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Police Commissioner Attends Local Council Meeting

Police Commissioner James O’Neill

It’s all about neighborhood policing.

On Monday, April 16, Police Commissioner James O’Neill was the special guest for the 113th Precinct community council board meeting. 

To a packed house of residents, civic leaders and NYPD personnel, the Commissioner shared his thoughts on neighborhood policing, responded to resident concerns, enjoyed the festivities, and stayed after the meeting for a photo opportunities. 

Aside from having the Commissioner as its special guest, the Executive Board of the Council billed the meeting as a Neighborhood Coordination Program refresher.  It had been two years since the precinct adopted the Neighborhood Policing Strategy and since then, there have been some changes and updates the Executive Board wanted to share those with residents.  Chief among those changes was a number of new officers who have entered into the program and an online way for resident to know their sector. 

The NYPDs neighborhood policing strategy is a collaboration between local police officers and community residents.  Precincts are divided into Sectors which are patrolled by the same officers daily. These NCO officers attend community meetings, functions and events and host their own build a block meetings as a means of developing relationships with residents while fighting crime.  Commissioner O’Neill is credited as the policy creator and initiator. 

NCO officers were center stage during the meeting seated by their sector alongside their partner on a stage for all to see.  Officers introduced themselves and shared a fun or interesting fact about themselves. 

Commissioner O’Neill commented that it was the first time he saw officers presented in such a way. 

It was a laid back, comfortable Commissioner that talked community policing and the goals of the neighborhood policing “to serve communities”.  He infused humor into his remarks likening his real life Commissioner role to the one Tom Selleck plays on television.  He shared that the thing he disliked most about his post was not being able to wear the uniform. 

The meeting included a resident Q&A, infotainment games in which NCO officers went head to head with residents in trivia challenges.  The meeting also included awards for Cop of the Month, who turned out to be the precinct’s officers of the year. 

Sergeant Edward Scali Jr and Officer Daniel C. Connors were awarded Cop of the Month by the Council Board and Cop of the Year from the Precinct for their numerous gun arrests and the closings of several cases in the precinct.  The precinct also honored board members with certificates of appreciation.

Community Member of the Month

Mrs. Johnessa Harper became the first ever community member of the month.  The award acknowledges the efforts of a community member as chosen by precinct personnel.

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Black Panther Shatters Hollywood Myths While Validating Blackness

by Karen Clements
editor@communitiesofcolornyc.com

On what would normally be a quiet morning, people were making their way to area movie theaters. By bus, car and foot, they assembled in the early morning hours to see the movie everyone was talking about, Black Panther.

The Black Panther hype went beyond a blockbuster Hollywood movie, beyond a Superhero adventure. The hype touched nearly every Black Household with murmurs about a movie with a predominately Black cast and a Black director. But it might have been its red carpet premiere that was the call-heard-round-the-world that this movie was the thing to see. Its Black cast arrived at the premiere royally attired. Traditional African prints, slick suits accessorized with tribal print scarfs, royal colors: golds, purples, greens, shimmering orange suits, dashikis and madiba shirts filled the red carpet. For a society which praises Givenchy, Chrisitian Dior and Chanel during Oscar season this ‘Black’ carpet was a sight to behold.
Opening weekend shattered box office records. Black Panther amassed $387 million in global ticket sales becoming the top-grossing film in history by a black director, Ryan Coogler. The previous record holder was “Straight Outta Compton” which collected $214 million worldwide over its entire run (adjusting for inflation). Domestically the movie grossed approximately $218 million its opening weekend. The previous domestic record holder for a February release was “Deadpool” which collected $159 million President’s Weekend 2016.

More than money, it was a movement with theaters scrambling to provide extra showings to accommodate large crowds. Church groups, civic groups, fraternities and sororities attending in groups and provided free tickets to youths. Individuals showed up and out in superhero costumes and African attire for the premiere.
But was all this hubbub worth it? In the end, did the movie deliver? Overwhelming the answer was yes. Black Panther was one of the most positively reviewed films of late. “It isn’t just great for what it is. It’s great for what it says,” wrote Jamelle Bouie in her review on Slate. Jamil Smith writing for Time in a must read article titled ‘The Revolutionary Power of Black Panther’ speaks to the importance of such a film.

