Last week, local business owner, landlord, and community leader Kevin Phillip was arrested for the second time in just over a year by officers patrolling Franklin as part of the "Impact Zone" strategy in place on the Avenue. His wife, Garnett, sent the following eyewitness account:
Like most people, Kevin and Garnett were deeply upset about this incident, but to their immense credit, they've taken a constructive approach to what happened (neither of Kevin's arrests has resulted in any charges whatsoever being filed, and from what I understand, no explanation for either has been offered). Over the weekend, they called a meeting with the NYPD (both Ray Kelly's office and the 77th Precinct), Councilwoman Letitia James, and the Crow Hill Community Association, and made a plan to host an event in two weeks at which the officers who patrol Franklin Avenue will introduce themselves to local merchants and residents, in the interest of fostering some mutual trust and support as well as avoiding disastrous incidents like the one Kevin suffered through last Wednesday.
ILFA applauds the efforts of these community leaders - Garnett reports that both the CHCA and our Councilwoman "showed so much support and compassion" - to turn what could be remembered as an ugly, divisive instance of police profiling and brutality into a teaching moment that will hopefully serve to prevent such things from happening in the future. Watch this space for more information on this meet-and-greet and other events that will be a part of the community and NYPD response. If, however, it is permissible to editorialize now that the facts have been reported, I hope that community members who have the opportunity to meet with these officers bring a little of the healthy, constructive anger that was expressed at last month's CHCA meeting with them. The NYPD is comfortable threatening to land helicopters on Franklin Avenue if someone lays a hand on an officer (as was said at the meeting). Fair enough - no one should assault a New York City police officer. However, we should be equally outraged if New York City police officers assault community members without cause or explanation, and while we can't call out the chopper, there must be consequences for those officers who violently abuse their authority, as well as for their commanding officers. The 77th Precinct appears to be taking this incident seriously, which is a good start, and hopefully these meetings will generate some good ideas and connections. It will be up to all of us, however, to hold the NYPD to whatever standards are set and promises are made, and to demand an end to hit-first-and-ask-questions-later tactics that serve to perpetuate every negative stereotype about big-city police officers, and which exacerbate racial and class divisions.
A retired NYPD officer who worked in an Impact Zone on the Lower East Side has a fascinating memoir of the experience posted here. It's worth a read, and should inform our thinking as we work together with the 77th to ensure that the NYPD serves the entire community in Crown Heights.