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Police Commissioner Ray Kelly Wows Crowd At Jamaica Church
by Daniel Hendrick, Asst. Managing Editor

March 14, 2002

Commish.jpg (17813 bytes) In a history-making move, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly accepted an invitation to speak at the 103rd Precinct Community Council on Tuesday, becoming the first top cop to address the council since it was formed nearly two decades ago. During the
Councilman Leroy Comrie, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly , Precinct Council President Donna Clopton and Precinct Commander Robert Thursland ninety-minute presentation and question-and-answer session
at an unusually packed St. Benedict the Moor Church in Jamaica, he focused on key neighborhood concerns, like crime reduction, community policing and racial
profiling. But perhaps the most important thing about Kelly’s talk wasn’t anything he said, but merely that he came.
   Former Commissioner Bernard Kerik, Kelly’s predecessor, was widely criticized for not making a scheduled appearance before the 103rd Precinct Council last year. He didn’t send a representative or inform the council that he wouldn’t make the meeting.
   “He’s a very down-to-earth guy,” said

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one Jamaica resident, of Kelly. “We are just glad that he came.”
   He began the evening by stating that there are many obstacles facing the police department, particularly the drop in city tax revenues.
   “In years past, we had virtually unlimited money to spend on policing to get crime under control. That’s changed. We are going to have to make specific cuts, but we are working on cuts that won’t affect the level of policing that we give, and indeed make the department strong in some ways.”
   The largest shift at One Police Plaza will be new emphasis on terrorism, following last September’s attacks.
   Kelly noted that Frank Libutti, a former Marine general, had been appointed in January as the city’s first Deputy Commissioner for Counter-Terrorism.
   Libutti will oversee anti-terrorism training efforts, while the department will seek government and private funding to purchase new technology and bomb detection equipment.
   “We have done a lot since last September, but a lot more has to be done,” Kelly said. “This is an area that we are going to have to focus on for a long time to come.”
   As the terrorism effort expands, the department will hold the line on crime reduction. Violent crime has dropped 70 percent in New York City over the last decade, while overall crime in the 103rd Precinct is 20 percent below where it was at this time last year.
   At the urging of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the NYPD began its Operation Clean Sweep in January to focus on quality of life crimes.
   Some 3,000 arrests and 22,000 summonses have been issued under the initiative, which targets panhandlers, peddlers, squeegee people and petty criminals.
   Recruitment and retention are arguably the largest obstacles facing the department. Recruitment drives haven’t produced the numbers of incoming officers that the top brass would like to see—1,400 new cops are slated to be sworn in later this month—while a major wave of police hired in the early 1980s is expected to retire soon.
   Overall headcount has dropped from 41,000 a few years ago to less than 38,000 today.
   On a local level, that translates into fewer cops on the beat. The NYPD employs 12,000 more people than it did a decade ago, but the number of officers at the 103rd Precinct has actually fallen by three since that time.
   “Quite frankly, we have been selling the department short,” Kelly said. “We need to raise our sights, by focusing on college and increasing minority representation.”
   Prospective cops can now apply for the police examination online through the department’s Web site at www.nyc.gov/nypd, making the NYPD the first agency to move its job application onto the Internet.
   In terms of retention, Kelly is lobbing state lawmakers to allow cops to pick the year that their pension benefits will be based on.
   Last year, cops worked much overtime, making 2001 the highest-grossing year for many officers. If they stay on for additional years, they would likely lose significant pension income.
   Many in the audience came to the meeting to hear Kelly’s thoughts on racial profiling, and he didn’t disappoint.
   He said the department has never engaged in racial profiling in practice and will announce an official order prohibiting racial profiling this week.
   “That will make us the first major department in the country to codify our prohibition on racial profiling. It’s been our practice for years, but we want to make sure that the public is aware of it.”
   Concerns voiced by the audience ran the gamut from community policing to expanding the CompStat program.
   Asked why the department has no African-American precinct chiefs in Queens, Kelly said that the root of the issue is that some officers are not studying for advancement.
   The department has only 11 black officers at the rank of captain or above. “I urge anyone in the department to study for promotion. We just don’t have enough minorities now,” he said.
   Several residents urged Kelly to restart community policing efforts, but he replied that the department just didn’t have the money.
   “A lot of people view the term community policing pejoratively, like it’s soft policing. I don’t believe that. It’s a concept in general that I support. But I don
t know     if in the immediate future, we will have the resources to expand the program.”
   On school security, Kelly said that the department is developing a “more comprehensive, well thought out” plan for troubled schools.
   Unlike most areas of the NYPD, there is no planned cut in the school police force of 4,000. “I would like to see more resources deployed in the schools. They are understaffed and need more equipment.”
   Following the discussion with Kelly, local residents described the meeting as productive. “It’s a positive thing that he would come out here to support the community,” said Lisa Downes, of Jamaica. “Maybe that will get his officers and everyone as a whole to get involved and keep working together.”
   Robert Jones, also of Jamaica, proposed creating a new civilian police patrol to counter uniformed headcount reductions and make residents more comfortable with law enforcement efforts.
   “We could do our own patrolling and that would help them and let people know who’s who in the neighborhood,” he said.

©Queens Chronicle-Eastern/SouthEastern Edition 2002

 

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