The decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo, has led to a lot of public unrest and deep disappointment, particularly within the African-American community where there have been at least four shooting deaths nationally of unarmed teens in the last three years, in which all of the victims have been black and the shooters were white, and none of the shooters were charged with a crime.
In New York City, tensions also are high, as the relationship between police and communities of color grows ever more strained, following the deaths of Eric Garner in July on Staten Island and, just last week, Akai Gurley, an unarmed black man shot by police at a housing project in Brownsville.
Elected officials representing districts across Central Brooklyn weigh in on the situation and how the public, police authorities and government officials should respond, moving forward.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a member of the House Judiciary Committee representing Brooklyn’s 8th District, said, from Ferguson to Brooklyn, the zip codes may be different but the issue of police officers shooting young, unarmed African-American men without justification is exactly the same, and it is time for the federal government to step in:
“Throughout this country, we need a dramatic change in the manner that law enforcement authorities engage communities of color,” said Jeffries. “The failure of the grand jury to indict Officer Darren Wilson is a miscarriage of justice. But justice delayed is not justice denied. We now need the federal civil rights investigation to take center stage, and do the right thing for the family of Michael Brown.”
Brooklyn Borough President and former police officer Eric Adams said in light of these cases and New York City’s most recent cases, it’s time for the NYPD to usher in real reform.
“Diversifying our police department and making sure we have a strong civilian complaint review board,” Adams told WNYC. He added, rookies should not be “vertically patrolling” public housing projects. “And to push the conversation forward on body cameras, you know it’s now time to have police officers married with technology and ensure that we can see what takes place on the street as officers are patrolling.”
City Councilmember Robert Cornegy said he’s focused on organizing something bigger for the community than just a response. He said he’s arranging a meeting of educators, lawyers and business owners to discuss potential community actions that leverage the community’s buying power.
“When the community comes together to discuss this issue and others like it, I don’t want people to walk away feeling worst than when they came,” said Cornegy. “How can I say don’t worry, my people without providing them a clear concise course of action that will add value? We have a responsibility as leaders to come up with a response that puts on a better path than where we are now. And that’s what I’m working on now.”