Police Precincts in Harlem Now Led by Black Commanding Officers for the First Time Ever

4798Harlem's police precincts are now headed by African American commanding officers for the first time ever.
The landmark lineup was completed when tranist cop Captain Steven Griffith recently took charge of West 126th Street's 26th Precinct.

He joined Deputy Inspector Kevin Williams at the 28th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Ruel Stephenson at the 30th, and Inspector Rodney Harrison at the 32nd.

Though many celebrated the historic development as a positive sign of the NYPD's diversity, some department veterans are more cynical.

"Is any of this all an accident?" asked one black police official, who asked for anonymity. "Or is it a reaction to the department's problems over stop and frisk and other community issues?"

"Every decision is measured and there are calculated reasons for them, including politics, perceptions and pressure."

Whatever the reason, the development is long overdue, said some.

"It says a lot about how the department has grown in its diversity over the years. I wish we could have done this years ago," said a former NYPD deputy commissioner who served through the 1980s and is white.

"Twenty years ago, it could never happen, because of the ...lack of diversification and minority representation, and this throws that all out," the former official added.

"Obviously these are qualified people and, finally, there are enough African Americans in the department for this to happen, and that is terrific."

Former Mayor Ed Koch, who appointed the city's first black commissioner, Benjamin Ward, in 1984, agreed.

"It is terrific that the force has now probably doubled in terms of minorities, which gives the commissioner the authority to select captains and above in larger numbers," he continued.

"There is no question you want to expand the number of African Americans in leadership positions, and no question black communities will respond with a greater sense of security to a black commanding officer than to a white one."

Koch said the time will come when race may no longer matter, but that "is not the case now."

Tim Pearson, a recently retired black NYPD Inspector and the vice president of the New York chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement, agreed that the development was "positive, overall."

Source: Huffington Post | Black Voices
Murray Weiss, DNAinfo Columnist / Criminal Justice Editor
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