Last week was a rough one for the Albany Police Department.
First, Sgt. Kevin McKenna was charged with threatening a civilian police employee with a loaded gun.
Then perennial “bad apple” cop William Bonanni was ordered to pay $200,000 in punitive damages for egregiously violating the civil rights of a man he arrested in 2002. Adding injury to this insult, the city will probably get stuck with the bill if the claim holds up on appeal — and it can’t even fire Bonanni because the incident took place so long ago.
Then, the state Public Employment Relations Board struck down a perfectly valid policy imposed two years ago by Chief James Tuffey aimed at keeping cops like Bonanni from showing up for work under the influence of alcohol.
But it was the allegation of a different but equally disturbing civil rights violation, complete with an apparent attempt by the department to cover it up, that really raised eyebrows last week.
It centered around a traffic stop of a 28-year-old Ravena woman made Dec. 22 by the Street Drug Unit. The woman alleges her car and cellphone were searched without a warrant — there was no probable cause for one — and that right in the middle of the street, one of the (male) officers stuck his hand down her pants and a finger into her vagina to search for drugs.
As if that weren’t outrageous enough, the woman says she was subsequently dissuaded by a member of the department’s Office of Professional Standards (a k a bureau of internal affairs) from filing a complaint with the Citizens Police Review Board. According to a published report in the Times Union, the police told her they’d do a better job investigating her complaint.
Police say the investigation is under way, and Albany County District Attorney David Soares has gotten involved. That’s good news, because the allegations are serious and we’re dubious, frankly, about the department’s ability to investigate them impartially. If nothing else, the department should, as a matter of course, automatically forward a copy of all such complaints to the Police Review Board. Handling it the way they did looks just awful.