Anti-Gun Violence Activist Pastor Monrose Offers Community-based Solutions to Gun Violence

Prior to the NYPD and the city’s recent announcement of a new anti-gun violence plan, Monrose said that the retreat of police- in the wake of protests over law enforcement brutality- was a contributing factor to the rise in gun violence on our streets. On MetroFocus, anti-gun violence activist Pastor Monrose, whose GodSquad of clergy leads efforts to halt street violence in the East Flatbush area of Brooklyn discusses possible solutions on how to reduce shootings.

TRANSCRIPT

WELCOME TO ‘METROFOCUS.’

I’M RAFAEL P. ROMAN.

FOR YEARS NEW YORK CITY HAS DEVELOPED A REPUTATION FOR BEING THE COUNTRY’S SAFEST BIG CITY, BUT FOLLOWING THE RECENT SURGE IN VIOLENT CRIME, DOES THAT REPUTATION STILL MERIT IT?

BY MID-JULY SHOOTINGS HAD MORE THAN DOUBLED IN THE CITY COMPARED TO LAST YEAR AND MURDERS WERE UP NEARLY 25%. A REALITY THAT’S LED THE MAYOR AND POLICE COMMISSIONER TO ROLL OUT A NEW PLAN TO REVERSE THIS DEADLY TREND.

ONE OF THE ELEMENTS OF THE NEW PLAN IS TO WORK WITH COMMUNITY GROUPS TO PROACTIVELY DEAL WITH THE VIOLENCE AND OUR GUEST TONIGHT IS THE PRESIDENT OF ONE OF THOSE GROUPS.

PASTOR GILMAN ROSE, FAITH DIRECTOR FOR THE BROOKLYN BOROUGH PRESIDENT’S OFFICE, LEADS THE 67th PRECINCT CLERGY COUNCIL ALSO KNOWN AS THE GOD SQUAD.

PART OF THE ‘CHASING THE DREAM’ INITIATIVE ON POVERTY AND OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA.

PASTOR THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TODAY.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME, RAF.

SO PASTOR, LET ME START WITH THIS.

YOU’RE ALL TOO FAMILIAR WITH THE TRAGIC STRATISTICS THAT I QUOTED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PROGRAM.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS CAUSING THIS INCREASE IN GUN VIOLENCE IN OUR CITY?

WELL, I WISH I COULD POINT TO ONE SPECIFIC THING FOR YOU, BUT GUN VIOLENCE HISTORICALLY IN THE BLACK AND BROWN AND URBAN AMERIC AMERICA HAS ALWAYS BEEN TIED TO NUMBER ONE SOCIALLY ECONOMICS, TIED TO MASS INCARCERATION, TIED TO DRUG USE, HAVE BEEN TIED TO GANGS.

IT HAS BEEN TIED TO DISENFRANCHISEMENT.

IT’S BEEN TIED TO FAILING EDUCATIONAL SYSTEMS.

IN THE RECENT SPIKE IN THE VIOLENCE, WHICH I THINK IS NOW ON A DECLINE, I THINK IT WAS A PERFECT STORM COMING OUT OF COVID-19, FOLLOWING THE PROTESTS, FOLLOWING POLICE REFORM, THEN FOLLOWED BY FIRE CRACKERS AND SO MANY DIFFERENT THINGS THAT WE SEE, I THINK THAT IT’S A COMBINATION OF THINGS THAT WE ACTUALLY SEE THAT IS HAPPENING WITH THE SPIKE IN THE VIOLENCE.

YOU KNOW, IT MAY BE ON THE DECLINE, EARLY TOO TELL YOU ABOUT A AS YOU KNOW, THE CRITICS OF THE CREDIT YOU CCRITICS OF T NYPD SAY IT IS THE INEVITABLE RESULT OF THE POLITICAL WAR WAGED AGAINST THE COPS NOT JUST HERE IN THE CITY BUT ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

POLICE COMMISSIONER SHEA SAID ELECTED OFFICIALS DEMORALIZED AND ‘HANDCUFFED’ THE POLICE HERE IN THE CITY, THEREFORE KIND OF PARALYZING THEM TO DO THEIR JOB.

DO YOU THINK THERE’S ANYTHING TO THAT?

I THINK THAT DEFINITELY THERE IS A MAJOR DISCUSSION, A MAJOR DISAGREEMENT BETWEEN HOW POLITICIANS HAVE BEEN SEEING AND REIMAGINING WHAT POLICING CAN BE IN THE BLACK AND BROWN AND COMMUNITIES AND THE POLICE DEPARTMENT HAVE THEIR OWN VISION HOW TO POLICE OUR COMMUNITIES.

