Friday, June 16, 2017

NYPD Commissioner: 'We're Making Progress in Police-Community Relations, But We Still Have a Long Way to Go'

Candidness and Compassion Displayed By New York's
Top Cop at Harlem Community Council Meeting

By Gary Glennell Toms 

On June 15, New York City Police Commissioner James O'Neill appeared at the 32nd Precinct Community Council meeting in Harlem and addressed issues presented by civic groups, community activists and residents. 

The commissioner was warmly welcomed by those in attendance, as were 32nd Precinct Deputy Inspector Michael Baker and other NYPD officials that were on hand, and residents took the opportunity to convey their appreciation for his service to the city and department.

"It is an honor to have you here, sir. We thank you for all that you're doing to deal with crime and improve the relationship between police and the community, said one resident. 

In his opening statement, O'Neill noted that crime levels had dropped in the city and attributed the decrease to the reestablishment of community policing. "I believe a big reason for the decrease is because we're placing a lot more focus on community policing. If we want to control crime in the city, we have to interact with communities and they have to interact with us," he stated. 

The commissioner, who has served in the position for nearly nine months, was extremely direct in addressing the long-standing issues between police officers and communities of color. Without mentioning any specific incident, he pointed out how the record number of protests that occurred in 2014 dramatically impacted and marred the relationship between the NYPD and residents from various communities. "That was an extremely difficult year for the NYPD and the city, and much of what happened was self-inflicted," said O'Neill. "Things are moving in the right direction now. We're definitely making progress in police-community relations, but we still have a long way to go." 

Commissioner O'Neill answered all questions with extreme candidness and a sense of compassion, including the following that were posed by From The G-Man.   

What measures have been implemented by the NYPD to address possible white supremacist infiltration so that the reputations of many exceptionally good officers are upheld?
What would you say to those in the Black community who strongly believe there's a correlation between possible white supremacist infiltration of police departments, which was cited in a 2006 Department of Justice report, and the increasing number of controversial and/or suspicious shootings of unarmed Black men and women?

In response to the first question, Commissioner O'Neill stated that all NYPD candidates undergo an extreme vetting process before being hired and that every effort is made to look into all aspects of a candidate's background, including possible involvement with white supremacist or other subversive groups. "Those types of people will not be part of the New York City Police Department," said O'Neill. 

The commissioner answered the second question by simply stating he didn't see any correlation between the 2006 Department of Justice report and the increasing number of controversial and/or suspicious shootings of unarmed Black men and women. 

At the close of the meeting, Commissioner O'Neill stated that all issues presented would be addressed as quickly as possible. He also stressed that the police department and community must work together in order to establish effective communication and quell the tension. "We have to work together. That's the only way we'll solve these issues," he said.

Commissioner O'Neill signs an NYPD get-well card for Police Officer Dalsh Veve,
who is in critical condition after being dragged by a stolen car in Brooklyn.
(Click on the photo to increase its size.)
On June 16, From The G-Man contacted Detective Wilson Colon at the Office of the Police Commissioner Liasion Unit. We extended an open invitation for the commissioner to appear on "The G-Man Interviews" for a broader discussion on the state of policing in New York City and what can be done to improve relations between police and communities of color.

Regrettably, former commissioners Bratton and Kelly declined past invitations. Nonetheless, FTG won't give up in its effort to initiate a dialogue with the highest ranking NYPD official on these extremely important issues. The social and political climate in which we live demands that we do so.

Council meeting photo credit: Abena Smith, President, 32nd Precinct Community Council

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