The NYPD: A Question of Training
June 8, 2009
The NYPD about a year ago eliminated training time for “confrontation situations” between police officers, regarding it as unnecessary, says a ranking police officer.
Assistant Chief George Anderson, the commanding officer of the Police Academy, made the decision, says the ranking officer, who requested anonymity.
It is not known if Police Commissioner Ray Kelly approved this move, which, if true, has come back to haunt the department in the “friendly fire” shooting of Omar Edwards, a black, off-duty police officer, gunned down on May 28th in East Harlem by a white colleague who mistook him for a criminal.
Responding to this tragedy, Kelly has promised to enhance confrontation situation training between officers while not mentioning that this very training had been eliminated.
At least in theory, such training might have prevented Edwards’ shooting.
The department has maintained that Edwards, off-duty in street clothes with his gun drawn while pursuing a car thief, inadvertently turned with his weapon raised towards a white anti-crime officer after that officer had identified himself as a cop.
The training teaches NYPD Patrol Guide rules that cops in street clothes, whether on or off-duty, should “remain motionless…”
“Do not turn body, especially if holding a firearm…” and “obey all directions from the officer making the challenge.”
The rules also state that the “challenging officer… also has a responsibility to use sound tactics and judgment in approaching the situation.”
Sources say that, because these confrontations are extremely rare, the department’s recent training sessions instead focused on safety during car stops, in response to the 2007 fatal shooting of rookie cop Russell Timoshenko during a traffic stop.
Police sources say that Anderson’s change in training was part of an ongoing dispute with his nominal boss, Deputy Commissioner for Training Wilbur Chapman.
In fact, not long before Edwards’ shooting, the sources say that Anderson, a white, former Housing police officer, complained to Kelly about Chapman, formerly the department’s highest ranking black officer.
Chapman, a former Chief of Patrol, left the department more than a decade ago and was rehired by Kelly in 2006, following the 50-shot hail of bullets by a team of undercover detectives that killed an unarmed black man, Sean Bell.
It’s not clear what Anderson objected to about Chapman and neither man returned phone calls seeking an explanation.
Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne did not return an e-mail message.
The sources say that the Anderson-Chapman dispute reflects the tensions between the small cadre of five black chiefs within the department and the largely white police establishment.
As State Senator Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain, said in this column in 2004, Kelly “has no confidence in black officers in leadership positions.”
Tensions were pointedly on view at Edwards’ funeral last week. Led by the department’s highest ranking African-American officer, Chief of Community Affairs Douglas Zeigler, the department’s black chiefs and inspectors insisted on entering the church together with the Edwards family, drawing the ire of the Chief of the Housing Bureau, Joanne Jaffe.
Jaffe felt that Housing Bureau officers should accompany the family as Edwards belonged to that command, sources said. Jaffe also did not return a telephone call.
As in the Bell shooting, Kelly has used his public relations skills to paper over systemic flaws, such as a recurrent lack of training. Department sources maintain that the lack of training affects not only rookies at the Police Academy but veteran officers because in-service, refresher training is limited.
In addition, Kelly has seemed unwilling to take decisive corrective measures in these racially charged shootings, even when changes are recommended by respected outsiders.
Case in point: the fatal police shooting of African immigrant Ousmane Zongo during a botched undercover raid of a Chelsea warehouse in 2003. Manhattan State Supreme Court Judge Robert Straus, who found a white officer guilty, stated in court that the raid’s poor planning and supervision caused Zongo’s death.
Kelly, however, appears to have taken no corrective measures. If he has, he hasn’t informed the public.
After Bell’s death, Kelly publicly called upon the Rand Corporation to study the phenomenon of “contagious shootings.” Instead, the Rand consultants recommended the use of more Taser guns.
Following Edwards’ shooting, Kelly announced the possibility of fitting handguns with electronic identification equipment to alert officers to a “friendly” gun.
According to the Post, the department sent an outline of the research to several politicians, including Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith.
It turns out that no such technology currently exists.
According to Linda Spagnoli’s 2007 article, “Moving, Moving, Moving,” in the magazine Law Enforcement Technology, Scagnelli, as Chief of Transportation, was responsible for producing the fewest fatal vehicular homicides in New York City since records were kept.
He did this, she maintained, by creating Traffic Stat – a version of COMPSTAT, the crime-tracking innovation of former police commissioner Bill Bratton and his deputy, the late Jack Maple.
“He [Scagnelli] broke it [vehicular homicides] down, determining what caused them , whether speeding, double-parking or DWI so that the department could put more resources where they were needed and cut them in places where they weren’t.”
“But I couldn’t get anything out of Kelly’s office,” she said. “They gave me people to talk to but they wouldn’t let me talk to Scagnelli.” Finally, she said, Scagnelli personally intervened with Kelly’s closest adviser, Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne. She said she was then able to speak with Scagnelli and attend a Traffic-Stat meeting.
Why were Kelly/Browne reluctant to allow her to speak to Scagnelli? Was it because Scagnelli was then in Kelly’s doghouse because he had failed to cut short a long-planned Mexican hunting trip to deal with an imminent transit strike?
Or was it because Kelly/Browne feared that Scagnelli — rather than Kelly — might receive credit for Traffic Stat?
Newspaper accounts say British Consul-General Robert Pierce called Bratton a “great friend” who “revolutionized policing” over his 39 years in law enforcement. Pierce said Bratton deserved the award for his relationship with British police, including his response to fighting terrorism.
Bratton is to receive an ornate medal during an investiture ceremony at the British Embassy in Washington D.C. on Sept. 11. He can now put the letters CBE after his name.
So what about New York City’s Ray Kelly? Well, there’s always France. In 2006 Kelly was awarded the Legion d’Honneur at a ceremony presided over by France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy. The award was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte.