To restore trust in the relationship between police and community, the mayor must make good on police reforms.
Reforms can only happen if New York Police Department Commissioner Bratton is fired.
After a Staten Island jury voted not to file criminal charges against NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo over the chokehold homicide of Eric Garner, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) announced a program to train the racism away from the NYPD.
At the press conference announcing the training program, Mayor de Blasio promised "to get it right, to move forward."
That press conference came one day after the Staten Island grand jury announced its controversial decision.
However, only one month before that press conference, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton was doing damage control following a flap over the resignation of the police force's highest ranking Black police officer, Philip Banks III. To placate diversity activists, Commissioner Bratton appointed another Black, Benjamin Tucker, to the position of First Deputy Commissioner, a largely ceremonial post generally reserved for token "Yes Men."
At First Deputy Commissioner Tucker's introduction, the NYPD's newest Yes Man emphasized training as a method to access improved community-police relations.
"We’re also looking at giving our officers some additional training in how to think about, and how to think through, when to engage and how to engage,” First Deputy Commissioner Tucker said at the time, according to a report in Capital New York.
However, at First Deputy Commissioner Tucker's début, Commissioner Bratton made a point to speak, through the media, to police reform activists' demand that he resign in order for rigorous reforms to be introduced at the NYPD.
Addressing his critics, Commissioner Bratton said, in part, "… in terms of those that are trying to push me out the door, you better start pushing harder, because I am not going."
In the wake of Mr. Garner's chokehold death on a public sidewalk in broad daylight and, later, Akai Gurley's shooting death in a dark stairwell in the Pink Houses, both Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton have steadfastly defended the NYPD's discriminatory "Broken Windows" theory of policing, which deliberately targets low-income communities and communities of color for aggressive policing for very low-level infractions, such as jaywalking, selling loose cigarettes, or using a small, portable BBQ grill in a front yard.
New York City is no longer the city of dangerous, graffiti-covered subways, of crack epidemics, or of gutted or flattened city blocks. As such, neither should low-income communities nor communities of color walk in fear of a police stop turning deadly, as it did for Mr. Garner on a public sidewalk, or an accidental encounter turning deadly, as it did for Mr. Gurley in a dark stairwell.
Notwithstanding, Commissioner Bratton buries his head in the sand, saying, "We are not targeting communities of color, we are targeting behavior," Commissioner Bratton said last August, according to a report by the network news program, CBS This Morning.
The only way for Mayor de Blasio to be able to both fulfill a central demand by protesters, namely, that the NYPD end its "Broken Windows" policing, and to appoint a police commissioner, who will advocate on behalf of police unions, is for the mayor to fire Commissioner Bratton and appoint a new commissioner, one who can roll-out a just policing approach that actually heals and restores trust in the relationship between police and community.
Saturday night, when police officers turned their backs to Mayor de Blasio, the angry police officers also did so to their own commissioner. For the police unions to be receptive to necessary reforms, it would be helpful if the unions first had faith in their own leader at One Police Plaza.
To give activists and police unions an equal stake in long-overdue reforms at the NYPD, Mayor de Blasio must stop his charade of promoting himself as a progressive mayor, whilst at the same time defending his regressive appointment of Commissioner Bratton to head the NYPD. Training is not enough. Appoint a new commissioner, someone who can lead the NYPD in a direction toward healing, trust, and justice.
-- Progress Queens