While the disenfranchised of New York wonder where the police patrol cars are, cops in California tell church leaders their help is needed in reversing the systemic racism that has plagued the nation.
The divide seems to be a microcosm of the disconnect between Black communities and the officers hired to protect them.
In the Marcy Projects of Brooklyn, where rap impresario Jay-Z grew up, a place noted for crime and violence, nary a police officer can be found these days. Ordinarily, cop cars would be rampant, a constant reminder that the law is watching and providing a level of safety for some residents.
But since the December 20 random killing of two officers a block from the Marcy Projects, residents say police have all but discarded this neighborhood of so much trouble. But why? Is it a fear of a copycat gunman? Or is it petty reprisals for protesters around the country expressing their distrust of the police and the dire need for change?
Police are not providing answers.
“I drive my husband to work every morning at 3 a.m. and when I would come back (police) would be there,” Luz Delia, 34, pointing to a parking spot along the edge of the complex, told Reuters about where she was accustomed to seeing officers. “I used to feel more safe.”
Others in the neighborhood say they welcome the lack of police presence because many of them feared they would get into a confrontation with officers.
Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, told Reuters that the union has not started or condoned a slowdown of police patrols.
If there is no official slowdown, it surely seems like it, based on the numbers. To wit: According to police data, arrests and court summons in New York City have dived since the shooting. Further, there was not one court summons issued in the 79th police precinct, which includes Marcy Houses, in the week following the murder of the two policemen. Conversely, there were 401 summonses in the same period in 2013, according to the data. Only 10 summonses were issued last week, compared to 405 last year.
The lack of police presence does more harm than good for the community, as law-abiding citizens count on their presence to provide at least a modicum of safety in tough neighborhoods.
According to the New York Post, officers have been forbidden from taking any vacation or sick days until the number of low-level arrests and summonses return to normal levels. Cops have been commanded to submit “activity sheets” to borough commanders, outlining arrests and summonses made during each officer’s shift.
New York Police Commissioner William Bratton on Friday admitted that officers in the city had stopped writing tickets and apprehending suspects in low-level arrests. But refused to call the huge decrease a “slowdown.”
Meanwhile, Black church pastors find themselves in a quandary as well. They see and deplore the police violence against African-Americans that has captured America’s attention and incensed Black communities, and yet they are charged to serve as rational mediators between officers and their angry congregations.
Bishop Talbert Swan of the Spring Hope Church of God in Christ in Springfield, Mass., said to Huffington Post: “The unfortunate reality is that many predominantly Black churches have thrown up their hands and decided that the police departments just are not willing to respect communities of color and so they’ve given up. And then there are many predominantly white churches who don’t see a problem. Therefore, they see no reason to work with the police.”
But the church leaders garner trust from the communities, and at least one police official knows it is important to work side-by-side in building public trust. Kenton Rainey, the police chief of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in Oakland, Calif., said to the website that he approached Black ministers first when he took over in 2010. And his message was direct and poignant, and resonates today: “We can’t do this without you guys.”