Advisor Terese Nemley and NYPD Explorers Post 2241 School Safety Queens South L3

“Those of us who are not white have considerably more trouble not only finding representation of ourselves in mass media and other arenas of public life, but also finding representation that indicates that our humanity is multifaceted,” he writes. “Rather than dodge complicated themes about race and identity, the film grapples head-on with the issues affecting modern-day black life”.

What was refreshing was that the movie was not a collection of scenes with the goal of tackling stereotypes or changing minds. It was a presentation of a people who were smart, sensitive, funny, dynamic, thoughtful, provocative, caring, and, in short, human. The Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman, was a King grappling with leadership issues. His relationships with the women: his mother, sister, his presiding general and future Queen, were powerful and revealed authentic partnerships and mutual respect.

There were many Hollywood spoofs handled superbly in the film with the best being the ‘wig’ scene. The beautifully bald general had to wear a wig for an undercover mission. It was the most ill-fitting and unattractive item on her body. It was reminiscent of every bad wig worn by every black actor so they might assume the role of the character they had to portray in a film. Think Samuel L. Jackson’s Jehri Curl wig in Pulp Fiction. Can we talk hair? It was deftly crafted: braided, locked, twisted, natural, wavy, shaved, in its various artistic and creative forms and second in beauty only to the extravagant costuming. Props to the man in the green suit with the matching lip plate.

Not everyone is happy about Black Panther. While Twitter continues to blow up with hashtags of Wakanda trending, trolls have been banned from the popular site for creating fake news of white cinema-goers being attacked and shunned from theaters. There are some that believe the tribal references are demeaning and that there need not be such a pop culture moment surrounding a movie when there are larger more important issues at stake during the year of Trump.

Despite the haters, it is clear that Black Panthers is a win. It shows Black power at the box office, positive representation and increased global awareness of the history and culture of Black folks. These things are sure to lead to black power on voting day, black mobilization for justice and global acceptance of diverse cultures.§

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NYPD Top Brass Hold Human Justice Summit

“I want to thank Commissioner O’Neil for changing the culture of the NYPD from us versus them,” said Public Advocate Letitia ‘Tish’ James. 

No question was off limits at the NYPD’s ‘Still We Rise NYC: Human Justice Summit, Part IV’.  The Summit, held at New Jerusalem Worship Center in Southeast Queens, included a panel of NYPD brass that fielded submitted questions.  Questions were read by faith leaders from across the city who attended the forum.  Commissioner James O’Neil brought his Executive team of top NYPD brass to respond directly to the day’s questions. 

Questions ran the gamut covering topics such as training, recruitment and policing practices.  Questions which focused on quality of life or crime issues in specific areas were given separate attention for an immediate follow up.  Responses were an opportunity to better understand NYPD’s policing policy.

“Neighborhood Policing isn’t just a program, it’s a philosophy the department follows,” said NYPD Commissioner James O’Neil.   He explained how the policy works. 

“Cops take ownership of a neighborhood working with the community that is 99% good and identifying the 1% [negative] element and get it out.  [We] remove that small segment that causes the problem,” he said.  “[Officers] get to know the people that live, work and worship in the neighborhood…It’s a shared responsibility.”

The Police Commissioner spoke honestly about the challenges between police and the communities it serves and the goal of working together. 

“Honestly it’s been quite difficult between police and community…Everybody wants what we all want.  By working together we can do better.  We have to do better so everybody can stay safe”. 

“2014 was a bad year,” said O’Neill.  “All that trust we built up just up and went away…It culminated in the assassinations of two officers.  It made everyone in the City catch his breath…[to realize] we have to work together,” he said. 

He admitted there are still some conversations that need to be had.

“We have to have more dialog with communities we have not had in the past,” said O’Neill.

It was a definitely an approachable NYPD that presented itself at the forum.  No topic was restricted. 

“Is Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization?” This question was prompted for a discussion and open dialogue.  “No,” said the Commissioner.  “They are an advocacy group.”

NYPD brass were open about its policies, transparent on issues and compassionate about its work in the city. 

