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Police Commissioner and Cop Critic Stand Together on Youth Program

By Ben Fractenberg | August 1, 2012 8:26am

HARLEM — Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and former cop critic Dr. Lenora Fulani joined forces Tuesday to foster better relations between police and youth — announcing the NYPD's adoption of Operation Conversation: Cops and Kids.

Fulani has made eyebrow-raising remarks in the past, including saying in the late 1980s that Jews "had to sell their souls to acquire Israel," according to a report in The New York Times.

She was also an outspoken critic of the NYPD, branding the department under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's leadership as a "sham," the Daily News said.

In response to questions about her past statements, Kelly said police "looked closely at the program," which Fulani started in 2006, and that the "program has a lot positives."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave Kelly the nod about the partnership despite Fulani's controversial statements.

“That doesn’t mean that the organization’s bad or that she’s a bad person. People have a right to express themselves,” Bloomberg said.

“If Ray Kelly thinks the organization can contribute to help our kids, then we should do it."

Operation Conversation uses workshops to get young people and police to interact in better ways.

The workshops, held in places like community centers at public housing or church basements, according to Fulani, include 25 to 35 participants who do things like taking part in skits in which "they play characters totally outside of their roles on the street, such as a family deciding what type of pet to buy."

Kelly watched one of the workshops in 2009 and decided to implement the program within the NYPD in 2011.  On Tuesday, they officially announced the partnership.

The commissioner said the goal "of every participant in the program is to overcome stereotypes and break down barriers."

Since the program started, Fulani has conducted workshops in all five boroughs with 935 young people and 713 officers.

Joshua Brown, 17, of Brownsville, Brooklyn, said speaking with police was always something he avoided.

"Where I’m from a conversation with a police officer means that you're snitching," he said.

But after taking part in the program, Brown said he learned how to have better interactions with police officers.

"Instead of my first reaction being defensive I can be calm and let them do their job," he added.

Additional reporting by Mary Johnson