a high level cabal, an ad hoc board of directors choosing and positioning their own CEO. Last Friday Jordan Carleo-Evangelist, writing for the Hearst Times Union, reminded us that last September these four chiefs had a direct role in the downfall of the last Chief of Police, James Tuffey. (BTW, lately Jordan has been doing a fair good job of reporting on City of Albany politics, a first for the Hearst Rag. The Baby Boomer editors must be getting really desperate if they are letting him report accurately.)
James Tuffey had been teetering politically all last summer, all that was needed for his downfall was one more straw on the camel’s back. That straw was an allegation that Mr. Tuffey had spoken a racial epithet regarding some ongoing investigation. But from what I can gather the sole witness to that spoken epithet was none other than Assistant Chief Anthony Bruno, one of the four chiefs in front of CANA.
Next, a bunch of anonymous letters were sent to the local media outlets, signed by a group of cops who called themselves Coalition Against Racism and Bigotry. At the risk of getting sued for slander, allow me to state the obvious. This “coalition,” from which we will never hear again, was composed solely of the four chiefs, and the anonymous letters came from them. Go ahead, prove me wrong.
Next, the four chiefs, acting as a unit, hired a lawyer. (They could have picked a better lawyer than Kevin Luibrand, but that’s my opinion.) I wonder how exactly they paid for this legal assistance, did the taxpayers help? They then sent their lawyer to City of Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings to tell Him that they would not be defending Mr. Tuffey by publicly denying that he spoke the racial slur.
At this point Jennings discovered (probably with a shock) that He was being blindsided by a new political force in Albany, the existence of which He previously had not been aware. It was clear that they intended to take control of the Albany PD. And it quickly became clear that they were issuing their challenge not only to Jennings but also to Chris Mesley, the powerful head of the police union in the City of Albany.
Former Chief Of Police James Tuffey, Police Union President Christian Mesley
Sgt. Mesley almost immediately declared that the police rank and file were “delighted” by Mr. Tuffey’s sudden resignation over the alleged incident, by his own admission he had been badgering and harassing the former Chief for more than three years. He even called Tuffey a liar.
Then Mesley went on one of those stupid AM radio talk shows to declare that the four chiefs “executed” Chief Tuffey. Quite a compliment, really. He went on to say that Mayor Jennings “should question their political loyalty” and “tell all of them to pack it up too.”
Jennings, who at the beginning of September was fighting to save His own political career, was in no position to fire the entire top command of the police force, even if He wanted to. At least not until after the elections, after January. So His Majesty came up with a plan to undermine the four chiefs.
Jennings announced a nationwide search for a new police chief. The process got lots of attention and attracted dozens of qualified candidates from all over. A citizen’s review committee was selected to pare down the applicants to a few, from which one would be selected by the Mayor and then confirmed by the Common Council.
Like so many of Jennings political games, this “process” was pure bull crap. Jennings had a particular candidate in mind, oh yeah He did. He wanted to saddle the City with a lawless thug by the name of John Pikus, the current boss or commandant or capo or whatever you call the head thug at the local branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which operates out of the scary looking secret fortress along McCarty Avenue.
FBI Boss John Pikus
Pikus, to put very mildly, is unqualified to be in charge of any legitimate police. Man, I don’t want to get started, I’ll go on and on about this scumball. This clown does not believe that you need evidence to convict a suspect. Nor does he believe in warrants. He has a history of targeting and persecuting minorities. He has no political experience dealing with free citizens, and as a hardcore suburbanite certainly has no clue how to properly police a City’s public spaces.
In short, Pikus would have been a total nightmare as chief of police. So what was Jennings thinking by trying to give this creep a retirement job? I think it quite obvious that Jennings didn’t care about the massive negative effects of saddling Albany with Pikus. All he wanted to do was undermine the four chiefs and damn the consequences.
But then some of the most uncompromising community activists in the City very publicly came forward and angrily denounced Pikus in no uncertain terms. Several of these activists are deeply involved with exposing Pikus’ successful unlawful entrapment scheme against former Imam Yassin Aref and pizza shop owner Mohammed Hossain. Jennings was put on notice by the activists that they would see to it that Pikus would cause His Majesty way more political problems than he would solve.
So that’s when the four chiefs made their move to win the support of the community activists by appearing at CANA to call off the Old Boy’s war against the community. The crowd at CANA, which included elected officials, were delighted. With the neighborhood activists behind the four chiefs, Jennings had no choice but to announce “His choice” of Steven Krokoff as Chief of Police.
But note that Jennings waited six months to publicly acknowledge political reality. And His Majesty chose to announce “His choice” on Friday afternoon, the traditional time for announcing bad news to the media. But don’t assume Jennings is resigned to being beaten like that. He holds lots of big grudges.
A Jennings Campaign Poster Made Accurate
Quite a few of the CANA representatives who attended the January 2010 meeting instantly remembered another CANA meeting from January 2002, another encounter with the police top brass. That 2002 meeting was in the same hall at the back of the main library on the first floor. That police invasion of CANA was not friendly.
I counted about 40 City of Albany police officers, ranging from chiefs to department heads to sergeants and a smattering of Old Boy regular cops, all in dress uniform and prominently displaying weapons. They were led into the room by none other than Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings. This was our yearly visit by Jennings to give CANA a version of His State of the City address with questions afterwards.
The invasion of big scary cops was Jennings’ doing. Those Albany cops had come to our meeting to threaten us, to intimidate us. They wanted to show how much deep contempt they had for the people who pay their salaries. (And I wonder if the four chiefs were among them, staring at us.)
Jennings took His place at the front of the meeting and studied us down His nose with a half-grin and hooded eyes. The cops spread out along the walls until we were completely surrounded. Standing or leaning they looked down at us with that characteristic look of hatred and contempt that all cops must practice for long hours at home in front of their mirrors.
The meeting began in usual fashion. Whenever one of us would speak, all 40 cops would turn in unison to stare at that person with that characteristic cop-hate look. Yet despite tall these armed cops along the walls threatening to behave like lawless thugs, we carried on with the meeting. And that funny sneer never left Jennings’ face.
What prompted the intimidation routine? Several of the CANA representatives had dared to work on what is known as Police Issues, basically looking to improve relations between our community and the law enforcement monopoly. That sounds innocuous, doesn’t it? This is the sort of thing neighborhood groups everywhere are concerned with. Right?
Basically, during this period the Albany police did absolutely no police work that I observed... at least not willingly. Often I saw the cop’s public hiding places, and every day I watched them drive their SUVs at an excessive rate of speed through my neighborhood on their way back and forth to their suburbs. But they sure didn’t “protect and serve” my neighborhood. Must have been nice for them while it lasted.
Denial of Service began in the late 1980s, but became the hard and fast rule across downtown Albany after Jennings took power in 1995. Only a handful of privileged people, such as Common Council members, could rely on the police responding to their calls.
Most respectable folks didn’t know about the police refusing to respond to calls during this period, they only noted how their own neighborhoods seemed to be disintegrating around them. But the criminals knew they had nothing to fear from the police. I found out early on about the cold hard reality of Denial of Service because as a small business owner I deal with the police more than the average person does.
The real target of the police during that 2002 meeting was a CANA representative by the name of Helen Black, a thin middle class middle aged woman who is not as tall as my armpit. Helen had been complaining, mildly in my opinion, about the lack of response by the police to emergency calls for help. The cops were not bothering to respond to reports of burglaries or assaults, but the entire command structure was mobilized after hours to threaten and intimidate this diminutive woman.
Helen got the message that it was just a matter of time before the police got their revenge on her. She told me this when I asked her why she was suddenly moving far away from Albany. As it turned out, Helen was not alone in her groundbreaking efforts to deal with Denial of Service, in 2005 she returned to the City from which she had been banished to accept the Thomas Sechenya award for public service.
Albany Police At Work Last October.
All that being said, I want to stop and say that in recent years I have gotten to know several individual Albany police officers who are dedicated to their job and to our community, even though they live in the suburbs. I’ve observed that these individuals, through their hard work, have done much to raise the public’s perception of the Albany Police Department. Yet to listen to these officers talk they spend almost as much time battling the police command as they do trying to protect the community.
But here’s the interesting thing. A while back I realized that the individual police officers for whom I have developed respect, the hard working ones dedicated to trying to do a good job as officers and serve the community, all of them were much younger than me. In fact, three of the four chiefs that were standing in front of us this past January offering to make peace were under 40.
To put it simply, people of my generation, the Baby Boomers, make lousy leaders of society. While there are numerous exceptions to this generalization, the record of administrative failure by Baby Boomers is clear right across the board, from top to bottom.
And Baby Boomers in general make lousy cops. When I was young it was very, very uncool to want to be a cop. The police were universally considered the violent strong arm of The Establishment, an army deployed against our generation to suppress our individual freedom and liberty. (And they were for a while.) For one of us to join one of them was to risk being cut off from one’s peers forever.
Well, right now the uncool kids born in the middle of the 20th Century are now in their 50s and 60s. They are embedded in key positions in our society, right now they are running the country. Dick Cheney, George Pataki and Jerry Jennings are all symptoms of the same generational failure. No wonder we have so many problems.
I say, to hell with the Baby Boomers as managers of our society, most of the ones in power are incompetent. That includes the cops. Most of the Boomers ought to do everyone else a favor and retire from management positions right now. Isn’t it time all you people moved to Oregon and learned to play the guitar? Get going you lazy self-absorbed asses, you’re all going to die soon of old age so hurry up and get going.
Chief Krokoff With Albany County DA David Soares Last March
The four chiefs apparently pulled off a successful coup detat that has opened the way for the new generation to take over the Albany Police Department. Don’t underestimate these guys, and don’t fool yourselves into thinking the four of them are warm and fuzzy. Bear in mind that together they took on the chief of police, the police union, and that consummate political game player, Jerry Jennings all at once. And they came out on top.
Everyone needs to remember that our new Chief of Police Steven Krokoff is a politician like any other. He owes his new job to the neighborhood activists who gave him enthusiastic support, they are his prime constituency. As the vanguard of the new more competent generation of police officers, Chief Krokoff and his three allies are in a position to utterly overhaul the Albany Police Department and make real and effective inroads into crime in our community. We expect them to keep their word.
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Thanks for the new post, Dan! Very illuminating, as always!
Posted by:TERRY O’NEILL
The Constantine Institute
102 Willett Street
Albany, New York 12210
2 July 2010
Hon. Gerald Jennings
Office of the Mayor
Albany, New York 12207
Dear Mayor Jennings;
I recently visited the headquarters of the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Arlington, Virginia. I enjoyed seeing an old friend, Jim McMahon, who is now the IACP’s Chief of Staff. I described to him the extraordinary process that we have been following to select the next Chief of our Albany Police Department. We both agreed that neither of us has ever seen such a deliberate and participatory public evolution for filling any police executive job anywhere.
On my way out of our meeting, Jim pointed out a gallery of past presidents of the IACP. Among them are two New Yorkers, Joe Dominelli of Rotterdam and Frank Looney of Nassau County. Both of them played prominent roles in the leadership and success of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police. I noted that in the 110-year history of that organization, no Albany Police Chief has ever held the office of President of NYSACOP (not to mention IACP) which has played a leading role in every important state legislative initiative affecting the forward evolution of professional law enforcement in our state over those eleven decades. I think we should aspire to change that -- a worthy goal of the All-American City and the Capital of the Empire State.
NYSACOP is having its annual conference in Fairport from July 18-21. I would be honored to have the privilege of introducing our new Chief to his colleagues and peers at that meeting.
Posted by:Terry O'Neill, Esq.
On the evening that the Common Council met to vote on the confirmation of Steve Krokoff as Chief of the Albany Police Department, I was on a cruise boat on the Erie Canal with about sixty Police Chiefs and their spouses. On our return to our hotel, I read news of the Common Council's unanimous vote on the Times Union website. It was most gratifying to carry the news to all the Chiefs.
Ah, but before the week was out, I had the additional gratification of calling attention to this historic achievement on the part of our community of Albany to the people of Buffalo, where things are not going as well or progressively: