At his first swearing in ceremony as commissioner, O’Neill looked into the eyes of 700 new officers whom he hopes can bridge any gap between New Yorkers and the NYPD.
As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported, the commissioner announced a new approach to the neighborhood policing system.
“This is the next phase of the NYPD,” O’Neill said Tuesday. “I’m asking all New Yorkers to engage with their police. Together is the only way we can complete our mission.”
As part of the new community policing program, O’Neill said he wants all residents to know their beat cops on a first name basis.
“The public will soon have the names, email addresses and increasingly, believe it or not, the cell numbers of the individual police officers who patrol their streets every single day,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill said if reporting a crime can be as easy as sending an email or a text, they may see more reports from people who wouldn’t normally speak up.
“We’re looking for that personal connection. Say I’m a detective investigating a homicide in the Bronx. I might not know the people as well as NCOs, and if that’s the way a witness or victim feels most comfortable with approaching us, that’s the way we’re going,” he said.
He said the department will also ask all public and commercial entities to install camera systems that the NYPD can access to quickly gain footage to assist in investigations.
O’Neill also urged New Yorkers to report crimes and step up as witnesses so the city can take record-low crime stats and drive them lower.
“We’ll ask every New Yorker to do at least one thing to help us achieve it, be willing to talk to district attorneys, and follow through by testifying in court,” he said. “We also need to make the process of participating in our criminal justice system as a victim safe.”
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz said O’Neill’s strategy could work.
“The community policing that the commissioner speaks of, once you have the ability to protect those individuals who are cooperating with the police, you’ll see more and more of that mindset diminish,” Diaz said.
O’Neill’s predecessor Bill Bratton said the new commissioner will help bring neighborhoods closer.
“It is really all about trust,” Bratton said.
The department is also launching a campaign “to get every New Yorker to believe we can make our city safe in every single neighborhood of the city,” O’Neill said.
Former police officer Chris Guglielmo of Queens said anything that encourages people to trust the officers who protect them is a positive.
“I don’t think I’d want my personal phone, but the police department cell phone — sure. If a resident or merchant was in trouble or had something that needed attention right away, I think it would be a good thing,” he said.
For some it’s not that simple.
“It might mostly be older people that wouldn’t mind texting or emailing a cop. I don’t think a young person would text or email a cop,” Shafiq Clamton said.
Clamton himself said he would not feel comfortable sending such a text.
Others said it could be downright dangerous.
“Then you kinda feel like you’re a snitch,” Rufus Owens explained.
O’Neill said the plan has already started with some officers handing out their department phone numbers at community meetings.
Neighborhood policing is currently in the works in more than half of the city, and all commands that cover public housing.