Albany Police Department study will seek input from public

Albany Police Department Chief Michael Persley answered questions on Tuesday from the Albany City Commission on proposed assessment of police operations.

ALBANY — The Albany City Commission is set to approve a study of the Albany Police Department that will examine operations of the agency.

The assessment by accountant and consultant firm BerryDunn of Portland, Maine, would cost $68,000. City staff recommended approval of the assessment during a Tuesday commission work session conducted in a virtual format.

The assessment will examine police operations and gather data from the department. The company also will include community input in its work.

“As we look at the assessment and how we can improve, having the community involved is a critical point,” Police Chief Michael Persley told commissioners.

Community input is something that has not been included in previous studies of the department’s operations, he said.

“The intent is that we have a better connection with the community, Persley said.

The department expects that the study will provide a better understanding of its strengths, challenges and opportunities moving forward.

“The opportunity to have an assessment of how we are performing as a department is necessary for ensuring that we are meeting the needs of the community,” Persley said. “I strongly encourage community members to participate in the surveys and listening session that will be conducted during the assessment period.”

Commissioner Jon Howard asked whether the study will result in a better trained and engaged department and better results on the street.

“With the assessment, it may help focus on our efforts,” Persley said in response.

Howard also referenced comments made on Monday by Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas, who criticized the department’s staffing levels in the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit. Cohilas’ remarks were sparked by a Friday-night incident in which a bullet struck a car in which a family was riding on North Slappey Boulevard.

“I think we’ve got to sit down with the county and the (Dougherty County Police Department) and talk about these issues,” Howard said. “It does not sit well with the city and the county to be at odds about an issue that happened in the last three or four days.”

Howard also suggested that police consult with judges and district attorneys on strategies to combat violent crime.

There has been a rash of shootings in recent weeks, including three last week and one on Monday night.

“I am concerned about the high volume of crimes we are having in this city,” Howard said. “We need to talk about it and assure our citizens that our city is not alone in (dealing with) juvenile crime.”

Commissioner Chad Warbington asked Persley whether the study will look at the drug and gang units. The gang unit will be covered, as it is a part of the police department, the chief said. The drug unit is a combined effort of the city and county police departments and Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office.

“There may be some additional discussions that are found, and there may be some additional recommendations,” Persley said in reference to the drug unit.

The commission could vote to approve the contract on Sept. 22.

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