New York, NY – Commissioner Dermot Shea announced last week, that the NYPD will be participating in a series of community forums with local organizations, along with both the Mayor’s Office and Governor’s Office, in an effort to transform policing going forward in New York City.
This comes on the heels of protests throughout the Empire State and across the country to defund the police following the shooting deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and other people of color at the hands of cops.
But Patrick Lynch, head of the city’s Police Benevolent Association [PBA], considers what is being called the “Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative, a waste of time.
“Leave it to [Mayor] de Blasio and [Governor] Cuomo to invent another complicated solution to an obvious, urgent problem,” Lynch said in a statement to LaborPress. “Police officers are hearing from New Yorkers every day on the street: they are concerned about rising violence and disorder, and they want us to be able to do our job effectively.”
Shea, however, doesn’t see the efforts of the NYPD to further building relations with the community or community leaders as pointless — but, rather, necessary for the department.
“With a sustained focus over the last nearly seven years, NYPD leaders have worked to reinforce our basic mission of keeping people safe while building trust with the New Yorkers we serve,” Shea said. “In law enforcement, if you aren’t striving to improve, then you shouldn’t be in this line of work. This new effort, with these critical partners, is vital to making the Police Department stronger, fairer and more transparent.”
De Blasio shares Shea’s sentiments on improving police and community relationships.
“The NYPD is fundamentally different than it was nearly seven years ago,” said de Blasio. “By working with New Yorkers we have strengthened the bond between community and police for good. But we know there is always more work to do to repair trust and address historical inequities. I am proud to work with Commissioner Shea and our partners to make sure every New Yorker on every block feels the safety they deserve.”
The first three citywide meetings were held in Staten Island on Oct. 14 and northern Queens on Oct. 16. Another meeting was held on Oct. 19 in southern Queens. More meetings will be held on Oct. 21 in the Bronx, Oct. 23 in northern Brooklyn, Oct. 26 in southern Brooklyn, Oct. 28 in northern Manhattan and Oct. 30 in southern Manhattan. The meetings will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
According to Lynch, the community forums are useless because he insists community engagement can happen with police while they are on the beat.
“Rather than wasting time with more press conferences and meetings, come out to the street and try listening to the cops and community members who are already working together every single day,” said Lynch.
However, the leaders of the anti-poverty organizations that are working with the city and the NYPD see the forums as a way to work with the public.
President and CEO Arva Rice of the New York Urban League, an organization whose mission is to enable Black and other underserved communities to secure a first-class education, economic self-reliance and equal respect of their civil rights, is one of the community partners in the forums.
“This year our city and our nation faced a health, economic and a criminal justice crisis paving the way for reflection and reform,” Rice said. “We have a moral imperative to work to make sure that community voices are heard and New Yorkers feel safe and respected no matter the neighborhood that they reside. The Statewide and mandated ‘Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative’ is a welcome opportunity to engage in this process learning from New Yorkers as well as experiences and practices around the country.”
The purpose of the collaborative is to heal rifts between the police and the people it is meant to serve, as well as forging a transparent path forward that includes engaging, listening and responding to questions and concerns on policing policy.
“Every New Yorker should feel confident that they can move about New York City with the assurance that our police officers are concerned with protecting them, and with treating them fairly should they find themselves interacting with the NYPD for whatever reason,” said CEO & Executive Director Jennifer Jones Austin of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, an anti-poverty, policy and advocacy organization with more than 150 members and partners.
CEO Wes Moore of Robin Hood, one of the largest anti-poverty forces in the nation, agreed.
“Despite past police reform efforts, the people of New York City – and particularly our communities of color – have continued to express frustration about being over-policed and the need for further reform,” said Moore. “The statewide and mandated ‘Reform and Reinvention Collaborative‘ is a vital process to bridge the gap in trust between too many of our New Yorkers and the NYPD.”