Police presence and protests

Days of protests followed Kimani’s death earlier this month, in which community members rallied against the NYPD expressing anger fueled by what some call a “further distrust of the police” sparked by the killing.  The third day of demonstrations alone resulted in over 40 arrests as protesters assembled around a vigil honoring Kimani and marched down Church Avenue in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush.

The arrests occurred on March 14 and now, two weeks later, police continue to have a heavy presence in the community with officers “stationed at every block, atop buildings and patrolling in cars,” according to one observer.

“It was unnecessary and a little offensive,” continued Christian Rutherford, a resident of Brooklyn who was raised in the neighborhood where the protests were held. “It has been weeks and lights are still blaring and flashing incessantly – it seems like an intimidation factor.”

Rutherford acknowledges that police are there to “keep peace” after the initial protests resulted in arrests, but he sees their constant presence in the community as a state of “oppression” that is not helping improve the situation.

“Whether it’s the killing of a 16-year-old child, or the increasing use of stop and frisks, individuals in black communities often do not feel protected by the NYPD,” said Rosa Squillacote, a policy advocate for the Police Reform Organizing Project of the Urban Justice Center. “Parents are more likely to be worried about their children’s safety when encountering a police officer than in any other situation.”

The average public expectation of law enforcement officials is to provide protection in dangerous and criminal situations, but many feel as though those duties are not being fulfilled.

“Police officers must follow constitutional standards regulating interactions with citizens – they must have articulable reasonable suspicion before stopping an individual to search or interrogate them,” said Squillacote. “However, the NYPD all too often does not adhere to any of these regulations,” she believes.

In the matter of Kimani Gray’s death, the NYPD and city officials have released statements saying that proper protocol was followed the night of shooting.

“So far all indications are that the young man had a gun, and I can promise you that we will conduct a full and fair investigation,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a press conference held in the days following Kimani’s death.

According to The New York Times, New York Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly agrees with Bloomberg, stating there was “nothing to indicate that this shooting was outside the guidelines” about the incident.

The NYPD did not respond to theGrio’s request for additional comment related to the Gray killing by publication time.

The solution rests ‘within the community’

Parties are divided about what happened the night Kimani died, yet many across the spectrum of those involved see a similar solution to the unrest that has been sparked: a need for community activism and cooperation with law enforcement.

“There’s no communication between community officials, the residents and the police to quell the tension,” Rutherford said. “We need to have an open dialogue about what happens.”

Councilman Barron agrees, adding, “We need to engage in community policing. Policing policies in every neighborhood should be a joint effort with community officials who work together to find solutions to crime in neighborhoods.”

These community stakeholders share the belief that through these methods, citizens and police can improve the relationship between law enforcement officials and local neighborhoods.

Montgomery echoes some of the same sentiments, but asks for more involvement from local residents.

“I’m hoping that communities come together a little bit more,” he said of the future. “I hope that people look at this incident and get to the core and perhaps [we’ll] see more mentoring come up, see more apprenticeships, [more retired educators doing] something more communal so kids aren’t left to the system. You have to take care of your community.”

Follow Lilly Workneh @Lilly_Works