How a Clergy Council Could Improve Community Relations with Law Enforcement

From Apr. 2018

The shooting of Saheed Vassell a few blocks from my campaign headquarters in Crown Heights shows we still have a ways to go in the effort to bring community policing to NYC. While an investigation is still underway, one thing we do know is that members of the community knew Vassell - and knew he had a history of mental illness. 

Had there been an opportunity for those who knew him to be involved in the response to Vassell's behavior, we might have seen a different outcome. That is why I'm calling for the creation of a Clergy Council to work with the 71st Precinct. Bringing our faith leaders together, following the blueprint of similar Councils in the 67th and 77th precincts, could help prevent tragedies like the death of Saheed Vassell moving forward.

My plan for a Clergy Council in Crown Heights:

Start a dialogue: Each precinct faces their own set of problems - be it hate crimes, homelessness, or other factors that bring down the community. A Clergy Council is uniquely positioned to start a dialogue with people in the community and provide guidance on the best strategies and tactics to address the issues keeping people awake at night.

Provide an outlet: Convening power across local faith leaders gives people in the neighborhood an outlet to air grievances and take part in providing solutions. A Clergy Council gives people an alternative resource to calling the police in cases that don't necessarily merit a police response.

Act as trusted liaisons: A Clergy Council with close ties to members of the community can help foster personal connections with local police officers. Additionally, a Clergy Council that understands the needs of the community can provide the precinct with expertise and information to help prioritize matters that pose an immediate threat, while mitigating issues that don't require as high a level of force.

We have an amazing resource in the form of strong, trusted faith leaders who understand the issues facing our community. Providing a direct path for officers in the 71st Precinct to tap into this vast knowledge of the neighborhood can only lead to better outcomes for everyone involved.