Suffice to say that Rebecca Fitting (and I) called the meeting to look for action items and solutions, in collaboration with the 70th, 71st and 67th Precincts, since we live at the intersection of those three. I chaired only to try to moderate, but in retrospect it really wasn't our meeting, and I got the evil eye from a number of attendees. Equality for Flatbush and Imani Henry used the opportunity to push their agenda. Which...was...fine. I felt bad that the precincts were called to a meeting where their tactics would be berated, but hey, they can take it, they're the cops. Still, the group's activism, much like MTOPP's, railroads most discussions into the direction it wants it to go. Apparently we're racist for having called it at all and for not inviting them. Whatever. E4F got their forum. Next time, though, I hope to do something where a wider range of opinions are allowed. Because as neighbor Cheryl Sealey related, all this talk about systemic change is fine. But some of us also want to walk down the street without fearing gun battles. Now, not in a Utopian future. A hard line, I know, but worth noting.
A meeting about crime in Prospect Lefferts Gardens became a referendum on Broken Windows policing when a dozen or so of the 60 residents in attendance sounded off to NYPD reps about what they say are racist and overly-aggressive policing tactics in the area. Several spoke out against the recently announced plan to hire another 1,300 cops in the next year, which coincides with Summer All Out, a program to flood high-violence areas—including the 67th Precinct, which encompasses East Flatbush and part of Lefferts—with cops who would normally be on desk duty.
Early on, one black woman in attendance said she opposed any calls for more police that might come out of the meeting, so long as low-level enforcement is disproportionately aimed at young men of color.
"I have three nephews that are grown," said Vena Moore, a 15-year neighborhood resident and Brooklyn native, to the officers who attended the meeting from the 70th, 71st, and 67th precincts. "They get harassed by cops periodically, and if we're going to have more of that kind of policing with additional cops, then I don't want more cops."
Responding to that concern, raised by her and others in the audience, Det. Robert Thybulle of the 67th Precinct said that some 500-700 officers are headed for retirement in the next year, so the hiring spree is really not a huge gain. Plus, he said, "personally, I think more police can only be good."
Circling back around to the issue after being pressed further, Thybulle, who is African-American, cited the sensitivity training he received at the Police Academy. "I had to do a report on Germany and German society. I had to look at everything related to the food, to the culture, to everything. Everyone goes through that in the Police Academy."
When I caught up to him in the lobby for more information, Det. Thybulle explained that he attended the academy in 1999, and that the project took 2-3 weeks of his 6-month training as a cadet. Thybulle noted that the department added a new, three-day sensitivity training for all officers last winter, a change that came in the wake of a grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner.
Back in the sweltering basement, meeting attendees shared alarming stories of police misconduct (none could immediately be independently verified). A white woman described being ticketed for being in Prospect Park after dark with her Puerto Rican boyfriend by a cop who asked, "What's a nice girl like you doing in this neighborhood?" then implied that he was making errors on her ticket so that she could get off, but stuck it to her boyfriend.
A longtime resident, Aaliyah Lessey, told of sitting down on a park bench off of Ocean Avenue around 5 p.m. one day, then being ticketed along with everyone else in the park for an unspecified violation. Having known many of the neighborhood officers, she was flabbergasted when one she'd never met asked for her ID and came back with a summons. "If I was smoking or drinking, it was fine, but I wasn't doing nothing," she said. She said a judge dismissed the summons after taking one look at it. Others bemoaned the shutting-down of a longstanding block party, a move the 70th Precinct's Lt. Jacqueline Bourne said was due to a brawl. Equality for Flatbush activist Imani Henry described an hour of monitoring a checkpoint at Flatbush and Church avenues in 2014, during which police stopped only one white driver, and only after cops spotted him talking to cop watchers. Audience members began to raise their voices as the police on hand avoided their questions, saying they couldn't comment on incidents without knowing the particulars, and encouraging the aggrieved to call Internal Affairs and the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
To read more, you know what to do.