Last week, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams pitched the idea of creating a “joint review body” made up of precinct community councils and community boards to determine who becomes a precinct’s commanding officer.
The review panels would receive three recommendations from the police commissioner of candidates who meet the minimum requirements. The panels would then select the precinct leader with a majority of votes.
If the panel cannot come up with a clear choice, the borough president or City Council member would veto the list and ask for a new list of candidates, Adams said.
“This is a cosmic shift,” he said. “This will allow direct interactions with precinct councils and community boards to ensure precinct commanders will report directly to the concerns of that local precinct.”
Adams said nobody has a better understanding of what’s happening in their communities than members of a community board, who respond to local concerns and precinct community councils, which meet monthly to discuss public safety.
He said precinct council members “knew longer than anyone” about problems with stop-and-frisk, crime and interactions with young people.
“If only we had taken the time to sit down and communicate with them,” he said, “so many answers could have come from them.”
Adams, who served in the NYPD for 22 years and rose to the rank of captain, said calls for reforms in law enforcement agencies should result in “a smart change.” He said oversight on a local level has never been put in place.
Far too often, the borough president said, precinct commanders are appointed as part of a “good old boys network.” Sometimes, they come with a level of abusiveness in their past, he said.
Some commanders have even been put into power over the objections of local leaders and residents, according to Adams. He added that many commanding officers are white, and come into communities of color with “no real connections.”
“We believe this must end,” he said.
Adams called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to institute the proposal with an executive order. If not, he said he has the support of Councilman Donovan Richards, who chairs the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, to introduce the concept as legislation.
Andre T. Mitchell, chair of Brooklyn’s Community Board 5 in East New York, said community members only get to meet precinct commanders after they are chosen by One Police Plaza.
“If we have an opportunity to interview them, we will have a better feeling of who they are,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s a good move in the right direction.”
Another supporter of the idea is Genese Morgan, chair of Community Board 16, which encompasses Ocean Hill and Brownsville. Morgan said commanding officers have a responsibility to preserve progress made by previous leadership with the local community.
“If we have an opportunity to speak with them and know what their practices are, then we can bring a commanding officer who meets the needs of the community,” she said.
Morgan added that Brownsville has a lot of young people. Candidates for precinct commanders should come in with new ideas on how they will integrate themselves and work with the youth, diffuse difficult situations and address local issues.
“I’m looking for that level of engagement,” she said.
Delia Hunley-Adossa, president of the 88th Precinct Community Council, recalled that in November 2006, her neighbors came up with a similar idea called a “citizens advisory council.”
The concept was the same, except they advocated for a pool of four to five candidates from which to choose.
“I’m 2,000 percent with you,” she said to Adams.
Community Board 4 chair Robert Camacho the commanding officer for his local precinct told him one year ago he “did not want to do community relations.” That led to the community council and local clergy pushing to have him removed because.
That same commanding officer closed off Knickerbocker Avenue, preventing the community from celebrating the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Community leaders then took the issue to Brooklyn North, which approved the celebration.
“It’s time for change,” Camacho said. “They need to listen to the community, to stakeholders who have needs in the community.”