I THINK WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN IS THAT ALL OF US NEED TO CONTINUE TO WORK TOGETHER TO FIGURE OUT THE BETTER PLAN.

WE KNOW FOR SURE POLICING IN THE PAST AND WHAT IT HAS BEEN IN THE PAST BEFORE COVID-19 IS NOT SUSTAINABLE MOVING FORWARD, SO WE NEED TO REIMAGINE WHAT POLICE COMMUNITY, POLICE COMMUNITY POLICING MEANS, AND THEN WE ALSO NEED TO REIMAGINE HOW DO ELECTED OFFICIALS ENGAGE WITH POLICE REFORM WHEN THOSE ON THE STREETS ARE CHANTING THAT WE NEED POLICE REFORM, SO WE ALL NEED TO FIGURE OUT VERY QUICKLY RATHER HOW DO WE TALK ABOUT POLICE REFORM AND THEN THE POLICE DEPARTMENT NEEDS TO FIGURE OUT HOW ARE THEY GOING TO REFORM AND STILL POLICE THEMSELVES, STILL POLICE THE COMMUNITY AT THE SAME TIME.

SO IT’S A TOUGH ACT ON ALL ENDS AND I THINK THAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO MOVE FORWARD VERY QUICKLY.

OKAY.

WELL AS I SAID IN THE INTRODUCTION, THE MAYOR AND THE POLICE COMMISSIONER TRYING TO DO JUST THAT, TRYING TO MAKE A DENT INTO THAT.

RECENTLY PROPOSED THEIR PLAN CALLED END GUN VIOLENCE PLAN.

RIGHT.

AMONG OTHER THINGS, THE PLAN INCLUDES SHIFTING PATROL RESOURCES TO THE PLACES WHERE THE VIOLENCE, THE GUN VIOLENCE IS SPIKING, ENHANCING SHOOTING INVESTIGATIONS, REORGANIZING THE COMMUNITY AFFAIRS BUREAU, GUN BUY-BACK PROGRAMS, AND WORKING WITH ORGANIZATIONS SUCH AS YOURS TO DEAL WITH THE INCREASED VIOLENCE.

IS THAT AT LEAST THE BEGINNING OF THE RIGHT APPROACH?

THAT IS THE BEGINNING OF THE RIGHT APPROACH.

I THINK THAT WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE VIOLENCE ITSELF, VIOLENCE CAN ONLY BE PUT IN THE SITUATION OF REDUCTION WHEN YOU HAVE A COMPLETE COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH TO THE VIOLENCE.

VIOLENCE IS A PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE.

VIOLENCE ALSO DEALS WITH ECONOMICS, TOO, AS WELL.

EVEN THOUGH I MIGHT SAY TO YOU RAF, I GREW UP POOR BUT THAT DIDN’T MAKE ME VIOLENT BUT I KNOW THAT POVERTY HAS SOME INDICATIONS OF WHEN YOU LOOK AT VIOLENCE.

SO HAVING A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH I THINK THAT THE MAYOR IS DEFINITELY ON THE RIGHT TRACK WHEN HE TALKS ABOUT BRINGING IN CLERGY, BRINGING IN THE CRISIS MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS, BRINGING IN NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS THAT HAS THE RESOURCES FOR THESE YOUNG PEOPLE WHO ARE ON THE STREETS, AND AGAIN, DEALING WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE REALLY AND TRULY THE MOST HIGH-RISK WHO HAVE THE MOST HIGH-RISK IN THEIR LIVES.

SO I THINK THAT APPROACH IS VERY COMPREHENSIVE AND IT’S THE RIGHT WAY TO GO.

WE CAN’T, THERE IS NO ONE THING THAT CAN REDUCE THE VIOLENCE OVERNIGHT, AND THERE IS NO ONE SILVER BULLET.

SO THE MAYOR CAN ONLY DO SO MUCH.

I THINK THAT WE HAVE TO UNDERSTAND AS CITIZENS WE HAVE TO PARENT WELL, AS FAITH LEADERS WE HAVE TO CONTINUE TO TEACH OUR PARENTS AND OUR YOUNG PEOPLE MORALITY, AND THE BASIC FUNDAMENTALS OF LIFE, THAT THEY STAY AWAY FROM FGUNS AND DRUGS, SOMETHING WE HAVE TO DO.

IT’S A COMMUNITY APPROACH TO THIS.

I THINK THE MAYOR IS DOING WHAT HE CAN DO.

YOUR GROUP, THE GOD SQUAD AS IT’S KNOWN HAS BEEN WORKING WITH THE COMMUNITY FOR SOME TIME NOW.

COULD YOU TELL US EXACTLY, GIVE US SOME DETAILS OF WHAT EXACTLY IS ENTAILED IN THAT WORK, AND DO YOU THINK THE MAYOR’S NEW PLAN WILL CHANGE OR ENHANCE THAT WORK THAT YOU’RE DOING?

SO OUR WORK REMAINS THE SAME, BECAUSE THE SHOOTING REMAINS THE SAME.

IT’S BY A GUN, IT’S BY A BULLET AND IT HITS A PERSON WHO IS NORMALLY BLACK AND THAT PERSON NORMALLY COMES FROM A COMMUNITY THAT IS IMPOVERISHED, SO THAT HAS REMAINED THE SAME.

THERE IS NOT MUCH TWEAKING THAT WE CAN DO AT THIS POINT IN TIME.

SO WHAT WE HAVE DONE OVER THE PAST, AND WE WILL CONTINUE TO DO SAY COUPLE OF THINGS.

NUMBER ONE, WHAT THE MAYOR IS CALLING FOR NOW AND WHAT EVERYONE IS CALLING FOR RIGHT AT THIS MOMENT, WE NEED TO HAVE STREET ENGAGEMENT, AND STREET ENGAGEMENT MEANS THAT YOU HAVE TO HAVE CLERGY WHO ARE ORGANIZED, WHO ARE ENGAGING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE ON THE STREETS.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT IS VERY POPULAR NOW THAT WE HAVE BEEN DOING FOR MANY YEARS IN EAST FLATBUSH IS OCCUPY THE CORNERS WHERE WE TALK TO YOUNG PEOPLE BETWEEN THE TIME OF 8:00 P.M.

AND 12:00 MIDNIGHT, ENGAGING THOSE INDIVIDUALS, GIVING THEM RESOURCES.

THESE INDIVIDUALS ARE NOT GOING TO PICK UP THE NEWSPAPER OR RAF, YOU HAVE A WONDERFUL SHOW OR WATCH ‘METRO’ WATCH THE SHOW ON PBS.

THEY’RE ON THE STREETS, SO YOU HAVE TO GET THEM WHERE YOU ARE.

WE DO STREET ENGAGEMENT AND WE SUPPORT THE VICTIMS OF GUN VIOLENCE AND THAT’S VERY IMPORTANT FOR US, BECAUSE WE WANT TO BREAK THE CYCLE, SO THAT YOUNG BOY WHOSE BROTHER DIED IN THE HAIL OF GUNFIRE THAT DAY IS GOING TO TURN OUT TO BE THE NEXT KILLER ON THE STREET, THAT THEY KNOW THE COMMUNITY LOVES THEM EVEN THOUGH THEIR LOVED ONE WAS TAKEN FROM THEM AND WE DEAL DIRECTLY WITH YOUNG PEOPLE IN FLATBUSH LEADERSHIP ACADEMY, WORKING WITH YOUNG MEN TO INFLUENCERS IN THEIR COMMUNITY AND LASTLY DEALING WITH PEOPLE RETURNING SINCE COMING HOME WE MUST CONTINUE TO DEAL WITH THOSE INDIVIDUALS SO THAT WE CAN GIVE THEM THE BEST RESOURCES THEY HAVE COMING OUT TO RIKER’S ISLAND.

THESE ARE SOME OF THE TANGIBLE THINGS THAT WE HAVE BEEN DOING AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO THESE THINGS.

YOU’RE A CHRISTIAN PASTOR, A MAN OF FAITH.

HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO ENGAGE PEOPLE WHO ARE ANTI-RELIGIOUS IN SOME INSTANCES?

FOR US THAT’S NOT AN ISSUE AT ALL.

WE DON’T SAY JESUS AFTER EVERY WORD.

WE COME TO TALK ABOUT LIFE.

WE COME TO TALK ABOUT THE FACT WE GREW UP IN THE SAME PRONGS, OUR CHURCH IS IN THE SAME NEIGHBORHOOD, OUR CHURCHES HAVE BEEN IN THIS COMMUNITY FOR 15 YEARS, 20 YEARS, 50 YEARS, 175 YEARS, SOME OF OUR CHURCHES ARE CELEBRATING, PASTORS PASTORING FOR 30 YEARS.

WE LIVE IN THIS COMMUNITY.

IT’S THE FACT WHETHER OR NOT THAT YOU WANT TO LIVE OR YOU WANT TO DIE.

IT’S A VERY SIMPLE COMBINATION.

WE’RE HERE TO TALK ABOUT LIFE AND TALK ABOUT DEATH.

REGARDLESS OF YOUR RELIGION, CREED OR COLOR, I THINK THAT SPELLS IT PRETTY MUCH FOR EVERYONE.

