Once again, the New York Police Department (NYPD) unleashed anger among residents when one of its officers used a chokehold on a suspect. These types of tactics, which have been banned since 1993, are still being used with deadly results.
The death of Eric Garner, an African American, during his arrest on Staten Island, joins thousands of chokehold complaints that the Civilian Complaint Review Board received from 2009 to 2013.
The NYPD still needs urgent, deep reforms to become more effective in respecting civil rights and improving its relations with the community. These excesses cannot be allowed for any reason. This is particularly true after the city won a battle against the discriminatory way in which the NYPD was applying its Stop and Frisk policythere is no justification for detaining people and searching them based only on race or skin color.
The big challenge for the NYPD, and for its current commissioner, Bill Bratton, is repairing the rift that exists in the relationship between the community and the police.
Closer ties between the police and the community should become easier with an increasingly diverse NYPD. Today, Hispanics account for 30% of the Department, way above the 16% of African Americans, and Spanish is the most widely spoken foreign language in the NYPD.
Numbers and cases speak for themselves. Commissioner Bratton and political leaders must do everything possible to make the most of this diversity and change the NYPD’s attitude. It is a priority for police officers to earn the trust of the people who live in the neighborhoods they patrol. The police must cultivate community relations, so that residents benefit from improved security and increased trust.
We don’t want to have to write about more cases like Garner’s or the one involving Noel Polanco, who was shot just because a police officer thought he was armed. Commissioner Bratton: the community expects concrete results so it can trust your officers