By Stephen Witt
In the wake of last week’s double homicide in Fort Greene Park, coupled with the federal court ruling that the Bloomberg Administration’s stop-and-frisk policy is unconstitutional and illegal, Our Time Press asked the candidates for the 35th District City Council seat – Laurie Cumbo, Olanike (Ola) Alabi, Ede Fox, Frank Hurley and Jelani Mashariki – the following question:
How do you think the police department should strike a balance between keeping the community safe and unwarranted stop-and-frisks?
Laurie Cumbo: “The challenge of dealing with gun violence in our community needs a holistic approach with all hands on deck. Just to hand the responsibility to the police department is both an unfair and unrealistic way of obtaining real sustainable results. When you develop one side of a district and not the other side of a district then these types of shootings and violent and tragic incidents occur because people are seeing a level of growth, development and prosperity that they are not a part of. There has been no real investment in communities of color within the district despite overarching and overreaching development and prosperity throughout the community.
When you want to really address how to decrease gun violence in the community you have to talk to the parents, families and children who say they want more activities such as more summer youth employment and community centers brought back. I had a conversation with the director of the Ingersoll Community Center and was told that due to budget cuts they had to close the center on weekends during the summer.
The issue of young African-American men being killed is still not seen as a human issue, it’s seen as a black issue. One of the reasons I’m running is people think as long as black-on-black violence remains black-on-black there will be no real level of a battle cry to action or any major resources put into addressing the issues. This issue of black-on-black crime won’t stay eternal. It will spill out of control if we don’t put some real resources, infrastructure and plan with real results to be implemented that will involve everybody and not just the black community.”
Ola Alabi: “First, let me express my condolences to the families of the two men who were murdered in Ft. Greene Park last week. The stop-and-frisk policy, as employed by the NYPD, was determined by a federal judge to be unconstitutional. The policy is one that has been used by some in law enforcement to harass individuals based on the color of their skin and not the content of their character or reasonable suspicion.
Given that an appeal of the ruling on stop-and-frisk is expected, it’s important in the meantime that we continue to strike a balance between community policing, gun control reform, employment opportunities and rehabilitative programs to prevent and deter crime.”
Ede Fox: “There is no need to strike a balance between keeping the community safe and unwarranted stop-and-frisks because stop-and-frisk does not keep the community safe. It is racist policy, a waste of resources and serves mostly to alienate residents of the 35th District. If the goal was to keep the community safe, then we wouldn’t stop residents based on the color of their skin.
Bring back community policing where police officers stay with the same precincts and walk the beat rather than drive around in patrol cars. We used to know the men and women who policed our streets by name and they knew all of us. While I understand this will require additional funding, as a council member I will be happy to support such an increase to ensure safer streets and an end to such a discriminatory policy.”
Frank Hurley: “Sensitivity training can help. Stop-and-frisk has been around forever. It’s not the law that is the problem, it is the racial profiling that is the problem. Some officers use stop- and-frisk as an excuse to racial profile. Even black officers are guilty of racial profiling. Training is the key. Stop on suspicion. Frisk on reasonable suspicion. What is reasonable to one person may be unreasonable to another. We need to define what is reasonable.”
Jelani Mashariki: “In dealing with the increase in crime in the 35th District it is going to take a multipronged approach to policing. The police department is only one prong. However, increasing the community-police relationship through activities would break the walls of distrust and have more community members active in policing using current technology.
Statistically, it is proven that when law enforcement works with community members there is a decrease in crime. The transformation of a nation takes place in the homes and minds of its people. The moral compass is off, people are walking around as psychologically scarred victims and witnesses of violent crimes and they need support. Increased poverty levels coincide with higher crime incidents. Those are some of the other prongs needed to address violence in the district.”