Meeting intended to tame tempers turns heated in Albany

Posted at: 03/26/2013 10:30 PM
Updated at: 03/27/2013 8:43 AM
By: Abigail Bleck

ALBANY--Time doesn't heal everything.

"Anger is the initial feeling.  But what's under anger is hurt," explains Ida Yarbrough resident Crystal Russell after a meeting Tuesday evening between the NAACP and the Albany Housing Authority.

It's been nearly a week since residents witnessed what they thought was a real police stand-off but was actually just police training.   Pictures of the tactical exercise spread like wild fire online. 

Albany's Police Chief, Steven Krokoff, later apologized for the mock hostage situation, called it "insensitive" and acknowledged it's likely residents were not properly notified.

Yet at a public meeting Monday evening and another one Tuesday, citizen after citizen expressed concern, disgust and even fear from the incident.

"What you see here was a pressure cooker--there aren't outlets for people who don't think they are being listened to," explains Bernie Bryan, the Albany NAACP President who called the meeting between the Housing Authority, residents and NAACP.

At times, a few attendees even turned on the NAACP.  The non-profit isn't just working as a liason in this situation.  Leaders provided the Albany Housing Authority with a Memorandum of Understanding. 

It called for a pledge to ban police training at the complex, a provision for counseling for people who were traumatized by the incident, a promise for better communication between the Authority and its residents and a guarantee that the residents who brought the situation to light would not be retaliated against.

"I'm optimistic the Housing Authority is going to pay attention to this.  This is a way to bring closure to a very embarrassing episode," adds Bryan.

Outside the complex Tuesday evening a separate group was rallying for change at the same time as the meeting occurred inside.  The hope now is some good can something that is being recalled as very bad.

"That we stop pointing fingers and joins hands, that we stop pointing fingers and join hands," says Russell.

Residents maintain that such training would not have occurred in any of the city's uptown neighborhoods.  Or in a complex that wasn't public housing. 

Representatives from the Housing Authority did promise that they wouldn't authorize any future tactical training sessions.  As for the other NAACP requests, they have to be vetted by HA leaders and attorneys.

The NAACP will be addressing the issue at its next meeting, April 10th at 7p.