Sharpton talks about NYPD
April 6, 1997
Call Al Sharpton what you will - activist, race-baiter, charlatan - he speaks for a constituency that includes the poorest, least educated and those most in need of police protection. That constituency knows the police as few of us do, and Sharpton, who declared for mayor on Friday, articulates their feelings in ways few others have.
Here is what he has to say about the NYPD.
On whom he'd appoint police commissioner: "People think I want a black commissioner, but I would take Ray Kelly."
Sharpton says he and Kelly, police commissioner under former Mayor David N. Dinkins, worked together in recruiting black cops.
"Ray Kelly raised eyebrows when he had breakfast with ministers and me to begin the recruitment drive," says Sharpton. "He enlisted our support. He hired more black cops than were hired in the history of the city. He's sensitive to the needs of people of the city. He is the kind of guy who can go from a symposium to a street corner. Ray Kelly is the kind of guy I would want as police commissoner. I could live with Ray Kelly." Kelly declined to comment.
On community policing, a policy pushed by the Dinkins administration to bring cops more in contact with the public but abandoned by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Commissioner William Bratton as soft on crime-fighting: "I would re-institute community policing. I believe it worked effectively."
On residency: "I would require the police to live in the city. I would put a referendum on the ballot. The mayor can also have his commissioner put in test questions that show familiarity of policing within the city and what goes on in the city. You can also have incentives for police to live in the city. Raises for relocation. City tax abatements. No cash bonuses, but it could be done with helping with housing or children in schools. I'd have a three-year phase-out. Give them three years to move in and all new cops must be residents."
On the Civilian Complaint Review Board: "I want a board with power to recommend termination and suspensions outside One Police Plaza, not under control of the NYPD."
Here is how Sharpton explains his roles in such controversial police-related incidents as the Crown Heights riot, the arson / murder at Freddy's Fashion Mart in Harlem, the Central Park jogger case and Tawana Brawley.
On Crown Heights: "I worked with Dinkins' police commissioner Lee Brown in Crown Heights when violence started. He Brown asked me to walk streets to keep calm. The second day the family of Gavin Cato the child struck and killed by a Hasidic Jewish driver called me. I took the family to Gavin's body at the morgue.
"My role was absolutely vindicated by the governor's report that said that activists like me were called on the second day by the families whose relatives were arrested . We worked with them in trying to get some of the people out of jail and to try to calm the situation. The night the riot started I was not in town. To say I was is a jumble of history. How can I incite a riot, and they blame me for something I didn't know about?"
On Freddy's: "I supported a local black businessman I knew for twenty-some odd years to not be thrown out of the store. I picketed one day. I made a statement in September that we cannot have white interlopers. I should not have said white.' A statement I made in September should not have anything to do with what happened in December. It's a real stretch."
On the Central Park jogger case, in which a white woman was raped by a group of black youths: "I was called by Michael Briscoe's grandmother, who said he was not guilty - I got him a lawyer. He was not indicted. He was never charged." (Briscoe pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in jail for assaulting a male jogger during the rampage.)
On Brawley, who claimed she was attacked and raped by a group of white men, an allegation that investigators from the state attorney general's office concluded was untrue, and for whom Sharpton served as what he termed an "adviser":
"We don't have to prove in court that Tawana told the truth - only that we had reason to believe that she told the truth."
On why the police need him: "Whether you like or dislike me, I represent a constituency. They need a guy in the community like me who isn't calling them pigs. They may not be in love with Sharpton, but he appeals through the system, and isn't trying to burn it down."
Email Leonard Levitt at email@example.com
© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.