A copy of the following letter was received by the Gazette.
Commissioner Howard Safir
New York Police Department
One Police Plaza
New York, NY 10038
Dear (Police) Commissioner (Howard) Safir:
Re: Policing of major events
I am writing regarding the recent incident in Central Park on Sunday, June 11, 2000, in which a large group of individuals ran throughout the park for approximately 30 minutes sexually abusing, sexually harassing, sexually assaulting and robbing a number of people (predominately women).
I understand that a thorough investigation is underway seeking to apprehend as many of the individuals involved in this disgusting display of violence towards women as possible. In addition, I understand there is an internal investigation looking into allegations that police officers failed to properly respond to complaints from victims and to the situation itself as it unfolded. This letter does not seek to interfere with these two separate investigations, but it does seek to ascertain information on how major events are being policed by the Department.
The city taxpayers pays millions of dollars in overtime ($220.8 million for Fiscal Year 2000), some of which goes to diverting police officers from local precincts to major events. This Sunday’s Puerto Rican Day Parade is an example of a major event.
Thus, as chair of the City Council Committee on Public Safety, which is the oversight body of the City government, I seek the following information:
•Since these officers are diverted from their usual beat, are they properly instructed on the area that they are to cover (e.g., location of nearest precinct, location of other stationed officers, et al.),
•What is the chain of command that must be followed by the officers assigned to these events,
•Are all the officers on duty that day equipped with communication devices that will allow them to request backup,
•What type of planning goes into the policing of these events—is past experience used to determine where officers are stationed (e.g., It was reported that officers were not stationed in areas of Central Park because there had never been problems there in the past), and
•What is the policy that should be followed if an individual approaches an officer with a complaint that she has been assaulted by a gang of men (e.g., is backup called immediately, is a statement taken then or at a later time, et al.)?
In addition, please forward to me any guidelines or orders issued to officers on how such major events are policed.
In conclusion, I would like answers to these questions as soon as possible. I plan to seek an oversight hearing on the policing policies of major events in the very near future.
23rd CD, Hollis
Sane Laws, Safe Streets
To The Editor:
Over the years I have advocated for the enactment of a series of anti-crime and anti-domestic violence measures, in the hopes that tougher sentencing and additional crime fighting tools put at the disposal of [Queens] District Attorney [Richard] Brown and our police would make our neighborhood, our families and our streets safer.
Fortunately, a good many times your paper’s editorial board has agreed with me and we have had some successes in New York state with the passage of Megan’s Law (which limits parole for repeat violent felons). Indeed, in the past few years our governor [George Pataki] signed these measures into law.
Unfortunately even these common sense actions took longer than necessary to enact into law. The truth is that there has been one consistent roadblock to the implementation of these and other meaningful and sensible anti-crime reforms. That roadblock has a name and it is Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. I can’t quite fully fathom why or how Mr. Silver remains so far out of touch with the concerns and consequences of his misplaced liberalism. I can only speculate that like so many Manhattanites from the Silk Stocking District he just doesn’t understand that middle class families have to confront life head on in the subways and on the city’s streets. Maybe he doesn’t get it because we’re not buffered by doorman lobbys and limousines carting us from place to place like his constituents. I am sure it is not that he doesn’t care.
Even though quality of life and crime statistics have been remarkably better under the management of [Mayor Rudolph] Giuliani and Pataki than in prior years it seems self-evident that too many lives have been lost or damaged because of inaction or obstruction by Silver. Indeed I can recall as far back as 1994 and 1996 Silver crushing or delaying in committee laws requiring mandatory prison sentences for use of a gun in a violent felony, laws opposing AIDS tests for sex offenders and laws doing away with parole for persistent violent felony offenders. When Silver has not been blocking or delaying these measures he has been watering them down…rendering them less effective. Both Megan’s Law and Jenna’s Law were only passed after considerable concerted public pressure on Silver. Why should that be?
Well, I am sorry to report that Silver is at it again! Assemblymember John Faso has proposed the Sexual Assault Reform Act which is intended to help crack down on date rape and other sexual crimes against women. Silver has, in turn, proposed similar but weaker and defective legislation. The crux of the problem is that under Faso’s law "no" means "no" whereas under Silver’s law "no" means "maybe." Clearly this isn’t good enough.
At least both bills would increase penalties for the use of date-rape drugs. However, Silver’s bill is weaker in several other material aspects. This has prompted the father of the victim who inspired Jenna’s Law to condemn Silver for his lack of understanding and failure of will. Jenna’s father has asked the Assembly to support Faso’s Sexual Assault Reform Act. I don’t know who is or has been drafting Silver’s bills or advising the Speaker but it is clear that New York state needs to send the right signal here and enact Faso’s version of the proposed law. I agree with Jenna’s father that Silver’s bill is just not good enough.
It is important that our laws in this area leave no room for ambiguity.
Vince Tabone, Esq.