In a few days, the latest crop of NYPD recruits will graduate from the Police Academy amid growing controversy over the department’s stop-and-frisk practices. On Friday, they heard some of the community’s complaints firsthand. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
It wasn’t your typical show at the famed Apollo Theater or your typical crowd. The audience Friday was the latest class of police recruits and the goal was not entertainment but enlightenment on the topic of cultural and community relations.
Billy Mitchell usually welcomes recruits to this event by asking who’s been to the neighborhood.
“90 percent have never been to Harlem or the Apollo Theater," Mitchell said. "So to a lot of them, it’s going to be like a culture shock.”
Commissioner Ray Kelly installed this training several years ago to teach recruits about the diversity of the communities they’re about to serve. At a panel moderated by NY1’s own Errol Louis, black leaders offered a frank assessment of the community’s view on controversial police practices like stop-and-frisk.
How would you describe the current state of police-community relations in New York City? What advice would you give to the 850 recruits graduating next week? Read New Yorkers' thoughts.
“Our people are sickened by the blatant disrespect and disregard that officers display towards us in our communities,” said Bishop Lester Williams.
Longtime radio personality Bob Slade recalled a time when residents and cops knew each other by name, telling recruits better personal relationships can pay off.
“It makes the people want to work with you," he said. "There are bad guys out there, yeah, and we want to round them up just as much as you do. But when the whole community is viewed as a felon or a possible felon, it puts a different light on it.”
It was a message some recruits said they took to heart.
“As human beings, we judge people at first glance without thinking," said recruit Kamara Pettiford. "It’s human nature. But as police officers, hopefully we can go the extra step and learn how to build relationships with the community.”
Friday’s event kicks off four days of multi-cultural immersion training, one of the last training events for this class of about 850 recruits before they graduate next Thursday.