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Sabbaticals, More Training Suggested to Improve Police, Community Relations

By Jeff Mays | September 29, 2015 6:16pm
 Police officers should have sabbaticals and be given incentives to live in the city while the length of the police academy should be lenghtened from six months to a year, according to a report from civil rights attorney Norman Siegel and the borough presidents of Manhattan and Brooklyn on how to improve the relationship between police and community.
Police officers should have sabbaticals and be given incentives to live in the city while the length of the police academy should be lenghtened from six months to a year, according to a report from civil rights attorney Norman Siegel and the borough presidents of Manhattan and Brooklyn on how to improve the relationship between police and community.
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NEW YORK CITY — Police officers should have sabbaticals and be given incentives to live in the city while the length of police academy training should be increased from six months to a year, according to a report from civil rights attorney Norman Siegel and the Manhattan and Brooklyn borough presidents on how to improve relations between police and members of the community.

The report, composed after meeting with more than 900 city residents in Manhattan and Brooklyn, also questioned whether stop-and-frisk was being done properly despite a declining number of stops, called for appointing a permanent prosecutor to examine alleged police misconduct and using independent evidence gatherers in cases where police kill or severely injure civilians.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said the idea for the report came in the wake of the death of Staten Island man Eric Garner after being placed in a chokehold by police and the protests that followed.

"This was not an 'I hate the police' report or gathering," Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former police officer, said Tuesday.

Instead, said Brewer, the meetings often brought out a sense from residents that they wanted better lines of communication with the officers who policed their neighborhoods.

"We know we need increased transparency, increased accountability and a lot more respect on both sides of the aisle," she added.

The sabbaticals with partial pay would allow officers a break from a difficult job, according to the report. After 11 years on the job, Adams said he could have used a sabbatical after someone shot out his car windows.

"You need time to refresh yourself," said Adams. "What is missing from policing across the country is having officers become mindful again."

But Siegel said there needed to be some reforms in NYPD policy and practice, too.

Siegel questioned how police were trained on the use of stop-and-frisk. The drastic reduction in stop-and-frisks from a high of more than 685,000 to roughly 46,000 last year does not mean that the correct standard is being followed, said Siegel.

Mayor Bill de Blasio ran on a platform of reducing the use of the tactic and improving police and community relations.

"Just as it was suspicious and proven to be unconstitutional when it was 685,000, how do we know that the 45,000 is even accurate?" Siegel said. "Are the police holding back now because of the politics around stop and frisk?"

Neither Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch or anyone from de Blasio's office accepted invitations to be involved with the town hall meetings, said the group.

"The challenge for Bill de Blasio... is to read this report, sit down with us and maybe have some town hall meetings himself," said Siegel.

De Blasio spokeswoman Monica Klein said the city has invested $29 million to retrain officers, launched the "most focused" neighborhood policing strategy in any big city and reduced stop-and-frisk and civilian complaints against police all while keeping crime near record lows.

"This administration shares this report's goal of improving police-community relations and will review these recommendations," said Klein.

Al O'Leary, a spokesman for Lynch, declined comment on the report, saying they had not seen the recommendations.