By Tony Best
Enraged communities stirred by what’s widely seen as a ‘baseless’ attempt to blame the victims of skyrocketing deadly violence in the five boroughs, especially in neighborhoods of color.
With a tragic jump in homicides and gun injuries in recent weeks, New York Police Commissioner, Raymond Kelley, probably angered by sustained criticisms of his Department’s “stop and frisk” policies accused community leaders of being “shockingly silent” about the violence which has resulted in the deaths of more than dozen victims, most of them in Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn in recent weeks. Instead of blaming them, people on the streets of poor communities and their elected representatives are saying to Kelley, his officers must do more to get the guns off the streets.
New York State Senator Eric Adams, a Democrat of Brooklyn, who wants to be Brooklyn’s next Borough President, said that not only was the Police chief wrong about what needs to be done but he must show his face and demonstrate his interest in the communities by listening to what was being said by the victims of violence.
“Take a walk, talk to the people who are tired of violence, don’t focus on statitsics, focus on people,” Adams advised Kelley. “By coming out here and walking the streets he will be removing himself from the numbers and he will be going back to the human part of policing.”
Mary Willington, a resident of Bedford-Stuyvesant, agreed with Adams and went a step further.
“Commissioner Kelley’s statement shows he is hopelessly out of touch with what is happening in the community and what the community leaders and residents are trying to do end the violence,” she asserted. “The Police Commissioner was reacting to the justifiable and stinging criticisms of the unjust ‘stop and frisk’ policy which is mainly affecting young black and Hispanic men who are being made victims of racial profiling by cops who are patrolling the streets. It’s not an appropriate answer from Kelly to blame our community leaders for what is taking place. Our religious ministers, elected representatives and the voices of our neighborhood watchers, people who are tired of the violence are working on the streets day and night to get to those young people who, by the way are in the minority, to get rid of their guns and end their involvement in drugs. It’s ludicrous to blame community leaders who are in the trenches, going to funerals, visiting victims in hospitals and working with youth groups to keep their members off the streets at a time of economic difficulties.”
Jumaane Williams, a frequent critic of NYPD policies, especially ‘Stop and Frisk,’ asked where were Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Commissioner while gun violence was occurring in the 45th Council District, which covers East Flatbush, Flatbush, Flatlands, parts of Midwood and Canarsie. They were “shockingly deaf” to the plight of residents hit hard by the violence, Williams complained.
“I am outraged “at the presumptuous and patently false comments of Commissioner Kelly, which directly insult communities like mine, which are grieving for our lost and trying to save our young people every day,” added Williams, Chairman of the City Council’s Oversight and Investigations Committee and is the co-chair of the Task Force to combat gun violence.
Several other elected representatives, including Councilmember Letitia James joined in the criticisms of Kelley, listing some of the same reasons outlined by Adams and Williams.
Terry Hinds, who is running in the Democratic Primary for the 58th New York Assembly District in Brooklyn, entered the firestorm, describing Kelley’s statements as “offensive and utterly baseless.”
They do “an extreme disservice to the valuable work our civic organizations, churches and concerned citizens have been doing to combat the issue of violence in our community,” Hinds added. “If anyone has been silent on the issue of violence it has been the New York City Police Department and by association, Mayor Bloomberg. Day in and day out, our community has advocated, no pleaded, for the allocation of City funds to combat issues associated with violence in our community and the silence has come from Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner regarding our calls for action have been deafening.”