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NYPD announces plan to engage cops with communities

NYPD Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill speaks at

NYPD Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill speaks at a news conference Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2016, following a swearing-in ceremony for new cadets at the Police Academy in College Point, Queens. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill Tuesday announced a new plan to combine aggressive marketing strategies with technology such as public texting to 911 that he said would make the city safer.

O’Neill’s initiative, which he broadly outlined Tuesday at a breakfast meeting of The Association for a Better New York, is aimed to make all neighborhoods, particularly high-crime minority areas, more engaged with the department.

“It is within reach,” O’Neill told the crowd of high-powered business and community leaders. “But it depends on everyone doing what they need to do. Cops and community must work in tandem with partners at the city, state and federal levels.”

The campaign would be backed by ABNY and the New York City Police Foundation, both nonprofit. O’Neill said board member Charles Phillips would orchestrate the effort using mass media and social media channels to try and get communities to communicate more with cops.

O’Neill offered only a broad outline of the plan. Other officials said the details would be fleshed out in coming weeks.

The commissioner did say while crime is down, cops still need the help of the public. He mentioned the recent case of Jessica White, 28, who was shot dead in the Bronx while caring for her kids. Wanted posters seeking information have been ripped down in the neighborhood and no new tips have come in, O’Neill said.

Noting the Kitty Genovese murder in Queens in 1964 that became a symbol of public indifference to crime, O’Neill said the White case sent a clear message: “We need every member of the public to help. This is a shared responsibility.”

O’Neill also proposed new technology to allow the public to text 911 so “raw information” about crime could be sent confidentially. He wants more businesses to install security camera systems.

O’Neill also noted that with crime down over 70 percent in recent years that the NYPD is relying less on stop, question and frisk. Figures obtained by Newsday show cops made only 7,636 stops in the first six months of 2016, in sharp contrast to 684,330 in all of 2011. Black and Hispanics constitute almost 82 percent of those stopped in the six months, close to the historical average.

Chris Dunn, an attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the high proportion of stops of minorities was “certainly a big question now.” Dunn acknowledged that the NYPD had ambitious programs to train cops and address bias and that the department needed time to analyze racial disparities on stops.

But Ed Mullin, head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said police stops have to be looked at in terms of the race and ethnicity of suspects identified by victims.

“If the majority of suspects are black and Hispanic, the majority of people you are looking for will compare with that,” Mullin said.

Such disparity is likely rooted in socio-economic forces, poverty and education, rather than cops “picking on” people, opined Mullin.


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