A pilot program has been started in the Bronx to help police officers better understand the people they police, and residents hope the initiative can go citywide to help repair a fractured relationship. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Quizzing police officers about the neighborhoods they work in is a part of the new People's Police Academy, where the community trains officers.
"As an officer, you got to known the place in which you serve," said the Rev. Que English of the Bronx Clergy Criminal Justice Roundtable. "Not just necessarily know where the hotspots are, but what is good about this community, what is thriving."
The 47th Precinct in the northeast Bronx launched the pilot program Monday. About 50 officers took part in hearing from community and clergy members, as well as Bronx businesses and historians.
"They are going to know the history of the community that they are working. They are going to know the different ethnicities that are here, the different people, the different cultures they have to work with," said Derrick Jones of the Jamaica Ex-Police Association.
"This is designed for all the police officers," said Deputy Inspector Ruel Stephenson, the NYPD 47th Precinct Commander. "I have officers from the domestic violence unit. Neighborhood coordinating officers. I have officers who do patrol. I have officers who do administrative work."
The People's Police Academy is a three-day curriculum. Individuals who have served prison time and former gang members will talk to police about their experiences.
This neighborhood is where a teenager was shot and killed in his bathroom by an officer in 2012.
"A Ramarley Graham situation may have been averted if we had this academy five years ago," said the Rev. Kahli Mootoo of the National Action Network's Bronx chapter.
Getting the OK for the community to train police wasn't an easy task. It took the NYPD more than a year for the NYPD to approve the People's Police Academy.
Bronx Borough Commander Larry Nikunen told the officers it's about trust and being open-minded, and that it doesn't replace their police training.
"Someone's going to come in and teach me how to police my neighborhood, that's not what's happening," Nikunen said. "What they are going to do is help you understand from the perspective of the residents."
The officers also hit the road, taking a bus tour of important spots in the 47th Precinct, which covers more than a five-mile radius, one of the largest precinct areas in the city. That's a lot of people to get to know.