“I took this job to make a difference,” said Commissioner O’Neill about his tenure and others across the department.  “There are issues, give us an opportunity to address it,” said Commissioner O’Neil.

Commissioner James ONeill

New York City crime is down to its lowest levels in decades.  The Commissioner shared statistics to support those decreases including the fact that last year there were 800 shootings compared to 5,000 shootings in 1990. 

“That’s not the case around the country,” said the Commission of the low crime trends.  “In meeting with law enforcement representatives from around the country, the Commissioner shared that they are reporting increases in major crimes.  “What I don’t hear is the stories about the community”.

Through answering the questions, the panel laid out this collaborative policing strategy which included not only working with the community but with District Attorneys on key initiatives.  Raise the Age, which raises the age of criminal responsibility to 18, is one such initiative.  This gives younger individuals a civil option and not a criminal option when there are infractions. 

“Individuals go through family court versus becoming a juvenile defender,” said Chief Rodney Harrison.  “They are sent to diversion programs to make sure they are headed in the right direction.”  NYPD are also identifying kids that would benefit from police interaction and having youth officers and NCO reach out to direct and help troubled youths.  In schools, students now receive warning cards for disorderly conduct versus a summons.  They are also looking to do engage in ecruiting youths into the department through its cadet program. 

Commissioner Tucker spoke about overall recruitment and building a department that is a “reflection of the rest of the city,” he said.

“We are continuing to recruit focusing on African American males,” he said mentioning that they make up the lower portion of increased to the department.  He spoke similarly regarding Asian American recruitment. 

Quanita Holmes, Chief of Queens North invited Black males up to the age of 36 to apply.  “Just ask,” she said about how to sign up for the exam and to approach the character portion of the application.  The 45 credits required for recruitment is not required at the time an individual signs up for the exam.  “Couldn’t’ think of a better time to become a police officer,” she said mentioning the current Excelsior free tuition program

Commissioner O’Neill expressed concern on the issue of gun laws.  New York City has the strictest gun law and the NYPD is working with District Attorneys to lock up individuals.  “There is a Mandatory three year sentence for individuals with loaded weapons,” said O’Neill. The Commissioner spoke out about the Carry Act which is currently in Congress.  The passage of the bill will allow individuals to come into New York City carrying their weapon which he believes would put the City “in peril.  “They can carry in Times Square,” said the Commissioner. 

NYPD Leadership panel member included Chief of Patrol Borough Queens North Quanita Holmes and South David Barrera,  Deputy Commissioner for Collaborative Policing Susan Herman, Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker, Department Chief Terence Monahan, Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison, Chief of Community Affairs Nilda Irizarry Hofmann, Chief of Housing James Secreto, Deputy and Chief of Training Tracie Keesee.

Visit www.nyc.gov/nypd for Community Council Board meeting dates, times and location.  Information about Build A Block, NYPD Neighborhood Policing Sector meetings can be obtained by visiting www.buildablock.nyc

 

 

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Hero Cops Acknowledged at Community Council Board Meeting

by Karen Clements

It was thanks to the quick thinking of two officers from the 113th Precinct that a one year old’s life was saved.  Officers John Simicich and Tim Molinet intercepted a call going to 911 and responded. 

They were able to transport the baby to Jamaica Hospital ahead of EMS while performing chest compressions.  The 113th Precinct Community Council Board thanked the officers with certificates of appreciation and gifts. 

They were then invited to take part in their King Day Trivia Challenge where they won the challenge! 

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Rikers Island Detention Center Closing Summer 2018

George Motchan Detention Center is set to close this summer.

The jail on the Rikers Island complex currently houses approximately 600 men.  The Mayor’s administration says the closure is possible due to the decrease in the city’s jail population which dropped below 9,000.

There have been numerous reports of abuse and violence at the facility. 

In 2014, a pattern and practice of conduct was found to violate the constitutional rights of adolescent male inmates.

The closure is not believed to result in the reductions of Department of Corrections staff.  It will, however, limit the amount of overtime for DOC staff which will allow for key staff training and support in other areas. 

