By Naeisha Rose
Queens served as the last leg of the five-borough “Still We Rise NYC Human Justice Summit,” which featured the NYPD’s top brass at the New Jerusalem Worship Center in South Jamaica last Wednesday.
The borough-wide police tour was the brainchild of Rev. Que English, the founder of the New York City Clergy Roundtable, a nonprofit that combines the efforts of religious and civic leaders in tackling social problems.
The purpose of the tour was to improve relations between police officers and the African American community, said English.
“Why are we doing this?” asked English to the crowd of hundreds at the church from all over Queens.
“Its simple,” she said. “Public safety is a shared responsibility. While there are responsibilities that fall on NYPD, there are also responsibilities that fall on the community, and communities of faith, because all of us are working together for the same end goal.”
Rowena Taylor, a South Jamaica resident and member of the New Jerusalem church, was excited for the event as she sat in the pews.
“The event is wonderful,” Taylor said. “The exposure to what is going on in the community is amazing. Most people are not aware that if they have a problem, they could go to the 113th Precinct and that there is an officer at community affairs who is in charge of the community.”
Mary Robinson, who came all the way from Flushing, agreed with Taylor.
“I think it is very informative,” Robinson said. “They are bringing the communities together and I am so for it.”
After the Ferguson riots sparked by the unarmed shooting death of Michael Brown in Missouri, the Eric Garner chokehold tragedy on Staten Island, and the assassinations of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, Commissioner James O’Neill said it was time for the community and the police to work together and that meetings like this were the solution.
One of the ways he has helped to address bridging a gap between the African American community and police officers is through the Neighborhood Coordination Officer initiative.
“We embarked on a structural change back in May of 2015, and that was a direct result of what has transpired,” O’Neill said. “It is the neighborhood policing philosophy.”
According to Department Chief Terrance Monahan, the purpose of the NCO initiative and precision policing is to work with the 99 percent of residents who are doing good to root out that one percent who are committing crimes, instead of a blanketed approach to targeting criminals.
When it comes to tackling quality-of-life issues, the commissioner said the NYPD has reduced arrests and summonses and chosen a civil option to tackling low-level crimes, issuing fines instead of clogging the court system.
Some of the ways the NCOs are reaching out to youth is through the Explorer’s program, the Youth Leader Council and a cadet program.
Tracee Keesee, the Deputy Commissioner of Equity and Inclusion, says that through these programs, police get to know the youth in their neighborhood, and kids get to the opportunity to see what police do, like attending firearm training at the College Point Academy.
The elected officials at the event were Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman (D–Springfield Gardens), state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D–St. Albans), Councilman and newly appointed chair of public safety Donovan Richards (D–Laurelton) and Public Advocate Letitia James.
James thanked Commissioner O’Neill for participating in the event and for practicing policing that provided a means of “healing and reconciliation that changes the culture of ‘us-versus-them.’ ”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose