WEST VILLAGE — Leaders in law enforcement from around the nation called on the new mayor to bring in a police cheif that can oversee sweeping changes in the culture of the NYPD Saturday.
Commissioner Anthony W. Batts of the Baltimore PD, and Ron Davis, former chief of Boston PD, joined by other experts in the field, spoke as part of the Talking Transition two-day event run by the Open Society Foundations.
The goal of the effort is to bring community voices into the discussion about what mayor-elect Bill de Blasio's administration should look like.
De Blasio has already come under fire for his commitment to overhaul the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk program. Although the program is extremely unpopular, especially among black and Latino communities, some argue the policy is the reason New York has lowered its crime rate in recent years.
Just one day earlier an article quoted Police Commissioner Ray Kelly agreeing with Playboy Magazine reporter who had asked if Kelly thought the Democratic mayoral candidates were all "full of sh--" in their public criticism of stop-and-frisk.
"Absolutely," agreed Kelly in the piece, which appeared Friday and seemed to be dumping on de Blasio. "It just goes to show you what some politicians will do. They'll say or do anything to get elected."
De Blasio, who appeared at the National Action Network in Harlem Saturday with Al Sharpton, said since the interview he and Kelly had cleared the air, CBS reported. The mayor-elect is still expected to replace Kelly, who is the longest-serving police commissioner of New York City.
Commissioner Batts, of Baltimore, said that just focusing on the crime rate isn't enough for effective policing.
"This city needs new strategies," he said. "The strategy you had till now was working for you, but that doesn't mean a new stratgey can't work too."
Addressing fears that an end to stop-and-frisk might turn back the clock and bring back the rates of crime that were seen in the 70's and 80's, Batts said the NYPD would still have the power to do its job properly, even if the strategies it uses change.
"The strategy is just changing, you can still stop and frisk. But you just need to have an articulatable reason. It isn't passive."
The Open Society Foundations' president Chris Stone agreed, saying that trying to pinpoint what is responsible for the city's dropping crime rate is too difficult to say stop-and-frisk was the crucial factor.
"The reductions in New York have been relatively consistent," he said. "And we have had many diffrerent police commissioners with many different styles of doing things over the years."
John Jay College of Criminal Justice president Jeremy Travis told DNAinfo.com New York that the conference had made him feel optimistic about the future of the NYPD.
"There needs to be change, and in a constructive direction," he said. "I am firmly of the view that it is possible to have lower crime and bring [the policy] within appropriate boundaries."
"We know this already. In the last six months there has been a steep decline in stops, maybe fifty percent or so, and there has also been a steep decline in crime. That can continue."
But Batts, who has been Baltimore's police commissioner for a little over a year, admitted that while he has been trying to rebuild community trust in his police force by dropping heavy-handed zone policing tactics, the crime rate has ticked up.
"We were seen as an illegitimate force in the zone communities," he said. "I changed it, but now my murder rate is going up while citizen complaints about police conduct are going down. There is no doubt in my mind we will get over this cultural hump, but it is a test."
Davis, the former Boston police chief, agreed. "Usually where there are challenges, there is opportunity. There is no better time than now to address the porblems in this city — it is a unique opportunity."
Franklin Ramon, from Brooklyn-based charity Make The Road New York, said was encouraged by the discussion but wanted more engagement among and within the communities most affected.
"It is really important to have these questions asked, because we are talking about our families, our future, and our community," he said. "But it is important to actually go out to communities and tell them what is going on."
West Village resident Maddy Delone said she thought that getting police officials to actually talk about problems so de Blasio's administration can move forward with support was encouraging.
"It's interesting for police people to be talking about how they see communities, and community policing," she said. "I just hope that people will hear what is being said and take it to heart."
Other discussion will continue through the weekend at Sixth Avenue and Canal Street in Manhattan, as part of Talking Transition. For more information or to watch a live stream of hearings visit the site.