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NYPD Faces Possible Residency Legislation

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries proposes new police residency legislation at 1 Police Plaza. (Photo: Rachel Rogers | City Beats)

Future New York City police officers may be required to live within city limits, if legislation introduced by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries passes. Jeffries held a press conference Sunday in front of One Police Plaza to explain the bill and convey his hopes that it will enable police officers to better understand and respect the communities they serve.

The legislation came in part as a reaction to hostility at this year’s West Indian Day Parade and the subsequent Facebook group where some police voiced hateful opinions about the event’s participants.

At the parade in September, Council Member Jumaane D. Williams was arrested for crossing the police barrier because police did not know who he was. The parade has a reputation for inciting violence, and this year police responded to at least two shootings. Still, community leaders at today’s press conference said that the West Indian Day Parade has been singled out and acquired an unfair stigma.

“That is one of the things that we need to dispel,” said Rickford Burke, president of the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy.

Any parade involves some level of unruliness, he added, and most of the participants did not experience any conflict.

“The West Indian Day Parade is a significant expression of cultural pride as well as an economic engine for the city of New York,” Jeffries said.

Police officers have had a different experience with the parade. A Facebook group titled “No More West Indian Day Detail” for New York City police officers was created in September after the 2011 parade and discovered by two Brooklyn lawyers in November. Comments on the group’s page referred to participants in the festivities as “animals” or “savages” and even suggested bombing the 2012 parade. The Internet was used as a place “where individuals felt that there would be no retribution,” according to Council Member Letitia James, who also supports Jeffries’ legislation.

No one speaking at the press conference felt that there had been an adequate reaction to the Facebook page from Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.

“The mayor and police commissioner, words aside, have been unwilling to change the institution,” Jeffries said.

He proposed legislation requiring police officers to live in New York City because he believes it would make officers more comfortable in the ethnically varied neighborhoods where they work.

“If you live in New York City, you’re more likely to show some respect for the tremendous cultural diversity,” Jeffries said.

That similar legislation has existed in the past and because current regulations state that police officers are not allowed to live in the precincts where they work, cast doubt on the effectiveness of the proposal. But because New York City is a more diverse place than it used to be, Jeffries thinks police will gain the understanding they need by living in the city, even if they are not in their specific precinct.

The latest statistic released on police housing was in 1997, according to Jeffries, when only 45% of officers lived in New York City. Police officers already on the force who live outside of the five boroughs would not be required to move. Similar regulations already exist in Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston.

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Asian-American Community Hit Hard by Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying affects 62 percent of Asian-Americans nationwide. (Image: Rachel Rogers | City Beats)

Tej Kaur is a Sikh, a religious minority from South Asia. She joins the majority, however, as one of 62 percent of Asian-Americans nationwide who has been a victim of cyberbullying, according to a study released on Oct. 29 by the U.S. Department of Education in Washington D.C..

“The only reason I’m okay now is because of my religion,” said Kaur, 21, who was bullied both online and in school about her faith.

On Oct. 29 she joined over 200 students and parents at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ Bullying Prevention Summit at Hunter College in New York City.

Although bullying is considered by some to be a rite of passage, the bullies of old did not have social media tools, like Facebook, at their disposal. It used to be that bullying took place at school. Now the problem follows kids whenever they can go online, narrowing the gap between home and school, and leaving victims feeling like they have no safe haven.

“The world we live in now with the Internet and cyberbullying makes the stakes even greater,” said New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in her opening remarks at the summit.

The Asian American community has been hit especially hard. They are the fastest growing racial population, and are suffering the most from bullying across the board. In addition to high cyberbullying rates, 54 percent of Asian-Americans report having been bullied in school, 20 percent more than African-Americans, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Two weeks ago MTV aired DISconnected, a movie based on the true story of Abraham Biggs, a bi-polar college student and victim of cyberbullying who live-streamed his suicide online.

At the summit representatives from MTV and Facebook participated in a session to help parents understand the role social media plays in their children’s lives. Gurparash Singh, 54, began texting his daughter because it is the easiest way to communicate with her, he said.

“Since 2009 I have been a better person,” Singh said. “I can talk to my daughter now.”

Still Singh, a Sikh, sees many members of the Asian-American community who are insulated by their lack of social media knowledge. While most adults in attendance did have Facebook accounts, the language barrier between immigrant parents and their children was a concern. Facebook is available in 70 languages, but that doesn’t help parents trying to keep an eye on their children’s English pages.

Social media is also accessible to children earlier than ever. Fifty-two percent of children up to eight years old have access to a digital device, such as a smart phone or tablet, according to a study by Common Sense Media.

“They have very powerful tools in their hands,” said Anne Schreiber, vice-president of Common Sense Media, who also presented at the summit. Schreiber added that the tools have consequences bullies are often too young to understand.

“What I see from your slides,” Singh said of Schreiber’s presentation,” is that a bigger problem is coming.”

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