By Ben Fractenberg
DOWNTOWN — Rev. Al Sharpton's longstanding relationship with the NYPD has ranged from chilly to downright antagonistic, but he set aside his differences Friday to join Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly in an effort to end gun violence.
Sharpton's presence at Police Headquarters to promote the NYPD's gun buy-back program was a jarring change from some prior visits, including a 2008 arrest at a protest over the aquittal of NYPD officers in the Sean Bell shooting.
"I think it’s better to come in through the front door of the building. I have been here through other means," Sharpton told reporters Friday, prompting Kelly to crack a slight smile as he stood at Sharpton's side.
"If I can tour the country at the request of President Obama with Newt Gingrich about education," said Sharpton. "I can certainly join Commissioner Kelly, who is not nearly as far from me politically."
Sharpton’s National Action Network will help promote the NYPD’s buy-back program by organizing at least two events where people can anonymously turn in the weapons, he said.
The first joint buy-back day is scheduled for Dec. 18 during the inaugural Peace On The Street Summit at the National Action Network’s headquarters on East 125th Street.
Sharpton said his organization will hold another give-back day in a Harlem church in early January.
"We must be active in stopping the gun flow and gun shooting and killing in our neighborhood," Sharpton said. "The best gift you can give this holiday season is to give in a gun."
The buy-back program gives a $200 cash card to people who hand in a working handgun.
Police also give a $1,000 reward to anyone who gives information leading to the arrest of someone with an illegal handgun. People can make an anonymous tip by calling 1-866-GUN-STOP.