Point of View: Position Papers

Open Letter to Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly
March 8, 2002

The Honorable Michael Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, New York 10007

The Honorable Raymond Kelly
Police Commissioner
1 Police Plaza
New York, New York 10007

Dear Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly:

We write to request a meeting with both of you concerning ways to address the concerns, generally, about police-community relations, and specifically, regarding the consequences of the ruling by the federal appeals court in reversing the convictions of police officers who were charged with either assisting with or obstructing justice in connection with the torture of Abner Louima in the 70th Precinct. We, the undersigned, were members of Mayor Giuliani?s Task Force on Police-Community Relations. The Task Force was organized in 1997 in the immediate aftermath of the news of Mr. Louima?s torture.

The Task Force worked diligently for six months, between August 1997 and March 1998, having been given wide access to NYPD top brass and internal operations and records, and having investigated the issues related to the perceived and actual conflicts between police and community. These included: civilian review and oversight of NYPD; psychological testing programs and support services available to members of the NYPD; employment patterns and affirmative action programs; police training, curriculum, and attitudes towards minority populations, such as language, ethnic, racial, and sexual minorities; contractual restrictions such as the ?48-hour rule,? and strategies for improving police morale and working conditions, and effectuating better communications between police personnel and civilians.

We believe that the knowledge we gleaned from our experience as members of the Task Force offer you an important resource for addressing the systemic problems associated with police-community relations. Indeed, there exists, especially in view of last week?s Second Circuit decision, an imperative for a thoughtful analysis and sober discussion of the possible next steps that should be undertaken to restore community-wide confidence in law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

The essential recommendations of our Task Force were agreed upon, by all of us, after we met on many occasions, visited police precincts and the police academy, held Town Hall meetings, interviewed representatives of the community and NYPD personnel, analyzed NYPD documents and reports, and eventually published a majority and minority report. We agreed on the following systemic recommendations:

?? elimination of the ?48-hour rule?;

?? adoption of an NYPD affirmative action plan; including the development of a comprehensive NYPD employment plan which would include a prospective residency requirement for new police officers;

?? development of a Police-Community Relations Training program, extending the NYPD Academy training program from six months to a full year;

?? the creation of a web site to provide public access to data collection by the NYPD and Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB);

?? a significant pay increase for police officers.

We do not know for a fact that the recommendations in our reports were ever adequately and effectively implemented. We acknowledge there is some dispute on this point, since former Police Commissioner Safir said that he had, indeed, accepted most of our recommendations. Moreover, the establishment of a permanent special state prosecutor for police corruption and brutality, the promulgation of an affirmative action program, and review of psychological testing and services to officers are areas that need further study and discussion.

Over the last week, we have heard and read many differing comments and opinions of New Yorkers regarding police-community relations and the Louima case. What they appear to have in common is the recognition that the issue of police-community relations is still an urgent matter that New Yorkers care about deeply and want resolved. The current climate plus a new Mayoral Administration present a golden opportunity to try again, to make the necessary changes. Without all New Yorkers having confidence and
trust in how police misconduct cases are handled, police-community relations will not fundamentally improve. To counter the existing tensions, divisiveness, polarization,
cynicism, and misinformation surrounding this important issue we need to come together and provide the necessary constructive leadership on this crucial matter of public concern.

We look forward to meeting with you as soon as possible.

Sincerely yours,

Emira Habiby-Browne

Lloyd Henry
Raymond A. Joseph

Michael Meyers

Hon. Christine Quinn

Irwin Rochman

Norman Siegel