Telling It Like It Is
Growing tensions between police and the communities in which they patrol are turning uglier by the minute. In the last few weeks, our borough has been plagued by violent riots and nothing but negative connotations about the NYPD. The situation taking place as a result of Kimani Gray's death is almost comparable to Trayvon Martin's death only a year ago. Armed or not, both youngsters were gunned down by a figure who was supposed to protect them and be a role model.
Forget about Stop and Frisk, racial profiling and giving tickets to fill monthly quotas. How about individual police officers who make the news – the “Cannibal Cop” Gilberto Valle or the two disgraced NYPD cops acquitted in the infamous “rape cops” incident in 2008. Let's not forget about numerous police brutality stories that victimized Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell. Also in 2008, an emotionally unstable and naked Inman Morales was tasered by cops in Brooklyn while allegedly perched on a landing outside of his apartment. He fell to his death.
Do you have a story about a nice, commendable community police officer who has befriended residents and helped them – along with youths – and inspired them to step away from a life of crime? Or do you have stories of teens who are murmuring slang terms about the men in blue and how they can't stand the tactics cops use while patrolling the streets. Another question I now have for parents in the city – how many of your kids want to be police officers when they grow up, and how many of them respect the job of those who work in law enforcement?
While the policy academy turns out a good number of officers who await a stable salary with benefits and various tours, today's youth are probably further and further away from wanting this prestigious career.
Locally, whenever I attend a civic meeting, there are complaints about how police officers handled a situation and how they lacked a certain compassion for what the residents were experiencing. It's become a society that has no hope and needs authoritative help, but frowns upon calling police, who “don't do enough” or who are “rude.” Where and when did things go wrong that most people have anger and resentment for the NYPD? Even though a cop's job is not to be “enjoyed” by anyone, it makes it harder to feel safe when you know their real job is keeping order, no matter whose life is at stake.
Nothing warrants a 16-year-old being gunned down – and shot more than a handful of times – whether the youngster was armed or not. Why was 16-year-old Gray carrying a gun and why did he point it at the cop in the first place? If we're living in a world where the community, in general, is protecting themselves from police, something is seriously wrong. It would be nice if crime ridden communities had more police who were personally involved instead of just being “the authorities.” But, unless you've seen them a hundred times and they know you by name, you can't really talk to a police officer and their communication with civilians is limited, as mandated by the Police Department.
Civilians, unlike police, aren't “trained” to deal with violence, but authorities are taught more than just how to aim a gun. In addition to teaching officers the legal routines of their jobs, there is a sense of community that doesn't seem to be part of their training. Do they not want officers to be human beings?
I understand that officers put their lives on the line every day – and that cop shootings are also up in the city, remarkably. But we are losing more kids every day to violence and who is protecting them?
Let's get real. Most teens aren't going to the police when they're in trouble – another divide that indicates a “what are they going to do about it?” mentality. Sadly, communities have become divided, with police on one side and civilians on the other. Is it fair to say that kids carry guns because they don't think a “cop” will protect them and now they must take matters into their own hands?
While local officials try to improve relations between police and residents, many are not buying those public statements offered by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Every case is simply “under investigation” and there's no long-term plan to bridge the gap between precinct police and the communities where they patrol.
I commend City Councilman Jumaane Williams for his efforts in keeping communication alive among youths and leaders. But politicians across the city, representing all districts, need to do more and the NYPD should take some responsibility for the reputation they've managed to exude.
The more negative stories children hear about a profession, the less they're going to see themselves in that career - and the less respect they're going to have for someone in that field. When parents can't say anything good about officers who serve and protect, what will happen when their child is in the street and gets hold of a handgun?
What do children think of the NYPD after seeing and hearing all these stories?
No matter who or what the liaison might be – Community Affairs, Crime Prevention or a Gang Unit –more civilized and humane measures need to be available so that we're not standing on opposite sides of the battle zone.