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Friday, July 24, 2009

Roosevelt Island Public Safety Town Hall Meeting - Good Dialogue With Honest Exchange Of Views Between Community and Public Safety Department

Image of Public Safety Director Guerra Addressing Town Hall Meeting

I thought Wednesday night's Roosevelt Island Public Safety Town Hall Meeting turned out to be a very positive experience for both the members of the community who attended as well as the Public Safety Department. The evening started with Public Safety Department Director Keith Guerra giving a presentation on how the community should behave when interacting with Public Safety Officers.

Following the presentation, several community members initially expressed offense at what some perceived to be a lecture by Mr. Guerra on how they should behave rather than on how the Public Safety Officers should behave when interacting with the community. Mr. Guerra explained that his presentation was based upon what he was asked to speak about and Roosevelt Island Residents Association President (RIRA) Frank Farance, who organized the event, quickly stepped in to confirm that was the case.

There followed approximately 2 hours of back and forth questions and comments between community members and Mr. Guerra as well as responses from NYPD Police commanders from adjacent Queens and Manhattan precincts. Many of the complaints came from residents of Eastwood/ Roosevelt Landings who felt that their children and teenagers were being unduly harassed by Public Safety Officers. A representative of Urban America, the owner of Eastwood/ Roosevelt Landings defended the Public Safety Department in these instances saying that children and teenagers should not be hanging out in the hallways and stairwells of the building and that the Public Safety Department has been requested to enforce that policy.

Another contentious issue was the treatment by the Public Safety Department of the parent arrested during the Little League incident. We learned during the meeting that all charges were dropped against the parent.

We also learned that since Mr. Guerra has become Chief of the Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department (about a year and a half) there have been 10 complaints filed against Public Safety Officers from over 7,000 calls for service and that 7 of these complaints have come from people who have been arrested. In addition, according to Mr. Guerra, 7 officers were asked to leave the Department because they were not willing to perform at the level required of them.

I asked Mr. Guerra how Roosevelt Island residents can make complaints against actions by Public Safety Officers. He replied:
Some folks choose to make complaints to me verbally, and can do so by calling me or coming in to see me in person. Others choose to lodge their complaints in writing, and can do so by filling out a Complaint Form and submitting it. That complaint will be investigated by the Integrity Control Officer (ICO). The last option is to lodge their complaint with the CCRB. A paid investigator will receive the complaint and forward it to the appropriate body.
The CCRB is the Civilian Complaint Review Board. The NYPD Commanders present at the meeting also said that their door is open as well if you wish to speak with them.

About the Public Safety Town Hall Meeting, Mr. Guerra commented:
I was happy to see so many residents in attendance at the meeting. I hope that my presentation was informative. The dialogue afterwards was healthy. Many people brought up valid points, but most just listened. Either way, I'm sure a lot was gained from the evening. I realize that there is still more work to be done and rest assured that I will give my best effort to improve relations between the residents and the Public Safety Officers here on the Island. I wish everyone an enjoyable Summer.
Assembly Member Micah Kellner was at the meeting,

Assembly Member Kellner Addressing PS Director Guerra at Town Hall Meeting

He issued the following comment:
Last night's meeting demonstrated why it's important that there be an independent and transparent mechanism for reviewing complaints about Public Safety. I am even more convinced now of the need for legislation that creates such oversight. The residents of Roosevelt Island deserve the same rights that others living in New York City currently access through the City's Civilian Complaint Review Board.
RIRA President Farance and Public Safety Director Guerra

RIRA President Frank Farance had these comments:
Folks-
A "CONTINUUM OF PUBLICITY"

I learned something Wednesday night watching Director Guerra's presentation: he spoke eloquently of a Continuum of Force as a variety of steps that increase or decrease as the situation demands. That phrase nicely codifies what I've being expressing myself to RIOC: A Continuum of Publicity. In short, if RIOC is unresponsive to residents and their needs, the degree of publicity escalates. And it can quickly decrease, too. Fernando Martinez offered to set up several task forces on transportation, parking, etc., and to involve the stakeholders. I'm happy to hear this and I'm sharing this immediately with RIRA Common Council members. Hopefully, we (RIOC, RIRA, other stakeholders) can quickly establish these collaborative task forces.

COMMENTS ON RIRA TOWN HALL MEETING ON PSD

As the Moderator at Wednesday's meeting, I felt it would be inappropriate to insert my own comments. However, I do have some observations/comments:

- In essence, a judge dismissed the charges, yet Director Guerra kept insisting still that "a crime still might have been committed". This society starts with the presumption of innocence, which is then adjudicated by judge/jury. It is troubling that the head of Public Safety is telling the community that law enforcement doesn't accept the finality of the courts when there is no Guilty conviction. Really, it's statements like this that quickly erase good will from Public Safety ... and they contribute towards the lessening of respect for Public Safety.

- I hope that Director Guerra recognized that the community was *not* supportive of the woman carrying a baseball bat who refused to drop it when directed by officers1. Further Town Hall meetings with Public Safety and the community will be helpful for improving the relationship. RIRA is happy to host them. Already I received a suggestion from one RIOC Board Director to have the ACLU make a presentation on our rights as citizens. I hope Public Safety will attend that meeting so we can all (law enforcement, defense attorneys, the community) have a meeting of the minds.

AN APOLOGY

After the close of Wednesday's meeting, Mr. Shane, Mr. Martinez, and I were having a conversation and I offered an apology, which I'd like to repeat in writing:

On 2009-06-03, I sent an E-mail with a Subject: line of "Report of abuse (torture?) at Public Safety". That was a poor choice of words. I made a mistake, I'm sorry.
Several readers of this earlier post on Public Safety Town Hall Meeting commented:
I attended the meeting last night and, while I did not ask any questions or give any comments, I thought the Public Safety Chief was very informative and the Community Interaction was productive. Hopefully, there will be more of these open dialogues, which can only help relations here on the Island we love.
And:
While I don't particularly like Farance and his ways, I thought he did a good job moderating the meeting. He gave everyone in the audience an opportunity to speak in order, and allowed the guest speakers their opportunities to respond. Good Meeting.
We also heard from the NYPD Commanders present that Roosevelt Island has a very low crime rate. All in all, it was a very positive meeting and hope that the dialogue between Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department and the community continues.

8 comments :

Anonymous said...

So he apologized for the subject line of the e-mail but not for the tone within and the number of people he cc'ed on this tirade?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure there are alot of people who think O.J. committed the crimes he was accused of, yet he was aquitted of them. I'm not comparing Blue Beard to O.J., just making a point that sometimes people who commit crimes have them dismissed for some reason or another.

Anonymous said...

Kellner is such a politician. He should be careful that he doesn't lose the votes of many who don't think he should be associated with Farance and his few cronies.

Anonymous said...

It was a great meeting. I was there. Let's move on from this in a positive direction.

Anonymous said...

The best thing I heard Wedsnesday night came from the 114 Commander, who said that crime on R.I. was down 12% in the last year. Kudos to Chief Guerra and his new and improved Department. I see the changes in the way the officers carry themselves. They even smile now.

Anonymous said...

Let's get real people...Public Safety is a joke! They will never be taken seriously until the stop hiring people who could not make it on to the police force. Every now and then they hire a qualified officer...but they do not last very long – they move on to better jobs. Who wants to work somewhere where everyone is related? Head of RIOC is related to Head of Public Safety...etc. So you tell me who is looking out for whom? I do have one question for Mr.Shane.....Mr Guerra stated that even though the Adib Mansour case was dismissed that it doesn’t mean he did not commit a crime. Well maybe Officer Torro is somehow related to the big bosses, and that is why Mr. Guerra can not admit that his officer acted VERY unprofessional. What ever happened to the RIOC employee that was suspended from his job? Did the suspension get taken off his record? Did he get compensated for his lost wages? I hope so since Adib Mansour case was dismissed.

Anonymous said...

Officer Wilson Toro, is a former MTA Bridges Employee, terminated for theft of revenue. Captain Estrella Suarez< and Lieutenant Gary Yee, are business partners who own real estate together (conflict of interest?) It was the brainchild of then Sgt. Yee, and then Lieutenant Suarez to have vehicles towed off the island for trumped up parking offenses, with the intention of getting their "numbers", and free 6-foot hero sandwiches and fried chicken as thanks from the towing company.

If officers under the watch of former "Chief"< James Fry, retired from the defunct "New York City Housing Authority Police Department", and his side-kick, Former Housing Police Sergeant Renee' Bryant of the same defunct agency (how'd he get that job?)

Their officers were "encouraged" to "shit-can" the arrest, regardless of the offenses, if the defendants were African-American.

Then Fry would go to the news stand and gamble in view of the public.

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