Days after city officials announced a new crackdown on illegal dirt bikes and ATVs, an Albany Police SUV was caught on video crashing into a rider.
“Why don’t the police chase these individuals down and arrest them? That is the challenge associated with what we are seeing here, said Mayor Kathy Sheehan, speaking last Wednesday to reporters outside the Albany Fire Department Arbor Hill House on North Manning Boulevard. “We don’t want to put our residents in further danger.”
Sheehan was joined by other officials including Police Chief Eric Hawkins: “We can’t chase these vehicles through our streets, you know, that just adds to the instability on our streets, it adds to the danger it they get even more reckless when our officers if we allow them to chase them through our streets,” Hawkins said. “And so we have a lot of innovative ways of addressing this.”
Two days later video surfaced on social media showing a marked Albany Police seemingly pursuing, then appearing to run down a biker.
APD responded to a request for comment by emailing a statement from spokesman Steve Smith:
“We are aware of a video taken by an individual who recklessly and illegally operated a dirt bike on a sidewalk during rush hour late Friday afternoon in West Hill, a residential neighborhood in the City of Albany. As with any motor vehicle accident involving an Albany police vehicle, it is currently under investigation. There were no injuries reported during the incident and the individual involved immediately got onto the back of another illegally operated dirt bike and fled the scene.”
Center for Law and Justice Executive Director Alice Green says she was incredulous as she watched the footage.
“I was astounded by what I saw on the video, and the reports, you know, that’ve been coming into my office at the Center for Law and Justice, of this police officer in chase,” Green said. “And then deliberately running into the back of the bike that he was chasing. And I believe that although the you know, the biker may have been operating a vehicle illegally, the police officer put, I think, put lives in danger when he violated department policy by chasing the suspect, you know, who’s on a vehicle. It put other people’s lives in danger when he did that.”
Ryan McCall, an associate attorney at Albany law firm Tully Rinckey, says he has yet to see any real criminal penalties as a result of simply driving a four wheeler or dirt bike on city streets. He says he checked city code.
“There is a criminal penalty where you can be imprisoned and not to exceed 15 days in addition to the fines,” McCall said. “However, I will say that I do not believe the city is has the act or are they even inclined to issue those sort of sentences.”
Green is calling on the APD to publicly release any report filed in connection with Friday’s incident.
“This kind of behavior by police not only threatens the public safety, but it further damages the community’s trust in the police department,” said Green.
McCall says it may be difficult to prosecute riders who elude police. “If they get away you have all different issues at hand where potentially you could run into how you identify this individual, as well as just logistical issues of how you can prosecute them how much or how many resources are we gonna have to devote to prosecuting that individual? It could potentially get into murky waters,” McCall said.
Last April, Mayor Sheehan signed legislation banning ATVs and dirt bikes from city streets and parks. It now costs the owner of any confiscated vehicle $3000 to get it back, along with a $650 fine that has to be paid whether a vehicle was redeemed or not.