The ALERT Initiative
Pastor David Traynham
New Horizons Christian Church
ALERT is a unique approach to Community and Law Enforcement interaction formed to build greater trust by both entities.
Our goal is to build a multi-racial, multi-ethnic and transgenerational bridge between these groups; we aim to bring greater peace and harmony, while helping to heal the fracture between Law Enforcement and the city which is often caused by a lack of knowledge and misinformation.
ALERT was founded in 2014. Through press conferences, social media, email posts, community summits and community interventions, we have assisted our city in bringing peace and promoting greater understanding of various facets of law enforcement to our community. We have also increased the level of trust between community leaders and law enforcement.
Since the initial meeting, with Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple in attendance, we have expanded and are now in partnership with: The Albany Police Department; NY State Police; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; University at Albany Police; the Albany County District Attorney and the Northeastern District of the Department of Justice.
Around the nation, relationships between law enforcement agencies and many of our inner-city communities are strained by some officers acting carelessly, causing harm and even death to mostly minority residents.
Out of frustration with the lack of indictment and conviction of those officers when criminal actions are evident, in retaliation, some citizens have taken the law into their own hands. We want to avert this in Albany.
ALERT is in place to calm heightened tension while educating and uniting communities and law enforcement by building mutual trust through partnering together.
On a broader scale, this undertaking reflects the six pillars of U. S. President, Barak Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. These are:
Building Trust and Legitimacy
Policy and Oversight
Technology and Social Media
Community Policing and Crime Reduction
Mutual Training and Education
Police officer and agent Wellness and Safety
The Albany Law Enforcement Resolution Team exists to help law enforcement and the Community to resolve differences and to come to amicable solutions that will allow peace and harmony to increase in our city… even during times of heightened tensions.
ALERT is made up of people who intercede in behalf of law enforcement and the community, ensuring that the facts and truth concerning any one issue are communicated. To do this effectively, we are not “making demands” for what we feel we need as community leaders.
Our objective is to work with both the community and law enforcement towards solutions that are specific to the issues our neighborhoods face.
Our desire is to bring understanding to both parties, and when needed, stand for justice as a mediator between those who have taken the oath to “Protect and Serve” and the communities to which they have made this pledge. When appropriate, we will be advocates to promote change in the laws, policies, and procedures that govern policing agencies.
The world ALERT, by definition, is “The ability to think clearly and notice things; Being watchful and prompt to meet danger or emergency; Being quick to perceive and act.” These are the qualities our team possesses and will continue to develop.
Having a diverse audience, we will provide on-going education for our team. We will encourage them to hold to our specific agenda and to not allow initiatives other than working towards resolutions to circumvent our community meetings. We will be focused and guard against taking on initiatives that are not in alignment with our mission of resolution and reconciliation.
The policies, procedures and laws that govern our land should protect our police officers. However, our communities must also have a system that is balanced and that they can trust in if they are going to have confidence in law enforcement.
We believe when our communities face injustice because current law is biased towards law enforcement, these instances must be challenged in the court of law. We encourage utilizing the judicial system as it is set up to foster the desired change.
One such instance that tested the resolve of ALERT was the unfortunate death of Donte’ Ivy in 2015.
ALERT spearheaded numerous meetings throughout the year with community, political and religious leaders, as well as local and national law enforcement. We assured the community that we were holding the Albany Police Department accountable, ensuring that the officers in question performed their duties within the confines of policy and law.
Law Enforcement Participation
The relationship between ALERT and law enforcement is one in which there is collaboration and independent partnership.
With mutual objectives, we are better positioned to assist law enforcement with their objectives and be a strong voice for the community they serve.
To do this effectively, as much as declassified information can be shared, ALERT will seek from law enforcement:
Fact sheets and literature about on-going criminal activity to distribute within our team and talking points when addressing the community
Continued positive law enforcement and community collaboration with a focus on transparency
Continued active partnership in the overall ALERT initiative
Direct discussion with ALERT about any controversy involving the police
The assignment of a command-level officer to serve as liaison with ALERT
Assistance to ALERT in developing on-going outreach opportunities for your agency
We refrain from the often-antagonistic demonstrations that some social organizations use to promote their agendas. We will stand and advocate for what is right in a peaceful fashion when needed, but will always be advocates of resolution and not a party to aggressive, intimidating and hostile confrontations.
To accomplish this initiative, we have united members of the religious community, social and political advocates, as well as community leaders. Each of these influence community members in their specific circles.
These leaders have a heart to see lasting change; they work well with other professionals; they have justice, mercy and truth as a central component of their character.
These leaders are encouraged to exercise patience and gain understanding of the long-term benefits of the mission in front of us.
We will dedicate a specific unit of young adult leaders to focus on the youth and young adult population, ensuring that interaction with law enforcement begins at an early age. Over time, this will prove to be the single most effective component in addressing racial disparity in law enforcement hiring.
Informing and connecting the community with various levels of law enforcement improves public safety and relations. It also gives law enforcement direct access to the communities they serve and are commissioned to protect. This will:
Improve public safety through collaboration and information sharing to prevent and combat crime
Dramatically increase community engagement of law enforcement professionals, mutual understanding, mutual trust and mutual respect, while decreasing bias and hostility towards those same officers/agents
Proactively create a direct link between law enforcement administrators and community leaders. This averts violent and divisive public responses to police-involved incidents while giving voice to public concerns around policing
One specific incident involved a police-involved shooting in Albany’s South End on September 14, 2017. After numerous inaccurate social media posts, I (Pastor David) addressed the issue with a response that was based on my conversation with former Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox stating:
There are posts on Face Book saying someone was shot and killed by a police officer... A shot was fired and fortunately no one was hit. A person as well as the officer has been taken to the hospital for observation. I will keep you informed as to the progress... ALERT
Build partnerships with mutual understandings, and establish a structure for citizens to assist law enforcement efforts
Change perceived adversaries into allies for social change across racial, ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, professional and political lines.
ALERT has embraced the opportunity to unite and act in harmony with various Police agencies, since law enforcement should not have to address crime and violence alone.
The Need to Expand
ALERT is a proactive organization that remains focused even amidst community unrest.
Expanding our mission allows us to develop greater community and social media presence, create solution based programs and advocate for the rights of both the community and law enforcement to co-exist. Both are needed if we are going to have a healthy society in which every person is safe, including those who have promised to protect and serve our region.
To be effective there must be a commitment to investing time, staff, and resources and to engage in cooperative dialogue. Each of these requires on-going support.
Expanding our reach and establishing our goals will entail having greater resources. As we build greater capacity, we will broaden our influence and be a stronger voice of reason in our region.
Having assembled political, religious, educational, community and corporate leaders, we are seeking partnerships of organizations, corporations and individuals that will see the importance of our mission and the long-range implications of these associations.
Funding is needed to support personnel costs, expand media presence, develop and sustain a software platform, and to fund law enforcement and community leader summit meetings held each year.
Effectiveness of Program
Performance measures are intended to determine the extent to which the ALERT initiative has changed increased awareness of police/community interaction within a targeted area.
Surveys will be developed to include a series of questions to gauge the congregation's perception and satisfaction with the policing activity in the area. Community safety, quality of life, police response efficiency and attitudes towards use of force will be questions in this survey.
A similar survey will be developed and distributed to the law enforcement agency for officers/agents to complete.
These surveys will establish a starting point to measure progress, be used to highlight areas of concern, and engage the community and police in dialogue and activity to address these concerns.
Survey results will be provided to major donors as part of an annual performance measurement report or at any time upon request.
We hope the implementation of the program's principles of transforming seeming adversaries into strong allies for social change will result in communities and police agencies uniting peacefully to address the public safety of our communities.
To evaluate the program's effectiveness, we will monitor both community and law enforcement through surveys, by documenting our expansion efforts and by monitoring our communities’ responses after a high-profile controversy.
Once hired, the program director will serve as facilitator of the program, be the main presenter at all functions and main organizer for all annual law enforcement summits.
ALERT staff will be responsible for coordinating logistics for all events, including our annual law enforcement summit. This includes securing meeting sites, creating promotional material, distributing invitations, coordinating travel and ensuring that all supplies and equipment are available to all presenters.
The program director will also develop other programs to assist both the community and law enforcement including but not limited to:
Developing a program to strategically address the disparity in racial hiring within each agency where appropriate
Coordinating informal periodic community and law enforcement forums at community meeting places and law enforcement facilities
Schedule periodic tours of law enforcement facilities and hold mini-citizen academies designed to increase awareness of the responsibilities and working conditions of police officers
Collaborate with Law Enforcement to plan and implement pro-active crime prevention initiatives
Provide semi-annual updates to ALERT and law enforcement agencies
Oversee the ALERT youth and young adult team, encouraging their participation in every aspect of the ALERT initiative
Coordinate community “ride-a-longs” with representatives from each agency to foster better understanding by all involved parties
Designate the weekend closest on the calendar to May 15th as “Law Enforcement Day.” We will acknowledge specific police officers and Agents, inviting them to be honored guests at a special outreach program
Seeking fund raising opportunities to build greater capacity
Long Term Goal
Beyond unifying law enforcement and the communities they serve is a greater goal of also uniting a city that is fragmented.
Through greater city-wide collaboration, we will bring the entire city of Albany together without the invisible walls that separate the South End, Arbor Hill, Sheridan Hollow and West Hill from the rest of the city.
The capitol of New York remains one of the greatest regions in our entire nation. It can serve as a model to other cities, counties and states, demonstrating what can be accomplished when we work together towards the common goals of peace, equity, liberty and justice for all residents.