The night of the Diallo verdict, people in the Bronx took to the streets, chanting slogans and waving their wallets at police officers. Come morning, community leaders in the Bronx had a list of demands.
At the top of the list? More cops.
But not just any old cops–what they specifically wanted is an increase in community policing. Instead of quantity–more cops on the street–clergy and community leaders in the Bronx have asked for quality: the proverbial cop on the beat. Community policing, an idea that former police commissioner William Bratton brought to New York City the mid-1990s, holds that police officers should be integrated into the community they serve. When cops and residents know each other, the thinking goes, problems can be solved before they start, and deaths like Diallo’s can be avoided.
But activists charge that although the NYPD has a $60 million grant for community policing from the Department of Justice, it is spending the money on other programs. Now, they’re beginning to get some attention to those complaints.
On March 15, Police Commissioner Howard Safir finally granted an audience to Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and three people from the Bronx Clergy Task Force, a newly formed ad hoc group of about 40 men of the cloth. In a meeting that clergy members had requested right after Diallo’s death more than a year ago, they sat down with Safir to discuss neighborhood and police relations, and make a pitch for community policing. The task force plans to meet with Safir again this week.
“As clergy, we feel a sense of crisis in the community,” said the Rev. Raymond Rivera of the Latino Pastoral Action Center.
The effort is similar to the nationally-acclaimed Ten Point Coalition, a group of Boston clergymen who mediate between local police departments and residents to forestall crime. Like the Boston Coalition, the Bronx Task Force seeks to work collaboratively with the cops.
Meanwhile, the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, which has been advocating for community policing, is taking a more aggressive approach. On April 1, the nonprofit will hold a press conference to demand that the city’s comptroller and public advocate look into what the NYPD is doing with the federal cash.