Police Commissioner of the NYPD James O’Neil visited the Precinct Council Meeting of the 71st Precinct on Thursday evening, answering questions from residents and detailing actions the NYPD is taking to further reduce crime beyond record lows.
by CHI Staff Writers
Police Commissioner James O’Neil attended the 71st Precinct Council Meeting on Thursday evening in the public school on Empire Boulevard and New York Avenue, part of a series of such visits to Precinct Council Meeting across the five boroughs.
Mr. O’Neil introduced himself as starting his career in the NYPD as a transit cop in 1983. “Never would I have imagined being the police commissioner,” he said. Detailing his experiences as cop and walking through the subway cars during a time when it was particularly scary to be doing so. “The look of relief that I saw in the faces of people as I walked through the subway cars continues to guide me.”
He touted the record low crime figures for New York City, saying “2016 was a good year. Crime was down and we had under 1,000 shootings and to put that into perspective, in 1990 we had over 5,000 shootings.”
Not satisfied with any crime he went on to detail other actions the NYPD is undertaking to try and further reduce crime. “We got lots of positive reaction to the Neighborhood Coordination Officer program, which also helped boost morale among officers.
“We also undertook a program called precision policing. We took a look at who is doing crime and it’s a very small group of bad people. We created a unified detectives unit which targets these groups and it has been very successful.
“We are not yet and have a ways to go, but it is making life better,” he said.
O’Neil acknowledged the Auxiliary Police Officers, whom are volunteers that patrol the neighborhood on their own time. He thanked Brooklyn South Chief Steven Powers and 71st Precinct Commanding Officer Norman Grandstaff for their great work.
The Commissioner then took questions from the crowd, one from Jose LaSalle, an activist who advocates the filming of police officers, who referenced a number of incidents where police officers were accused of crimes and bad behavior. He referenced the case of NYPD Det. Robert Francis who is accused of doing lewd acts in public in Nassau County and others.
O’Neil responded that those officers were dealt with, and in the case of Francis he was suspended, and that the actions of a few bad apples should not reflect badly on the thousands of other officers who are good.
An activist with the ACLU asked if the NYPD would clarify its police in dealing with immigration orders and detainer requests in light of the changes made by President Donald Trump. To which he responded that the NYPD only complies with orders stemming from serious crimes and that the NYPD has work to do in better getting that message out.
One resident questions the motives of Mr. O’Neil, asking “why are you all of a sudden attending this meeting here?” his response, “because I want to come out and speak directly to the residents of this city.”
Jacob Goldstein, a retired U.S. Army Chaplain, thanked the commissioner and the NYPD for their new welcoming policy towards officers whose religion requires them keeping a beard. “Officer [Fishel] Litzman is working in the Bronx thanks to a lawsuit and the NYPD changing its policy,” he said. O’Neil responded that the NYPD has changed its policy regarding head coverings and beards in an effort to increase its inclusion of members of many different faiths.
Before leaving the meeting Mr. O’Neil mentioned the NYPD’s new program to place body cameras on officers to record interactions. “The new pilot program will begin in the 34th Precinct in Manhattan, and intend to have every single officer wearing one in the coming years.”