April from New York asks: How do you get the police to talk about the things they wish they could change in their precincts and get them to work with the people in the community to avoid another killing, like the three young men in your story? I live in the 43rd precinct vicinity and I am one of the people who wants to work with the police in my area but they are not reaching out to us in the community. What can we do? I am an African American woman and I am scared of what will happen to me if the cops stop me late at night. I am afraid they are not there to protect me from the bad guys, so I can’t imagine how a young male might feel, coming home to a place he’s lived all his life, and he’s not safe. Can you share any stories of communities that have taken back the neighborhoods they live in?
Tami Gold and Kelly Anderson: We would suggest that you try reaching out to officers who have already identified themselves as pro-change, like those affiliated with 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. Clifton Hollingsworth, in our piece, is a founding member of that organization. There is also the Latino Officers’ Association. We believe there are many officers who would like to see change happen, but it’s hard to get them to speak because they fear reprisal from other officers. So we’d suggest contacting 100 Blacks … and starting with them. In terms of other communities, try looking at the models mentioned in Resources: Community Policing. Boston and San Diego are the examples most often cited as successful, but there are others as well.
Kim from Ohio asks: What changes, if any, have you seen after the making of this show? Are the police better prepared? Here in Cleveland, Ohio we are experiencing the same problems (I’m sure that every big city in the country is). What can I do to start a grassroots organization like the one Ms. Baez started?
Gold and Anderson: We’d suggest contacting the October 22 Coalition to see who else in your community might be interested in getting active on these issues. Or, connecting with families in your area who have been affected by police brutality.
Unfortunately, we can’t say that we’ve seen any substantive change in New York City thus far. Under Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, there has been more attention paid to representing the department as responsive to community concerns, but we’re not sure this has been followed up with any real changes. For example, we still have a Civilian Complaint Review Board without enforcement capability, we still have people being killed by police and police officers not being indicted. The department did disband the Street Crimes Unit (the unit that employed four officers who shot Amadou Diallo), but it’s unclear what the current status of undercover anti-gun work is on the streets. It will take real pressure to force substantive change.
The good news is a judge just ruled that Doris Busch Boskey’s case against the officers who shot her son Gary needs to be reopened. A jury has acquitted the officers, but the judge said that the testimony of the cops was disturbing and that it would be a miscarriage of justice for the ruling to stand. So she will get a new trial, which is fantastic.
Sherry from New York asks: I’m wondering, because I couldn’t see this in the film, whether you’ve considered the way that Gidone Busch’s being identified as a person suffering from “mental illness” influenced the policemen’s extreme overreaction to him?
Gold and Anderson: Yes, there is a long history of police officers in New York City being unprepared to handle people who are in the midst of an emotional crisis of some sort. The patrol guide says they should isolate the person where he can’t hurt himself or anybody else, and call for backup from medical personel trained to deal with this sort of thing. Instead, in Gary’s case, they pepper-sprayed him in an enclosed area, which escalated the situation and ultimately led to his shooting.