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Issue of the Week
 
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Police/Community Relations

THE BACKGROUND:

In recent months, the Louima and Diallo cases have provoked anger and distrust from communities already disillusioned about policing in the City. But a new anxiety seems to have struck white New Yorkers as well. If the police will shoot a mentally ill man with a hammer, Gideon Busch, as a means of "subduing him," handcuff and strip search a woman, Celeste Goring-Johnson, who willingly submitted to two previous searches, where is the line?

THE POLICE AND THEIR POLICE:

New York City Police Department - New York's Finest.

Civilian Complaint Review Board - "[The CCRB] recommends discipline to the Police Commissioner on complaints alleging Force, Abuse of Authority, Discourtesy and Offensive Language." Many take issue with their effectiveness.

THE EXPERTS:

Eli B. Silverman - is a Professor in the Department of Law, Police Studies and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. This excerpt is from his recently published book NYPD Battles Crime: Innovative Strategies in Policing. Stay tuned for original Goth Gaz commentary from Prof. Silverman in the coming weeks.

C. Virginia Fields - Manhattan Borough President cautions that fighting crime gets harder when citizens distrust the police. Her forecast is not entirely bleak; there are some success stories -- even within the five boroughs.

Richard J. Davis - Chairman of the Mayor's Commission to Combat Police Corruption. Davis's remarks to the New York County Lawyers' Association outline some of the most basic measures that can be taken to improve police-community relations.

THE STUDIES:

Respectful and Effective Policing: Two examples in the South Bronx - The Vera Institute's March 1999 report says there are success stories out there, and we can learn from them. One of the few optimistic voices, Vera reminds that "all police precincts did not experience a significant increase in civilian complaints in 1994." In particular the 42nd and 44th districts in the South Bronx experienced a decline in both crime and complaints. This because the strong management of the precinct "allowed the residents of these neighborhoods to reap the benefits of lower crime rates while enjoying the benefits of respectful policing."

Human Rights Watch Report - Their recently released report, Shielded from Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the US, reviews police conduct in 14 cities across the country.

Five Years of Civilian Review: A Mandate Unfulfilled - The title of the New York Civil Liberties Union study pretty much says it all. The NYCLU contends that the CCRB has failed to investigate the majority of complaints files in the years 1993 to 1998, and that only1.5% of complaints resulted in disciplinary action is testimony to the Board's ineffectualness.

Police Brutality and Excessive Force in the NYPD - This June 1996 report by Amnesty International has a similarly bleak report, "...the information gathered suggests that police brutality and unjustifiable force is...a widespread problem, with a pattern of similar abuses occurring over many years."

THE ADVOCATES:

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association - Site of the world's largest police union. Press releases, newsletters, links, the works.

NY Cop Online Magazine - NYPD cops tell their stories online.

41shots.org - devoted to reforming the NYPD and the CCRB, and ending police brutality in NYC. Good news shorts, a helpful explanation of the CCRB, and relevant links.

The October 22 Coalition - A national grassroots network that organizes an annual national day of protest to stop police brutality. An extensive site with an online speakers bureau, lots of FAQs, resources and links.


Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation, the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation’s public education programs.  Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.