“This interview was conducted before the tragic shooting of two New York City Police Officers. We send our condolences to the victim’s families. “The Tale of Two Cities”, the relationship between Police officers and citizens, have caused a great divide in this country. Open Discussion is the only answer towards change”
History appears to be repeating itself, reflective of the hot summer days in Georgia during the 1960s. There are people protesting against police injustice and class discrimination. The mantra “No Justice, No Peace” is continually repeated for the victims who were brutalized by those hired to protect and serve our communities. For them, it is unfamiliar territory, but it is the neighborhoods of lower-income Black and Latinos families. The residences of the city operated housing projects, once categorized by President Richard Nixon in 1973 as ‘monstrous, depressing places rundown, overcrowded and crime ridden’. Again, the spotlight is on the topic of police relations in minority districts. Communities’ leaders are questioning if officers are adhering to New York State Police Department mandated protocol in every situation. Are officers treating every individual the same regardless of race? I had the opportunity to ask Councilman Donovan Richards of District 31 about his position on the topic and how can we improve the relationship between the police and the minority community.
After grand jury, the Brown case and Garner case, you posted on Facebook about community policing. Please explain what that is and the benefits?
In the 21st century, it is still not difficult to imagine that communities of color view law enforcement suspiciously. If we were to focus on primarily black neighborhoods, the level of distrust is far greater as officers are viewed as one of the largest threats against the lives of black men. The recent lack of indictments in both the Brown and Garner decisions continues to contribute to this sentiment. In response to current tactics that have led to the needless deaths of both men, I have become a stronger advocate for community policing. Community policing is a strategy that utilizes organizational transformation, and community based partnerships in conjunction with problem solving techniques, to directly address the circumstances that contribute to crime and issues surrounding public safety. Stemming from a belief that police officers should have a stake in the communities they serve, tactics that promote interaction as opposed to violent reaction are strongly encouraged. While there is no single solution for combating and preventing crime, community policy does encourage a number of comprehensive, local solutions tailored accordingly to identify problems and develop effective solutions.
What are your views on the “Broken Windows” program and how they affect the community you represent?
Broken windows in sounds great in theory, but in reality the practice has yielded little in concrete results that this policy does in fact reduce crime rates. Tasking officers with targeting minor offenses in areas that are already afflicted by higher rates of poverty, unemployment and unfortunately crime, does little to foster trust between the community and law enforcement – a key component in long-term crime reduction.
What can the NYC council do, along with the Mayor, to change The New York City Police Department?
During his mayoral campaign, Mayor De Blasio expressed support for communities of color and for police reform. As mayor, I believe that a large portion of his legacy will be based on how he reformed or failed to reform the police department to prevent the further loss of black and brown lives at the hands of well-intentioned but severely misguided officers. Currently, the administration and the NYPD have instated a 3 day retraining program for 22, 000 officers, created a new inspector general position, and recently launched a court-ordered, body-camera pilot program here in Queens. The Council has also introduced two bills as a part of the “Right to Know Act” to encourage broader reform. The bills would require police officers to formally identify themselves and to obtain proof of consent without a warrant or probable cause. I strongly believe that my colleagues in the council would like to see a working relationship between law enforcement and communities of color, and will work closely with the administration to see systemic change come to fruition.
What would you tell mothers to teach their sons about how to interact with an officer if approached?
I would encourage all men and women to know their rights to diffuse the likelihood of a fatal encounter with police. The best thing that we can do as a community is to educate ourselves and lend our voices and time to the calls for reform in our city and nationwide.
As a society, we must all work together to change policing in our communities. Police officers’ jobs consist of putting their lives on the line every day. It is a dangerous and strenuous job. We are grateful for their sacrifice and dedication to New York City residences. In order to resolve the current situation, residences want more police training in the communities relations, that police officers are given the resources necessary to do their objectively. Residences want to know that police officers won’t be exonerated from killing our husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons.
How you can make a difference:
Sign petition: colorofchange.org/ Eric_Garner_justice
Contact the councilman in your district: council.nyc.gov
Volunteer in you community: nyc.service.org