What normally should rise as a monthly meeting of residents, precinct executive board members, inspectors, captains and officers, to discuss the state of affairs of crime and crime prevention in Bedford-Stuyvesant, devolved into an evening of fighting, dissension and all-out tom-foolery at Wednesday's Community Council Meeting.
But many of those in attendance saw it coming: At the March precinct council meeting, hints of dissension within the ranks of the executive board began rearing its head. The first signal came from the public resignations of Ray Murphy, the grievances chair, and Demetrius Mills, the treasurer.
Then, there was an unusually high number of residents expressing discontent toward Deputy Inspector Peter Bartoszek and his officers’ community policing tactics, which several complained had become overly aggressive and disrespectful.
But once residents then turned their frustration on the council’s executive board, complaining about how the meetings were run, it became evident trouble was indeed brewing beneath the surface:
“I want to make an official complaint about these meetings and how they are being run,” said one resident. “They have stopped being about public safety. They are distracted and not focused on core issues.”
“I want to also complain about the structure of these meetings,” said another resident. “There’s just too much partying and pictures and all this other stuff going on at this meeting that has nothing to do with crime reduction. You don’t ask us the tenants whether we want to talk about any of these things you make us sit and watch and listen to. We want to get down to business.”
The precinct council board took heed of these complaints, and the commanding officer’s address was moved up as the first item on the agenda Wednesday night.
Veronica Crommwell, corresponding secretary, opened the meeting with an introduction of the Council President, Dr. Kim Best. And there were the expected points of discussion, including the commanding officer's address and other points of interest, before the meeting took a left pivot and descended into utter chaos.
A little background: Over the past 5-6 months, leading up to the forthcoming 79th Pct. Council Board elections, there has been rising discontent between the members of the executive board and the board’s president, Dr. Kim Best.
They are claiming she has tried to run a one-woman show and intentionally has not included the rest of the board in her decision-making process. Conversely, she claims that she has been left to shoulder the majority of the responsibilities due to the board's lack of support and attendance.
In early March, the board’s vice president, Marion Little, wrote a scathing letter littered with spelling and grammatical errors, asking that Best be removed from her position. He emailed the letter to leaders community wide. The letter ended up going viral and landed in several precincts outside the 79, including in the hands of NYC Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
Excerpts from the letter, exactly as it was written:
“Greeting my name is Marion little vice-president of the 79th precinct council we are having election this June and we are requesting leadership change. … we the executive board has taken a vote of no confidence of her continue leadership because we believe she has misuse her power as president of the 79th precinct council. … our community is under seize the community has very little faith in our police department and it appears her only concern is to have photos taken and receives awards and handing out awards to people who she want to minipulate into voting for her. … she has done good things and work in the community.now she believes she has become to big to fail no one is to big to be replaced our community needs to let her know that.”
A resident, Ms. Audrey Baker, decided to hand copies of the letter to those attending the meeting, and then read the letter aloud:
“I think this is an outrage,” Baker said, after reading the letter to the audience members. “We should not be jeopardizing people’s character and the police precinct. I think we need to take a look at Mr. Little and whether he deserves to be in this position.”
Little, who, up to that point, had been absent from the meeting, suddenly appeared and asked for a chance to speak on the microphone:
“I am sincere about this community and everything I’ve done has been for this community,” said Little. He continued on about his history in the community and his relationship with Best, which at one point, he said, was a trustworthy one. But over time, it had worsened due to the same reasons he outlined in the letter.
After his speech, the microphone was demanded by and then handed over to a supporter of Best, who angrily denounced accusations against the president’s character… Voices went up, personal accusations started flying, emotions exploded, several people stood up and began jockeying for the microphone, while not one adult person – not even the deputy inspector – attempted to stop any part of this contentious display.
Meanwhile, residents-- some, with their children-- were left watching this “tragedy of errors,” public fighting amongst adults.
The 79th Police Precinct Community Council, once a shining example of a well-oiled, unified organization, is finally showing signs of breaking down.
The elections for the new board members will take place at the June meeting (June 27). Unfortunately, apart from the president, no one’s position will be contested (the current vice president, Marion Little, is challenging Dr. Kim Best).
And if you have not attended at least three meetings in the last six months, you will not be eligible to vote.
*The 79th Precinct Community Council meetings are held the fourth Wednesday of each month at 585 Dekalb Avenue 2nd Floor at 7:00 p.m. The next meeting is on Wednesday, May 23.