YNN is marking 10 years of covering the Capital Region. On Sunday we look back to 2004, when after weeks on life support, a community said goodbye to a hero. Lieutenant John Finn's passing left a tremendous void in the Albany Police Department, but also left a legacy that still lives on today. Our Lori Chung has more.
Mention his name those who knew him, and you will receive a flood of warm memories about John Finn: a friend, a family man, a dedicated Albany Police Officer.
"He had a job inside the main building, where he didn't have to go out and patrol the streets," said James Miller, a friend. "He chose to go back because he wanted to be out with the guys, and I remember him saying that."
It was on patrol back in December 2003 that Lt. Finn responded to a report of an armed robbery on South Pearl Street. Finn was closing in on Keshon Everett who opened fire with a semi-automatic pistol. Finn was struck three times.
Finn would remain alive for the next 51 days, until he succumbed to his injuries. The region watched as his brothers and sisters in blue retired his badge.
"It was a tough time for the department," remembered Stephen Krokoff, Albany Police Chief. "For a lot of people, that was the final blow."
Nearly a decade later, Chief Stephen Krokoff, who was a patrolman at the time, remembers a police department in flux.
"We had different leadership at the time, and not everybody agreed with the way things were done," said Krokoff.
He said Lt. Finn was among them, and had used his natural and unique affinity for analyzing crime statistics to help lay the groundwork to take Albany Police Department in a different direction.
Krokoff added, "He was not a lock 'em all up, and throw away the key type of guy. He was interested in rooting through all the data to determine what's really causing the problems we're having."
As head of the Juvenile Unit, Finn secured a federal grant to study how problem oriented policing could help with bullying in high school. A close friend and former department spokesperson, James Miller, said that kind of forward thinking was typical for Finn.
"John was analyzing crime data, which we didn't really start doing until 2006, and the state didn't do it until 2005. John was doing it back in 1998," noted Miller.
But, those seeds took rot, and today, the Albany Police Department employs several crime analysts. The very first of those analysts were even hired by Finn.
"We draw on social science evidence, we apply social science methods to help police, and other criminal justice agencies to what they do better and more effectively," explained Robert Worden, John Finn Institute for Public Safety Director.
Dr. Robert Worden established the John Finn Institute for Public Safety in 2007. The UAlbany criminal justice professor paid homage to the officer, who solicited his help with that bullying study so many years ago, which took Finn's work even further.
"We just finished very recently a gang assessment for agencies in Syracuse," said Worden. "And that has formed the basis for the development for a number of strategic initiatives there."
Nearly 10 years later, Finn's impact can even be felt outside of police circles, at local hospitals that benefit from the annual blood drives that are held in his honor.
"Over the years we've collected close to 300 units of blood for somebody that's in need to give them a second opportunity at life," said Aric Aery, Albany Hudson Valley Red Cross District Director.
Finn's name is now one of many names at the State Police Officer's Memorial to the Fallen. Each of them has their own story to tell.
"The question begs it, if he was here today, would we be talking about John in the same way? I believe we all would be. We'd all be calling him chief," said Krokoff.
Unfortunately we will never know, but we do know that an intellectually gifted man, with a passion for kids, wore a badge in New York's capital city, and the region has been made a better place because of that.