By Mark Hallum
State Sen. James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park) held a community meeting at LIFE Camp to address the issue of police violence in response to the recent shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana as well as the attacks in Dallas, which left five officers dead.
The Saturday meeting followed one at the office of Cambria Heights-based community advocate Clyde Vanel. These sessions gave residents in the predominantly black community the opportunity to talk about their fears in terms of police violence and how to prevent further killings.
At LIFE Camp, located at 111-12 Sutphin Blvd., in Jamaica, the discussion turned heated as residents explored topics which struck an emotional and personal note. One mother whose son was shot by police officers spoke loudly about her experience and defied Sanders when he called for order in the meeting.
Sanders called for police reform and listened intently to attendees as they offered solutions to racism within law enforcement. There was agreement toward further use of police body cams as well as an independent third-party monitoring the footage to prevent tampering. Other suggestions included educating community members on their legal rights and the proper way to file disputes as well as giving them a say as to what will be contained in the NYPD patrol guide. Some residents called for immediate action while the senator argued for organized and peaceful action.
“Police, you need to clean up your ranks. Police, you can’t have it both ways,” said Sanders. “If you say many cops are good, then turn in the ones that are bad. You know better than anyone who’s a racist in your midst. Don’t let that blue wall of silence separate us from good policing. If you know that one of your fellows is racist or one of your fellows is breaking the law, and you’re silent, then you’re not a good cop either.”
Many children were present at the meeting and were given the microphone to take part in the discussion. Sanders said the community must assume a stronger role leading young men who may feel mistreated by law enforcement to a more peaceful solution to prevent a shooter situation such as occurred in Dallas.
“If you take a pot, fill it with water, put it on the stove, turn the heat on, put a lid on that pot and don’t do anything about it, that pot will explode,” Sanders said. “It’s science, it’s not craziness. That type of shooting does not aid our struggle. However, I don’t understand why anyone would be surprised by it. We cannot ask these youth to be humiliated and expect them not to do anything. They may do the wrong thing, but they are going to do something. It falls upon us as leaders to show them a better way.”
Sanders also made an appearance at the community meeting held at Vanel’s office in Cambria Heights, where he delivered a similar message to those in attendance.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall