2003-07-31 / Top Stories

Slain Councilman Was 69 Pct. Youth Officer

By Charles Rogers
Slain Councilman Was 69 Pct. Youth Officer

Slain Councilman Was 69 Pct. Youth Officer

Davis, always well-dressed, was an expert on gangs. He and Johnson spoke at many civic association and parent meetings, advising audiences on how to handle children who might be in danger of joining gangs.Davis, always well-dressed, was an expert on gangs. He and Johnson spoke at many civic association and parent meetings, advising audiences on how to handle children who might be in danger of joining gangs.

By Charles Rogers

As virtually thousands of mourners lined up to view the body of slain City Councilman James E. Davis in Crown Heights last week, Canarsiens also remembered him as one of the "most effective" youth officers in Canarsie’s 69th Precinct three years ago.

Davis, who was killed at City Hall by his political rival Othniel Askew, 31, after escorting his assailant around metal detectors, served with the NYPD as Youth Officer in 2000 and 2001.

Working with fellow Officer Jim Johnson in helping to form the 69th Precinct Explorers and facing problems with gangs head-on by talking to parents and counseling countless children, the pair became fast friends but showed a striking contrast in personalities. Where Johnson has a quiet demeanor, Davis was outspoken and almost flamboyant.


James Davis, left, with his buddy P.O. Jim Johnson during cleanup drive in Canarsie Beach Park area. Both were youth officers at the local precinct and helped to mold minds of youngsters to follow the straight and narrow. Johnson continues as the precinct’s youth officer.James Davis, left, with his buddy P.O. Jim Johnson during cleanup drive in Canarsie Beach Park area. Both were youth officers at the local precinct and helped to mold minds of youngsters to follow the straight and narrow. Johnson continues as the precinct’s youth officer.

Johnson would "warm up" audiences of parents and civic association members who would come to hear their treatise on gangs and gang culture by quietly elaborating on statistics and showing some of the methods used by gangs to entice children into their fold. He would then turn the forum over to Davis, who would "come on strong" in his vociferous manner.

"He was never one to speak softly," Johnson said last week as he mourned his friend, "and people listened when he talked."

In noting Davis’ tenure here, City Councilman Lew Fidler, who was in the council chamber when Davis was shot, said, "One part of his public life was conspicuously omitted when people were talking about him last week was his role as a youth officer with the 69th Precinct. I remember many forums he held that were not only informative, but entertaining. Where sometimes speakers could go on and on, boring their audiences, people welcomed him to attend their meetings because of his energy and enthusiasm, as well as his knowledge about youth gangs. I tell you, he could talk the paint off a car!"

Fidler said he knew Davis "probably longer than any other councilman except, perhaps, Councilman Monserrat, who had also been a police officer." He noted Davis’ association with politics showed him to be "against the grain" in many cases, thus giving him the title "maverick."


James Davis, right, when he was a police officer with the 69th Precinct, poses with partner P.O. Jim Johnson, left, and members of the United Canarsie South Civic Association.James Davis, right, when he was a police officer with the 69th Precinct, poses with partner P.O. Jim Johnson, left, and members of the United Canarsie South Civic Association.

"It was always said affectionately," Fidler added.

Rabbi Avrohom Hecht, head of the Jewish Community Council of Canarsie, said Davis was one of the founding members of Canarsie Bridges, an organization formed to establish solidarity among the residents of the community.

"He and I and Officer Johnson used to take kids to museums and sponsor field trips," Rabbi Hecht said. "He was always outgoing and kind and hated violence," he said. "We are all very saddened by his passing."


Purple and black bunting hangs in front of the Foster Avenue station house in memory of slain former officer.                              Charles RogersPurple and black bunting hangs in front of the Foster Avenue station house in memory of slain former officer. Charles Rogers

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