NISKAYUNA — A University at Albany student has been hired by the Niskayuna Police Department in a new position in an effort to bolster the agency’s data analysis.
The Niskayuna Town board approved the creation of the position and the hiring of PhD candidate James Hubbell during a special meeting following the board’s agenda meeting on Tuesday night.
As part of the contract, which will not exceed $22,500 for a nine-month span, Hubbell will perform research analyst work with the police department in an effort to further the recommendations proposed by the Niskayuna Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Plan and the CNA Racial Audit Report.
The plan was released in March 2021 in response to an Executive Order released in June 2020 by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo that directed municipalities statewide to eliminate racial inequities in policing, by modernizing policing strategies and policies.
The plan recommended that the department hire a data analyst to better serve the community while aiming to protect residents’ civil liberties and privacy.
“We took that recommendation and we worked to implement it,” Town Supervisor Jaime Puccioni said following Tuesday’s meeting. “We want to use this analyst to help us develop surveys that we can use to inform our community policing practices and efforts. We also intend to use the analyst to help analyze data to ensure that we are being equitable and fair in all of our practices.”
The board voted 4-0 during the special meeting to approve the hire, with Puccioni abstaining since she is employed by SUNY Albany.
Niskayuna Chief of Police Jordan Kochan said the new data analyst position in the department is unique for the region.
“To my knowledge, no other local agency has opened the books to have somebody come in and sort of look at it holistically from a distance and actually use all of the training and education they’ve got to help us improve ourselves,” Kochan said after Tuesday’s meeting. “When I spoke to the professors over there, they said, ‘This is an amazing thing because no other police agency locally has ever done this and we’re really excited to see what becomes of it.’”
Kochan said the department reached out to the college Criminal Justice program in order to find someone for the part-time role.
“We thought that a student could be a really objective person that could look at this and really dedicate their time and their resources because they have that invested knowledge and want to be a part of this,” he said. “It just seemed like a natural fit.”
The data analyst role has been created in order to ensure that police resources are directed effectively while informing department leadership of challenges from disparities in policing to the disproportionate use of force.
“We’re going to grow together and we don’t know what’s going to come of it,” Kochan said. “We think and we hope that it’s going to help us guide surveys for community feedback and also really analyze our data to help us improve how we’re engaging with the community.”