This closure will bring the total number of Riker’s Island facilities to eight from nine.  This is the first planned closure since the Mayor’s office announced in March its plan to close the complex and create a smaller jail system.  The city will be looking to identify sites that can replace the existing jails on Riker’s Island.  The Queens Detention Complex in Kew Gardens has been tentatively named as a possible site.

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Free Projects Available to Help Residents Clear past Convictions

Gov. Cuomo

The Legal Aid Society and the Legal Action Center are two groups that have new projects to help individuals get their records sealed.

In October, Governor Cuomo signed into law that New Yorkers who have not been convicted of a crime in the past 10 years can have up to two prior convictions sealed.  This excludes individuals convicted of violent felonies and sex crimes.  According to the Office of Court Administration, there are approximately 300,000 people with misdemeanor offenses 10 years or older. 

Having a clean record can help individuals attain public housing and employment.  Although employers are legally barred in New York from considering a person’s criminal record in the hiring process, many advocates believe the stigma of a conviction hinders and influences employment. 

District attorneys have 45 days to object to the request for sealing of the record and judges have final approval. 

Forms and instructions to seal a conviction are available at the Office of Court Administration’s website. 

Those interested in taking advantage of the pro bono lawyer services should contact the Legal Aid Society (legal-aid.org) or the Legal Action Center(lac.org).

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Police, Community and Clergy Gather for Healing

Members of Beacon of Peace participate in Interfaith Service

“What can we do in the face of senseless acts of violence…in times of unrest and natural disasters,” asked Father Francis Colamaria from Saint Helen’s Church.

This question was put in the form of a prayer at NYPD’s Patrol Borough Queens South’s Interfaith Prayer Service.  The service, held on Tuesday October 10 at the Sikh Cultural Society, brought together faith leaders, community and law enforcement to share prayers and invite community wide fellowship. 

“The relationship between NYPD and the community is growing stronger,” said Bhai Gurdev Kang of the Sikh Cultural Society.  His prayer was for stronger partnerships and future peace.  “Working together [we can] stand and face any challenge,” he said.

The interfaith service welcomed faith leaders from houses of worships representing various religions across South Queens to lead those present in prayer.  At a time when current events are filled with tragedies from natural disasters and domestic terrorism, it was a means of coming together.  Love and togetherness were the central themes of all the prayers that evening. 

Reverend Greta Gainer Anderson from Greater Allen A.M.E prayed for the strength of togetherness.  “Bind the people of the city of New York to each other and to law enforcement,” she prayed.

Pandit Vishal Maraj from the Hindu Learning Foundation prayed a blessing for police officers.  “May they be the guiding force behind governance,” he said.  Maraj also prayed “that no one suffer.  Peace. Peace. Peace.”

Reverend Ehjaz Nabie from the Faith Assembly Church prayed for “peace, love and unity”.

Rabbi Shlomo Nisanou from the Kehilat Sephardim of Ahavat Achim prayed that those gathered know “how fragile the world is…Nothing is forever.”  He prayed that those present “love yourself as you love your friend.  This included the community,” he prayed. 

Bishop Erskine Williams from New Seasons Family Worship Center who also serves as the President of the 103rd Precinct Community Council Board prayed for love and unity.  “[Let us have] love, peace and unity between police and community for the common good of both of us,” he prayed.

“With all the political, social and religious events happening in the US and the city, it is so wonderful that we all come together, sharing faith, and unified as a community,” said Assistant Chief David Barrere.  He invited attendees to fellowship after the service.

Commissioner Marco Carrion from Mayor DeBlasio’s Community Affairs Unit reiterated the Mayor’s commitment to “build police/community relationships”.

After the service, law enforcement, clergy and community gathered for fellowship in the Temple’s hall.  With plenty of food and laughter, individuals of various communities, religions and ages came together to meet and greet.  There were photo opportunities with NYPD leadership, selfies and conversation.

“We join together to keep our neighborhood safe,” said Carrion.

 

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Cops and Kids have Convo

Where do cops go to eat food?

Why do cops need bullet proof vests?

These were the questions fielded by Officers Rivera and Whilchez during their visit to the  Scholars Learning Academy & Afterschool located at 111-10 Merrick Boulevard.  They were invited to speak and participate by Director Craig Whitaker on Thursday, September 28, 2017.

