Racist rants by NYPD officers on a Facebook group page entitled, "No More West Indian Day Detail," has angered Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, and this week, he will introduce state legislation to address it.
Jeffries yesterday held a press conference, joined by Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, Council Member Letitia James and Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, along with Caribbean-American and African-American leaders to announce the introduction of a bill that will require residency of NYPD officers.
"Animals" and "savages," were just a few amongst several of the disparaging comments made by a group of NYPD officers to describe the participants in the annual West Indian Day Parade that takes place on Labor Day along Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn.
“The vile and racist language used by police officers with respect to the West Indian Day Parade shocks the conscience and demands legislative action. We are not savages. We are not monkeys. We are sick and tired of officers who do not understand and respect our community,” said Assemblyman Jeffries.
Jeffries's legislation would require New York City residency of all future NYPD new hires. The intent: to cultivate greater empathy toward the lifestyle and culture of the communities they serve.
Currently, under New York state law, residency is not required when one takes the police exam. However, at the time of appointment, residency is required either in New York City or one of five suburban counties: Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam, Nassau or Suffolk.
New York City did have a residency requirement for police at one point but it was later revoked, according to a spokeswoman for Jeffries. Assemblyman Al Vann then tried to re-instate residency for the police, but the legislation did not pass.
Police have not said whether the officers involved in the Facebook incident live outside of New York City, and according to a spokesperson for Jeffries, there is no specific study available to support evidence that officers who live in the cities where they work behave with greater racial sensitivity.
However, a similar effort was mounted in Los Angeles in 1994 by City Council member Richard Alarcon after an American Civil Liberties Union report concluding that 83.1 percent of the city's officers do not live in Los Angeles.
In Simi Valley, where 293 Los Angeles officers resided, the Los Angeles officers outnumbered the local Simi Valley Police Department by more than two to one. The communities in which the largest clusters of officers resided had racial profiles significantly different from Los Angeles, making it more likely that officers and their families have few social interactions with African-Americans outside the context of police work.
Among the report's recommendations at that time were special incentives to induce officers to move into neighborhoods via a system of city-owned or rent-subsidized housing for police officers willing to make a one-year or two-year residency commitment.
Assemblyman Jeffries’ bill would not require officers currently living outside of the city to move. However the law would require new recruits to reside in the city of New York. Other major American cities like Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago require residency for their police force.
“The attitude of police officers who made disparaging comments about the West Indian American Day Parade mars the integrity of the NYPD,” said Council Member James. “Outrage has followed these deeply bigoted comments, which suggest that the officers view their duty as a war against the communities they have sworn to protect, and is reminiscent of a time before community policing was established as NYPD policy.”