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Kings County Criminal Bar Association meets NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill

NYPD fights for federal funding

March 24, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Kings County Criminal Bar Association and President Michael Cibella (right) hosted NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill, who introduced himself at their monthly meeting. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese

The Kings County Criminal Bar Association hosted NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill during its monthly meeting in Brooklyn Heights on Thursday and gave the commissioner an opportunity to introduce himself, discuss some of the issues facing the NYPD and answer questions.

“In his short time as commissioner of this great city, he has continued to work at improving community relations and in doing so still bringing the crime rate down,” said Kings County Criminal Bar Association (KCCBA) President Michael Cibella. “He’s not soft on crime.”

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O’Neill, who took over as top cop of the NYPD on Sept. 16, 2016, spoke about coming up as a transit cop in 1983, working with former commissioner William Bratton on three separate occasions, his promotion to chief of department in 2014 and ultimate his ascension to commissioner.

Throughout his introduction, O’Neill talked about the high and low points of his career and called the month of December 2014, after the decisions not to charge respective police officers in the deaths of Eric Garner in Staten Island and the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, some of the darkest days of his career. He even went as far as admitting that he was partially inflicted by the NYPD itself.

“Everyone in the city remembers what happened during those four or five weeks,” O’Neill said. “Probably the most difficult time for me as a cop as well as, I’m sure, for the 36,000 cops. A lot of things happened during that month. It happened quickly. A lot of it was self-inflicted, I think …That culminated in the assassination in Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.”

By “self-inflicted,” O’Neill explained that he was referring to the harmful impact of the NYPD’s policy of “stop-and-question,” and also a lack of emphasis on community policing.


“That’s where I, with Carlos Gomez and Terry Monahan, we knew we had to make some real, real changes to the way we do business,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill then went onto explain how he has focused on neighborhood policing — the NYPD rezoned some sectors to better represent the natural neighborhoods and established the new position of neighborhood coordinating officer, who are assigned to be conduits between the officers and the community.

“Moving forward, we’re in a good place,” O’Neill said. “Neighborhood policing seems to be working. The crime and violence in the neighborhood policing commands is going down faster than in the other commands. This model of policing is a crime-fighting model. It’s not just about reaching out to the community, but we get paid to keep people safe and to do that we need to have a community connection.”

Broken Windows

O’Neill was asked about his stance on the “broken windows” theory of policing. He explained that broken windows means quality-of-life policing and that when members of the NYPD go to community meetings throughout the city, the vast majority of them are complaining about quality-of-life issues and not necessarily murders or shootings.

“If we don’t respond to that, then what are we doing?” O’Neill asked rhetorically. “This is part of what we get paid to do.”

Federal Funding

President Donald Trump has threatened to take away federal funding to sanctuary cities, which includes New York City, and to cut about $110 million in anti-terrorism funds. When asked about it at the meeting, O’Neill called that money essential.

“That’s about two percent of our total budget,” O’Neill said. “In realistic terms, that’s about 600 cops. We can’t afford to lose a penny of that. I made my case down there, I didn’t come home with a bag of money, but I think we made some progress …We’re still trying to recoup the loss of the money from Trump Tower.”

When a member of the KCCBA suggested pulling cops off of Trump Tower, O’Neill said that he has a moral obligation not just to the president, but to the secret service members guarding him, the other tenants of the building and anyone who passes by it throughout the day.

However, O’Neill reiterated that the NYPD will not be helping U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with Trump’s deportation plans.

“The hell we will,” O’Neill said, repeating his famous quote that appeared on the front cover of the Daily News. “We don’t do civil immigration enforcement …We do cooperate with ICE at some level. I think we’re all in agreement that there are people in the city that don’t deserve to be here, but that threshold is pretty high.”

CLE

Following the commissioner’s speech, the KCCBA held a continuing legal education (CLE) seminar with Stuart London, counsel for the NYC Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, and Nanci Slater, NYPD department advocate.

Slater discussed the inner workings of the advocate’s office and the NYPD trial room in the police department that handles cases of when police officers are charged with disciplinary offenses. London explained about how to handle defense cases when members of the NYPD are clients.


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