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NYPD's new Brooklyn patrol commander takes charge amid spike in shootings

NYPD Assistant Chief Judith Harrison recently took command

NYPD Assistant Chief Judith Harrison recently took command of Patrol Borough Brooklyn North. Credit: AP/Richard Drew

When NYPD Assistant Chief Judith Harrison took over two weeks ago as commander of Patrol Borough Brooklyn North, it became immediately clear she would face big challenges with violence wracking the city.

For the week ending Sunday in the areas patrolled by the command, shootings spiked by more than 600% compared to the same period in 2019, with the number of victims rising over 300% to 26. While there were no killings for the same week in 2019, this year there have been six. 

“I am very concerned about the violence in Brooklyn North, I am extremely concerned about it,” Harrison said Thursday in her first major meeting with reporters since she took over the command. “I know there is a small number of people in Brooklyn North that are responsible for the growth in violence and obviously [I am] laser focused on turning our attention to those individuals and making sure that we build strong cases against them."

A 23-year veteran of the NYPD, Harrison, 52, of Queens, is the first woman in the history of the department to command Brooklyn North, a sector that covers East New York and areas to the northwest part of the borough. She is also one of the highest ranking Black members of the department.

Growing up, she said, her mother worked two jobs — one as a civilian with the local NYPD precinct — and Harrison as well as her brother were latchkey kids checked on by cops from the nearby precinct. That closeness with police, Harrison recalled, led her to a career in law enforcement and some major commands, including most recently the special victims unit.

Now, Harrison sees that part of her job is to turn around the lives of gang members to cut the violence. To do that, she said, the community must be involved.

“Community is the key, we have to do this with the community, we have to do this lockstep with the community,” Harrison said. "At this time Black voices matter, Black voices in leadership matter.” 

At an unrelated appearance with reporters Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio pushed back at new reports that the NYPD had misled the public about the impact of bail laws on the rise in shootings. De Blasio disagreed that cops put out misinformation and said there were numerous factors, including the bail changes and the coronavirus pandemic, which have contributed to the violence.

Just looking at the small number of inmates released from among thousands at Rikers Island — due to the pandemic or the bail changes — and later charged in shootings, doesn’t tell the whole story, said NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan in an interview with Newsday. 

De Blasio also turned thumbs-down on a recommendation by Attorney General Letitia James that the NYPD be governed by a police commission.

“When you create any kind of commission," the mayor said, "when you create diffusion of responsibility, things don’t work."

With Matthew Chayes

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