Community councils to help choose precinct commanders
by Benjamin Fang
Feb 03, 2021 | 669 views | 0 0 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In an effort to improve the relationship between police precincts and the communities they serve, Mayor Bill de Blasio is implementing a new system for selecting precinct commanders.

During his final State of the City last Thursday, de Blasio announced that the process of selecting a new precinct commander will now be conducted with the input of community councils.

When a precinct commander spot opens up, the NYPD commissioner will provide three to five candidates to the local community council. Their members will interview each candidate and provide feedback to the top cop, who will make the ultimate decision.

“This is unprecedented in the history of the NYPD. We’re bringing the voices of the community forward to determine who would be the right leader,” de Blasio said. “It’s going to improve dialogue, it’s going to improve accountability, it’s going to give folks a sense of real, real buy-in.”

The mayor explained that precinct commanders are pivotal because they set the tone and give the police officers who patrol the neighborhood “a sense of direction and the values they should bring to the work.”

Candidates for the job will meet with the community council to discuss what they know about the neighborhood, how they would approach local issues and listen to the concerns of community leaders.

De Blasio said he wants to see a “diverse range of nominees” with both the skill, talent and readiness to run a precinct.

“It’s a good audition, you want that,” he said. “You want to see who can work well with those community members, who has answers and ideas, who really gets what the community is saying.”

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said people want to feel a connection with the NYPD, especially at leadership positions. This change provides an opportunity to build that trust, he said.

Shea noted that he served twice as a commander in two different precincts in the Bronx.

“It’s an opportunity for precinct commanders to really, from the ground floor, speak to the community that they’re working so hard to protect and serve, and get to know them from an early step,” he said. “People want to get to know those precinct commanders, as well as the police officers, and they want to know they’re working toward a common bond to solve problems in the community.”

The mayor said he first heard of the idea of creating a panel to interview precinct commander candidates from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who is running to succeed de Blasio at City Hall.

Adams, who pitched the idea over the summer, noted that police-community relations have taken a “step backward” over the last year. He said the city cannot have true public safety without public confidence in the police department.

“Our communities deserve a role in choosing the leadership that has so much power in assuring officers are doing their job well and doing it fairly,” he said. “To achieve the local oversight and accountability we seek, we need to build upon the foundation of engagement and move toward greater civilian empowerment.

“It’s an important step for a more just, accountable police department,” added Adams, who served in the NYPD for 22 years. “There’s still a road ahead of us, but we must walk down it together to be successful for a safer, fairer city.”

Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and executive director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, worked with the police commissioner to develop the new process, said she believes the system has the potential to be a “real game-changer.”

“It’s going to help build deeper relationships and trust, and accountability of officers to New Yorkers,” she said, “especially in communities that have been overpoliced and racialized for far too long.”

The precinct commander selection process reform was just one of several new policies the mayor announced in his State of the City address.

To combat a rise in shootings, de Blasio launched the “NYC Joint Force to End Gun Violence,” which will be comprised of the NYPD, Cure Violence groups, district attorney offices, Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, city agencies and community groups.

The task force will implement citywide shooting reviews to identify the perpetrators of gun violence, create better lines of communication between police and anti-gun violence groups, and re-energize the Ceasefire Initiative, which provides engagement with at-risk individuals to provide assistance from service providers.

De Blasio also unveiled the “David Dinkins Plan” to expand and strengthen the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which the former mayor established in 1993.

The plan calls for allowing the CCRB to initiate their own investigations without a complaint, guarantee access to body camera footage, and receive officers’ disciplinary histories for substantiated cases.

The Dinkins Plans would also establish a Patrol Guide Review Committee and consolidate the Commission to Combat Police Corruption and the NYPD Office of the Inspector General under the CCRB.

The expanded CCRB would then have the authority to not only investigate complaints and recommend discipline for officers, but also conduct audits of policing and systemic reviews of NYPD policy and practices.

Finally, the mayor wants to double the workforce of the Cure Violence movement, which mediates conflicts on the street and provides employment and mental health services, and elevating community feedback into CompStat.

“That trust and confidence ultimately means more cooperation between police and community, and that is the way to reduce crime and violence,” de Blasio said. “That is the ultimate expression of neighborhood policing.”
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