The purpose was to have a conversation with  the children who were elementary school aged.  The young scholars got a chance to see that officers were no different than they were.

The question and answer session, which was only supposed to last for 15-20 minutes,  went well beyond 30 minutes.  The kids wanting to know more! Officers Rivera and Whilchez had to agree to return next month and possibly make this event a monthly happening.

Students gifted officers pottery gifts from the class and gladly took pictures. A great time was had by all.

Officers Rivera and Whilchez are part of the Neighborhood Coordinating Unit of the 113th Precinct.  They patrol NCO Sector ‘Charlie’.

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NYPD Neighborhood Coordinating Officer Training Continues

The NYPD continues to roll out its Neighborhood Policing Plan across New York City. Neighborhood Coordination Officers work closely with the community to identify concerns and establish relationships. Karen Clements, President 113th Precinct Community Council Board, has presented the important role council boards and the community play in this partnership to new classes of officers at the police academy for the past year. On August 28, selected officers were convened. Through lively discussion and videos they learn how they could implement community in their new role.§ Photo Karen Clements with Officer Class

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Young Democrats Protest Incident in Charlottesville

On Tuesday, August 15 the Queens County Young Democrats’ (QCYD) Caucus of Color hosted a rally against hate and bigotry.   The rally was in response to the recent events in Charlottesville VA at which one person was killed.  The Charlottesville rally was organized by White Nationalist. 

The rally was the brainchild of one of QCYD’s newest members, Kemar Newman.  A member of QCYD for just two months, the young immigrant and veteran was affected by the events in Charlottesville.  With two young daughters, Kemar was fearful of the country they would inherit.  It motivated him to take the initiative to gather individuals together in a show of unity.

“You are the change,” he said.

The rally was held at Rufus King Park under an overcast sky.  It set a somber tone and reflected the sadness of the fatal conclusion to the rally.

Protestors unwittingly gathered in a circle while listening to elected officials in attendance at the event speak out against the violence.  At the end of the event, protestors held hands forming a circle for an ending prayer. 

It was a multicultural gathering of mostly young individuals.  The low turnout was in sharp contrast to the widespread opposition to the events in Charlottesville. 

While elected officials gathered for the event condemned the actions in Charlottesville there was more of a focused on the positive.

“The war has just begun,” said Senator James Sanders, Jr. during his turn at the podium.  “The worst is yet to come…We all need to get in shape.  Take these folks seriously.”  The Senator was speaking about how heavily outfitted the White Nationalists group was in Charlottesville highlighting its intent and preparedness.

“We know how to live together…We’ve demonstrated how to love each other,” said Council Member I Daneek Miller referring to Queens’ diversity.  “We are going to stand for all our citizens.”

The rally ended on a fiery note with remarks from Amir Abbady, QCYD VP of diversity and outreach.  Amir believed that the Democratic Party had “another year” to get it right. 

“We should create a government that represents us all.  We are diverse Americans and we all deserve a seat at the table,” he passionately exclaimed. 

The city of Charlottesville became a scene of violence as white nationalists, many with confederate flags and in Nazi gear and apparel, clashed with counter protesters.  The rally included racial taunting, violent physical exchanges and brawls.  The Governor declared a state of emergency and the National Guard had to clear the protest area. 

As the rally was dispersing, a car plowed into the crowd killing a woman and injuring more than 30 individuals.  Footage showed the driver accelerating into the crowd and quickly retreating. 

President Donald Trump refused to denounce the white nationalist hate groups at the center of the protest, choosing instead to blame the violence in Charlottesville on “both sides”.  Police were viewed as acting minimally toward protest participants.  This is in sharp contrast to their aggressive stance at Black Lives Matter demonstrations. 

Two days after the clash, the President gave a carefully delivered condemnation of the Ku Klux Klan and neo Nazi groups.   He reverted back to blaming both sides a day later.  He criticized “alt-left” groups that he claimed were very violent when confronting the white nationalists groups that gathered in Charlottesville. 

“You had a group on one side that was bad.  You had a group on the other side that was also very violent.  Nobody wants to say that.  I’ll say it right now,” said President Trump in a Press Conference several days after the event.