ANYTHING IN THE MAYOR’S PLAN THAT SHOULD INCLUDE THAT ISN’T IN IT YET?

I THINK THAT THAT’S A GOOD QUESTION.

I THINK THAT IT COVERS MOST OF IT.

THE ONLY THING THAT THE PLAN CAN’T DO, THE PLAN CAN’T MAKE THE INDIVIDUALS WORK OR MAKE THE ORGANIZATION WORK, OR MAKE THE POLICE DEPARTMENT FOLLOW THE PLAN ITSELF.

SO THE PLAN IS GOOD, BUT WHAT IS GOING TO BE EVEN BETTER IS WHEN THE INDIVIDUAL WHO MENTIONED IN THE PLAN ACTUALLY DO THE WORK AND I THIS I THAT IS WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD AND WHERE IT’S GOING TO BE TESTED, ON THE STREET, ON THE GROUND, THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER.

YOU RECENTLY LED A VIRTUAL NATIONAL MEETING WITH GROUPS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY TALK ABOUT THIS ISSUE.

ANYTHING OTHER CITIES ARE DOING THAT WE ARE NOT THAT WE COULD LEARN FROM AND MAYBE IMPLEMENT?

YES, DEFINITELY.

THERE WAS GREAT IN HARRISON A TEN-POINT COALITION WHO SET UP WITH THE OGs, POLICE OFFICERS AND CLERGIES AND EVERY SINGLE NIGHT WALKING THE STREET.

I THINK THAT PLAN SHOULD BE IMPLEMENTED ACROSS ALL OF THE POLICE PRECINCTS IN NEW YORK CITY, NOT JUST ONE OR TWO.

WE ARE JUST ONE CLERGY COUNCIL, TALKING ABOUT QUEENS, THE BRONX, BROOKLYN.

WE HAVE A SEASON OF PEACE WITH REVEREND BROWN OF BOSTON, BRINGING TOGETHER THOSE WHO LEAD CREWS, GANGS OR CRIMINAL DWANG ENTERPRISE AND BRING THEM TO THE TABLE SO SAY WE WANT YOU TO CEASE FROM FIRING AND KILLING ONE ANOTHER, CALLED A SEASON OF PEACE.

GIVE US AN OPPORTUNITY TO GET A GRIP HOLD OF OUR COMMUNITIES.

WE’VE SEEN THAT IN NIPSEY HUSSLE IN L.A., THE BLOODS AND THE CRIPS SAID WE’LL COME TOGETHER IN PEACE.

THESE ARE THINGS WE ARE DOING IN OUR CITY.

WE’VE DONE A LOT OF TALKING, A LOT OF MARCHING.

WE HAVE DONE A LOT OF OCCUPYING, TAKING OVER.

WHAT WE NEED NOW IS TO INCLUDE THOSE WHO ARE INFLUENCERS IN OR COMMUNITY TO GET INVOLVED.

YOU BROUGHT IT UP EARLY ON.

THERE’S NO SECRET THAT THE COMMUNITIES OF COLOR IS WHERE THE MOST AGGRESSIVE POLICE TACTICS HAVE BEEN IMPLEMENTED OVER THE LAST THREE DECADES, CAUSING A LOT OF FRICTION AND AMNESTY IN THE COMMUNITIES AND THE NYPD AND WHERE THE VIOLENT CRIMES OCCUR.

IN 2018, THE LAST TIME THERE WAS, THIS WAS MEASURED, 95.7% OF THOSE VICTIMS OF GUN VIOLENCE WERE BLACK OR HISPANIC.

WHY DO THE PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITY WANT THE POLICING TO BE, HOW DO THEY WANT IT REIMAGINED?

IN LESS THAN A MINUTE.

CPR, COURTESY, RESPECTFUL AND RESPECT AND I THINK THEY DON’T WANT ANYTHING ELSE IN MY MIND.

QUICKLY IN LESS THAN HALF A MINUTE, NEXT IF WE ARE TALKING AGAIN NEXT YEAR AT THIS TIME, WILL WE STILL BE TALKING ABOUT RISING CRIME RATES AND CHAOS IN THE CITY OR WILL WE HAVE SOLVED THE PROBLEM?

WE WILL STILL BE TALK ABOUT CRIME.

CRIME IS UNFORTUNATELY WITH US BUT THE LEVEL OF CRIME, THE CALLUOSNESS OF CRIME AND KILLERS IS PROBABLY SOMETHING WE WON’T BE TALKING ABOUT BUT CRIME WILL BE WITH US.

WE’LL CONTINUE TO WORK TO REDUCE IT AS WELL.

PASTOR, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US, AN IMPORTANT SUBJECT.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.