Many organizations from Southeast Queens attended the CCRB meeting, where feedback was given on police conduct in the community.
BY TRONE DOWD
The Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) held a meeting at the St. Albans Family Life Center last Wednesday, where the group gave insight into its unique function as a city agency and took feedback from distressed residents who have had questionable encounters with the city Police Department.
It was the second time the CCRB has ever held a meeting outside its Manhattan headquarters.
While police and community relations in Southeast Queens have been on an upswing over the years due to department initiatives such as neighborhood policing and more involvement from active community affairs units, there are still a number of incidents that some residents call questionable.
In these special cases, CCRB is called in to investigate, functioning as a mediator between the officer in question and the citizen claiming that police misconduct was involved.
Misconduct includes unnecessary force, abuse of authority, discourtesy and the use of offensive language. The assigned investigators are responsible for evaluating both sides of the story and concluding whether there was a discrepancy.
The entire executive board was in attendance for Wednesday’s meeting.
“The work that we are doing tonight is so critically important both for the community and all of us here on the board,” CCRB chairwoman Maya Wiley said. “We are here to ensure that we are strengthening fair and safe policing in our communities. Our primary goal is to hear from you and to learn more about what is happening with policing in your neighborhoods.”
From 2010 to 2016, Queens had the fourth highest number of complaints out of the five boroughs, making up 17 percent of the total complaints filed in the city on an annual basis.
The 103rd and 113th precincts ranked seventh and eighth in the city, respectively. The 105th Precinct came in at number 12. The most popular allegation was abusive authority, with a total of 134 allegations in Southeast Queens. Excessive force was ranked second, accounting for 24 percent of the allegations, while offensive language accounted for five percent.
The three-hour session began with a representative from Urban Upbound, a Queens nonprofit, talking about combatting poverty. Justino Williams, a St. Albans native and former intern for the CCRB, told the board that he would like to see an effort not only to solve issues when they arise, but also foster positive relationships with law enforcement.
“[The CCRB] could do this through informing the community and the individuals of our rights when we are interacting with our police officers,” Williams said. “I believe that if that is accomplished, we can deter some of the misconduct that takes place.”
Wiley said that this is something that the CCRB currently does, but not as much as they would like to. She urged local leaders to reach out to the CCRB in order to schedule community “Know Your Rights” training sessions.
Mohamed Amin, Founder and CEO of a local LGBTQ group, the Caribbean Equality Project, told his harrowing story of police misconduct.
“In 2013, I was stopped on Jamaica Avenue by two police cars,” he said.
After complying with the officers’ requests, Amin asked the officer why he was stopped. He was told that his taillight was out. It wasn’t.
“When I told the officer that my taillight shouldn’t have been out, my car door was then opened,” he said.
The officer pulled Amin out of the car, handcuffed him and slammed him against the hood of the car. The officer told Amin to “stop being an ass.” After five minutes, Amin received a ticket for disorderly conduct.
“At the time, I didn’t know what to do,” Amin said. “I went home traumatized. As a queer man of color, with a Caribbean background, I was harassed by a Jamaican officer. All I could think was, ‘Wow, I was just harassed by my own people.”
The CCRB attempted mediation between Amin and the officer, but the officer repeatedly turned the opportunity down. After a full investigation, Amin was told that he would not have to pay the ticket and a permanent mark of the incident was placed on the officer’s record.
Amin said that his story was the perfect example of why minority communities need to know about the services that the CCRB offers and asked Wiley to make a greater effort to get the word out. He also pointed out the importance of recognizing the cultural difference between what the city considers heinous when it comes to the use of offensive language and hate crimes.
“In diverse areas like Queens, which include Caribbean, Bengali and South Asian people, we all speak different languages,” he said. “Anti-LGBT hate slurs don’t always get noted because terms that are used are not currently being recognized or classified as hate speech.”
As a result, many hate crimes carried out in communities of color are often classified as assaults, holding significantly less severe consequences for what is essentially the same crime.
“That is something that I would love for the CCRB to address alongside the city and the NYPD,” he said.
A.U. Hogan, of Life Camp, attended Wednesday’s meeting on behalf of the company’s founder, Erica Ford, asking the CCRB to keep tabs on how commanding officers apply the feedback they receive from investigations. By doing so, Hogan believes that meaningful change can take place. Nicole Bramstedt, of Urban Pathways, spoke about the importance of training officers how to deal with the mentally ill.
Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) said that having the CCRB in his district is a great measure to ensure a sense of community in Southeast Queens.
“We want to make sure that our services are delivered,” he said. “The garbage man will get yelled at if your can ends up on the other side of the street with garbage strewn everywhere.
If the bus takes off when the mother and her child is crossing the street, the bus driver will get yelled at. Law enforcement, don’t take it personal. We think that we are entitled to certain services and the dignity and respect that comes along with that. Our expectations are the same for everyone.”
CCRB urged residents who believe they have been mistreated by local law enforcement to report their case by visiting nyc.gov/ccrb, by calling 311 and asking to be connected to the CCRB or by calling the group’s direct line at 1 (800) 341-2272.