Monday, June 06, 2011

Addressing Problematic Policing: Local Business Owner, Community Leader, Arrested for Second Time

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:

"Wednesday afternoon, while working on our storefront in the heat for over 10 hours, Kevin decided to walk across the street to pay our staff for the day's work. He was rushed by 3 young police officers who began searching his pockets without an explanation. When he asked for their badge numbers and reason behind this, he was arrested with no questions asked. Not only did they arrest him, they slammed his head against the car door and injured his lip."

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.


  1. wow -- please keep us posted as to the exact time/date/location of this meeting. - Liz

  2. I'm impressed that Kevin was able to react so positively. I don't think that I would have been able to, especially if I was a black man who had faced this kind of profiling his whole life. He is truly a community hero.

  3. I couldn't have said it better than the 11:38pm poster. This makes me so angry. I want more details.

  4. This is extremely upsetting, angering--I don't know if I could respond with such a constructive approach as Kevin did, as you so well put it.

  5. One thing that should be discussed at the meeting is how bystanders should interact with the police if we witness someone we know and trust being mistreated. What is the best way to try to intervene without making the situation worse (or getting arrested)?

  6. You are touching on the tip of the iceberg.

    The interventions needed are not at the level of the street. ....when someone is being arrested on the street, it is too late.

    Whynot join the thousands of people already struggling to create better systems of justice?

    Policing will always be dirty, controversial work, but without reforming and strengthening the courts, the situation will become worse.

    I'm of the perspective that constructive change can not occur without reading the materials published by Vera, the ACLU and others.

    For example:

    Let's put some thought behind the percentage of people arrested and then released before arraignment.

    As discussed in other posts, we are moving toward a system in which the police are given the authority and discretion which previously rested with the courts.

    Some cops enjoy this authority and discretion.

    Some hate it.

    It is difficult to follow the public's wishes, when it contradicts itself so often, and has so many competing voices.

  7. Ah, the public and its many voices.

    I don't think it is too much of a stretch to state that when a neighborhood is declared an Impact Zone, the police are given the same power and discretion that they ALWAYS have when operating on the grounds of housing authority buildings.

    As stated above, this is a matter of the police believing that they have been told "do whatever is necessary to obtain control".

    watch the video....

    P.S. Brownsville is about three miles from Franklin Avenue.

  8. I just settled for a $38K because of a dickhead that thought it was ok to cut me off in his unmarked car and decided to run me through the system because he refused to show a badge. NYPD= Little Dick assholes!

  9. Now you know why they get full paint cans thrown at them from roof tops.

  10. I agree with all the comments above.

    I am still in favor of the impact zone and happy with the effect the police presence has had on the neighborhood, but it certainly comes at a price.

    Mr. Phillip, thank you for everything you've done for the neighborhood.

  11. The police are out of hand ! Franklin Ave is a community of hard working middle class folks, and young newcomers looking for a cool , easygoing place to live - for themselves and their families. This seems so NY 1960. Another era. Franklin Avenue has changed significantly in the past few years and the police need to be informed and not treat its residents like thugs.

  12. Stop and Frisk lawsuit from the Center for Constitutional Rights going forward:

  13. kevin is a great guy. thanks for keeping us posted.