Interview

Alexander Simon wanted to be a police officer – at least before he interned at the Albany County Detention Center. Now, Simon can’t envision himself in law enforcement because of what he witnessed during his 240-hour internship inside the jail. 

Simon, who completed his Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Wyoming in May of 2019, came to ACoPP to report what he had seen as an intern at the Albany County Sheriff’s Office. 

During an on-camera interview with ACoPP, Simon describes a police culture that supports the continued employment of Sheriff’s Corporal Derek Colling and unequal treatment of inmates based on race. Simon told ACoPP how Detention Lieutenant Benjamin Fritzen – who runs the detention center and aided in the investigation of Matthew Shepard’s murder – showed him autopsy photos of Matthew Shepard while using slurs to describe the murder victim.    

Simon’s experiences in the detention center have been corroborated by others who have spoken with ACoPP but do not feel safe coming forward. One source told us that detention deputies joked about how long it would take before they could throw Black inmates into solitary confinement and that Black inmates were unfairly disciplined more than white inmates. 

We know the culture within the sheriff’s office is not to protect and serve. An agency that refuses to fire Derek Colling – and instead makes him a detective – is not an agency concerned with protecting the community. An agency that uses their discretion to put victims in jail because they have an outstanding warrant is not serving the community. An agency that employs detention deputies who express violently racist attitudes is not an agency concerned about citizen’s constitutional rights. 

During the past year, ACoPP has met with people across the county who wanted to share their stories with us privately. Simon, one of very few sources who has spoken with ACoPP from within the Sheriff’s Office, is the only person who feels safe enough to come forward publicly. 

Simon told ACoPP his time as an intern at the Sheriff’s Office changed the trajectory of his life. “When I was younger, I wanted to be a police officer… But, after my internship at the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, the blinders were taken off.” 

The Sheriff’s Office offered Simon a job… He turned it down. 

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