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.