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Police: Albany police officer arrested on assault charge, two other officers suspended

Police: Albany police officer arrested on assault charge, two other officers suspended

Police announced the arrest and suspensions Tuesday
Police: Albany police officer arrested on assault charge, two other officers suspended
Media outside the Albany Police Department Tuesday
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ/DAILY GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

ALBANY - One Albany police officer has been arrested and two others suspended after an incident last month where a loud party complaint turned into an officer assaulting a resident there, police said.

Police identified the charged officer as Luke Deer, a five-year veteran of the force.

Deer faces one count of second-degree assault, a felony, and official misconduct, a misdemeanor. He was arraigned Tuesday morning and has pleaded not guilty. City officials announced Deer's arrest and the other discipline cases at a Tuesday afternoon press conference broadcast on Facebook Live by CBS6.

Two other officers have also been suspended without pay, but not charged with a crime, for their roles in the incident, police said. The investigation is continuing and officials said a fourth officer may have turned off his body camera during the incident, which could also lead to discipline.

The charges and discipline cases were backed by other body camera footage -- all three cited officers had their cameras on -- and a bystander's video. The bystander's video, given to a city employee, touched off the larger investigation officials said.

Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins detailed the incident and subsequent investigation at the press conference.

Deer is accused of assaulting someone during a 4 a.m. call March 16 to an address in the 500 block of First Street. The address had been the source of prior complaints, Hawkins said.

The CBS6 Facebook Live press conference video:

Deer and another officer initially responded. Eight to 10 then arrived afterward, Hawkins said.

Three people there were initially charged with inciting a riot, resisting arrest and other counts. As a result of the subsequent investigation, prosecutors are moving to dismiss those charges, officials said Tuesday.

The larger investigation began a day or so later, Hawkins said, when the bystander's video made its way to the city and eventually the Police Department. An internal investigation then began.

The preliminary investigation determined Deer "clearly had acted inappropriately" and he was suspended without pay. The internal investigation continued and a parallel criminal investigation began.

After further interviews and review of the available body camera footage, police charged Deer Tuesday.

The videos also included offensive and inappropriate language for the situation, police said. Officials described it as profanity, not racial. There were no reports of racial comments, Hawkins said.

The investigation continues and further charges or discipline are possible, Hawkins said.

He said he believes the misconduct was an aberration. "Nonetheless, I condemn that misconduct in the strongest terms and I am sending a strong message that such conduct will not be tolerated in the Albany Police Department."

Hawkins said he also intends to look at added training for the department.

"It is very important that our officers understand very clearly when entries into a residence can be made, when it's appropriate to use certain levels of force, the appropriate way of using the body camera and lastly how to report these incidents in the aftermath," Hawkins said.

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