Throughout the week, NY1 has reflected on the 25th anniversary of the Crown Heights Riots. NY1 Criminal Justice Reporter Dean Meminger tells us that the police response to the situation was a major concern, and eventually it was investigated.
During the Crown Heights Riots in August of 1991, the city police department took a lot of heat for not stopping the chaos.
"I remember that Wednesday night hearing shots being fired," former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. "I remember crowds being in the street, I remember seeing some looting that Wednesday night.
"It was an ugly time."
Kelly was the NYPD's first deputy commissioner during the riots. He eventually became police commissioner twice.
Kelly admits the department mishandled the clashes between blacks and Jews.
He says angry young men from the black and Caribbean communities were allowed to go too far with violence.
"The department was hesitant. It should have taken action against the demonstrators," Kelly reflects. "There's a time for talk and there is a time for action. The time for action actually passed."
Two years later, a 600-page state report found that police were not told to hold back by City Hall.
But the investigation blasted Mayor David Dinkins, Police Commissioner Lee Brown, Kelly, and other high-ranking officers for not protecting life and property and restoring peace in Crown Heights.
At the time, Kelly said he wasn't to blame.
"In hindsight, yes, I probably could have been helpful, being there the first night and the second night, but I wasn't requested to go," Kelly had said. "I think I did what was appropriate."
He still feels that way today, arguing a first deputy commissioner is not responsible for operations but rather administrative duties.
The rioting occurred after little Gavin Cato was killed by a car in a Hasidic motorcade.
As a result, an innocent man, Yankel Rosenbaum, was stabbed and later died.
Kelly says the NYPD learned important lessons.
"From that event, we put in place a very, I think, well done, comprehensive disorder control plan," Kelly said.
"Prior to that, we would send a lot of police officers to a demonstration without any real tactical structure," he added.
Kelly believes in a city as populated and diverse as New York, tensions can flare up at any time and police must be proactive.
"It takes a lot of effort," the former police commissioner said. "It's hard work, and precinct commanders and the officers on patrol have to continue to work at it every day."