NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill speaks at the New Jerusalem Worship Center in Rochdale.
BY JON CRONIN
The city Police Department’s top brass came to Rochdale on Wednesday as part of the Human Justice Summit and met with community leaders to strengthen ties and help them understand how the police will interact with residents in the future.
“Public safety is a shared responsibility,” said NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, noting that some of this responsibility falls on the NYPD and some on the community. “If you see something that makes you feel uncomfortable, say something.”
O’Neill was accompanied by a panel of his executive team during the event, which was held at Rochdale’s New Jerusalem Worship Center.
“We could be on any side—building bridges or burning them. We’re here to build bridges,” he said.
O’Neill added that during recent years, it has often been difficult to create better communication between police and communities across the country, especially after the death of Eric Garner, the events in Ferguson, Mo., and the assassination of police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in 2014.
“All that trust was gone,” he said. “It made everyone catch their breaths.”
The commissioner stated that 2017 was the safest year on record for the city. He noted that in 1990, there were as many as 2,245 homicides per year in New York City and that the number of murders in 2017 was 292.
“Still, that is 292 too many,” he added.
O’Neill said that the NYPD has a good relationship with national law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, DEA and ATF.
He noted that many of the nation’s major cities have not had similar crime-reduction success stories.
“In a lot of major cities, crime is going up,” he said.
O’Neill said that initiatives to help transform communities that are most affected by crime are already underway. He noted that when the Neighborhood Coordinating Officers (NCO) program was rolled out, officers first went to the worst communities in the Bronx because the commissioner wanted to see how the program would fare in some of the areas of the city with the most crime.
Newly appointed NYPD Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison said that each NYPD officer is now taking to heart the NCO program philosophy.
“It’s a philosophy that all uniformed officers follow,” Harrison said.
The NCOs are entrusted to learn the names of those in their sector of the community, “and identify that bad 1 percent,” Harrison said.
O’Neill also pointed out that decriminalizing smaller offenses has freed up time in the courts—by 1.5 million cases—and allowed officers to pursue more-dangerous investigations. He noted that the NYPD leaves it up to officers to give criminal or civil summons for smaller offenses.