By Carla Zanoni
INWOOD — The NYPD's top spokesman defended the tickets issued against seven men for playing chess in Inwood Hill Park, saying two of the men had prior arrests and that police were being damned for doing their job.
"Police acted appropriately in issuing criminal summonses last month to men in a section of Inwood Hill Park restricted to children with their parents or other minders," NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Paul Browne wrote in an e-mail to DNAinfo Thursday.
"One of the men had nine priors for reckless endangerment, grand larceny, drug possession, and criminal mischief. Another was arrested previously for assault with a weapon," Browne continued.
Browne did not identify which of the men had been arrested previously. He said all of the arrests took place in the 34th Precinct, where the tickets were issued. He said he did not know whether the officers who issued the tickets knew about the prior arrests before approaching the men on Oct. 20, but defended the information as "relevant." It was unclear whether either of the men had been convicted.
Browne also defended the NYPD's 34th Precinct, which has come under fire from some Inwood residents for ticketing the men who regularly play chess in Inwood Hill Park instead of focusing on rising crime in the area.
"The precinct conditions team there responded to community complaints about drinking, drug use and other problems, including violations of Park Department regulations designed to protect children," Browne wrote.
Last week DNAinfo reported that murder, rape, felony assaults, grand larceny and auto theft were all on the rise in the 34th Precinct in October, according to the Oct. 25 to 31 CompStat crime statistic report.
Browne rebuffed the criticism and defended the precinct’s actions.
"The cavalier treatment of the story in effect damned police for doing their job," Browne wrote. "Had they not addressed the condition, no doubt they would have been damned for leaving the men in the children's section."