Publication: Times Union
Residents call for reforms after Schneiderman’s report on 2016 police shooting
Photo: Lori Van Buren
Community activists demanded Thursday night that Mayor Patrick Madden increase civilian oversight of the Troy Police Department and reform the agency as called for by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s report on the investigation of the fatal 2016 police shooting of a DWI suspect.
About 50 people gathered at the Sanctuary for Independent Media to support the push for a civilian police review board with subpoena and investigatory powers to deal with cases like the April 2016 fatal shooting of Edson Thevenin by Sgt. Randall French. They also want the city to require officers of the 130-member police department to wear body cameras and to mount dashboard cameras in patrol vehicles.
A group called Justice for Dahmeek also urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to assign the attorney general to take over the investigation of the August 2017 police shooting that wounded Dahmeek McDonald, an accused parole violator. Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney was named as special prosecutor for the case. Members of Justice for Dahmeek include McDonald’s family, friends and neighbors, as well as some community organizations.
“We’re looking to bring justice to the city of Troy,” said Anastasia Robertson, a former city councilwoman who represented North Central, the city’s poorest neighborhood.
“Accept the fact you did something wrong and fix the problem,” Robertson said.
The city needs to act immediately to outfit the police with cameras, Robertson said. The mayor needs to work for the residents or step down if he cannot, Robertson said.
Madden has claimed there were investigative errors by the attorney general’s office but has not explained what they are. Robertson and other speakers said the mayor has to explain this to the public.
The attorney general’s investigation into the shooting of Thevenin, 37, during a DWI traffic stop by French galvanized the community to turn out Thursday night. The state report strongly criticized the Troy police for failures in its investigation of the shooting. It said the department should equip officers with cameras, overhaul its investigative approach to officer-involved shootings and update training and policies regarding shooting at vehicles.
The state report did not comment on the interactions between Troy police and Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove’s office during the Thevenin shooting investigation because criminal charges are pending against Abelove involving his handling of the case.
Messiah Cooper said he believes the report exposed a cover-up conducted by the police.
“I want to know how many other cases this happened with,” Cooper said.
Attorney Mark Mischler, who represents McDonald, said the report claims Troy police took the worst possible actions in the Thevenin shooting by mishandling civilian witnesses, not performing forensic analysis, not fully evaluating evidence and prejudging the case.
“The scope and depth of the cover-up by the Troy police in the Thevenin case is astounding and chilling,” Mischler said.
“To now hear the mayor and other city leaders continue to defend the actions of the police department and to disparage the attorney general’s investigation is nothing less than traumatic,” Mischler said.
The city must accept the report’s findings, he said.
The city has a defunct Police Objective Review Board that has not met in several years. “We demand the creation of a real civilian review board,” said Amani Olugbala.
Justice for Dahmeek has set up an online petition at change.orgto call for Cuomo “to order a fair investigation of this unjust shooting.”