Just before 11,000 people marched for Black Lives in the streets of Troy, NY, Mayor Patrick Madden issues a statement to the Troy community. He writes, "Troy should be proud to add its voice to that outcry – that black lives do matter."1
Madden invokes the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. "Perhaps the horrific death of Mr. George Floyd is an inflection point. A point in time we will reflect back on when we made another advancement toward the ideals espoused in our country’s founding documents and the sacred texts of our respective faiths and traditions. It will be so only if we make it so. Only if we all understand that not acting in a racist manner is not sufficient. We need to affirmatively work together to make this a fairer and kinder world for all.
I take a knee in solidarity with the peaceful protesters in humility and empathy and in acknowledgment that collectively we have not lived up to our very own ideals and with a personal commitment to strive harder."
The community of Troy, the family of Edson Thevenin, those concerned about the lives of Black people need more than just the "right words" from Mayor Madden. Taking a metaphorical knee does not equal solidarity.
While Mayor Madden (as well as the Troy City Council and an attempted but unpassed resolution from members of the Rensselaer County Legislature) have created statements and passed resolutions in support of Black Lives Matter, no one will mention the murder of Edson Thevenin or the shooting by Troy PD of Dahmeek McDonald. Apparently, it feels politically safe to "say the right thing," to mention George Floyd, while not discussing the dangers of local law enforcement for Black and brown people in Troy and the greater Capital Region. 2
Later during the month of June, Mayor Madden is rightfully taken to task by Casey Seiler, the Times Union editor. He writes, reflecting upon Madden's June 4th statement, "But talk is cheap. Unmentioned in Madden's letter were any of the reasons why Troy's Black residents might have problems with its police force. There was certainly no mention of Edson Thevenin, who was shot dead after driving away from a DUI stop in April 2016."
"In nearly a year since the existence of Ranalli's memo came to light, Madden has refused to release it, using as an excuse its status as attorney-client work product. The mayor has insisted that he wants to see the case resolved in court. On Friday, his office said he hadn't changed his mind despite the calls for greater transparency on police misconduct that have echoed across the country for weeks."
Seiler also returns to Madden's statements made before the Times Union editorial board in 2019. Mayor Madden revealed (THREE YEARS LATER) his own misgivings about the ways that the Troy PD and former Rensselaer County D.A. Abelove handled the early days following the shooting of Edson Thevenin: Madden "revealed for the first time that he had cringed after hearing Troy's then-Police Chief John Tedesco essentially exonerate French at a news conference in the immediate aftermath of Thevenin's death. Madden told the editorial board that he had expressed his misgivings about those remarks to the chief in private — which would have surely been a great comfort to Thevenin's family if the mayor had seen fit to let anyone know about it.
Madden also unburdened himself about his having been, well, very dissatisfied with the handling of the case by Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove, whose sloppy and high-speed decision to put the matter before a grand jury pretty much guaranteed that neither the dead man nor the officer would see anything like durable, transparent justice."3