Councilmembers Walter McCaffrey and Juanita Watkins represented Queens on the select Committee which is chaired by Brooklyn Councilmember Annette Robinson. Queens Borough North Assistant Chief James Tuller, accompanied by Deputy Commissioner for Legal Affairs George Grasso and Deputy Commissioner for Community Affairs Yolanda Jimenez, all spoke on behalf of the police department.
After members of the select Committee, as well as attending members of the Queens delegation not on the select Committee, addressed their concerns to Tuller and received responses, the community was invited to speak.
However, public comments were made only to the Council and not in front of police representatives.
This appeared to be a change in the format that was used at the first Select Committee hearing held in the Bronx on Mar. 27th at Adlai E. Stevenson H.S. in the Soundview section of the Bronx, not far from where the Diallo shooting occurred. According to a report in the Mar. 28th New York Times, police officials at that meeting sat and listened to residents who expressed, according to the article, "a mixture of passion and anger" regarding their encounters with the police.
At the Apr. 27th meeting in Long Island City, Tuller, as well as the other NYPD representatives did not stay to hear any public comments and left the Little Theater auditorium at LaGuardia Community College immediately after inquiries from the Council were finished.
Although Robinson had said police representatives would remain to listen to the public comment, none were present on the stage after Tuller left, nor were any other NYPD representatives identified as present during the community speaking time. The proceedings of the hearing were videotaped and recorded.
According to a briefing paper by the Council’s Legal and Government Affairs Division and its Office of Oversight and Investigation, a second hearing of the Select Committee was held on Apr. 11th in Harlem. No schedule for the times and places of future meetings was made available.
Robinson summed up the nearly three hours of council, police and community testimony when she said, "The most loud and clear message I hear is the need for more police presence here in Queens."
In his remarks, McCaffrey cited what he characterized as stealing manpower from local Queens precincts to supply specialty units as a specific cause for a deteriorated relationship between police and community that he said was almost in tatters.
Of the various details for barriers, for security at Police Plaza and for sporting events, McCaffrey described the siphoning of manpower as a prescription for tragedy that limits the police–community relationship. Tuller responded that specialty services are provided to precincts as well, and said, "I wouldn’t minimize those specialty units." As to happenings throughout the city, Tuller said flatly, "Police cover those events."
But, Robinson chimed in, "The greater concern is the presence of police in the neighborhoods, not specialty units. We want to see a cop on the block."
Councilmember Karen Koslowitz quizzed Tuller about manpower allocation, noting it was a question she has asked since 1991. Tuller answered saying resource allocation formulas assign personnel to other bureaus in addition to local precincts. Councilmember Julia Harrison followed up on the matter by asking if the allocation formula accounted for changes such as increased population into it.
Tuller said the formula included elements such as density and population but Harrison suggested a re-evaluation. Of the 109th Police Precinct in her Flushing district, she said, "There is no police presence and we need more manpower on the streets where we can see an officer in uniform."
Watkins, the other Queens representative on the Select Committee, declared police stop and frisk tactics a constant source of irritation, aggravation and grief in all parts of the city and asked for an explanation of the law regarding personal rights if one is approached by a police officer for a stop and frisk procedure.
Tuller acknowledged that individuals who are stopped are not required to give their names but said they can be stopped if the officer believes a crime is in progress or is about to be committed, or if the officer’s or someone else’s safety is at stake.
"This," Watkins said, "is the area where we get complaints," confronting Tuller with the example of cars stopped by officers who demand that the drivers, mostly young males get out of the car without explanation nor indication of a crime in progress.
"Worse," Watkins claimed, "is the indignity." She also argued that some citizens are required to show identification if stopped and frisked on foot. If they refuse they are taken into custody.
Grasso, the deputy commissioner for legal affairs, emphasized that police officers are trained vigorously in the law of stop and frisk, which he said is based on the legal principle of reasonable suspicion. He acknowledged that rude treatment of innocent persons is not appropriate, but conceded it happens, given, he said, in the context of policing, the large volume of encounters.
Watkins said, "the public has a right to be told why they are being stopped" and added that unless one is driving, "There is no place in this United States, in the year 2000 where it says you need to carry ID to be safe in the street."