It is most unfortunate that police officers of the 81st Precinct were instructed by their superiors to essentially violate the civil rights of residents of our community of Bedford-Stuyvesant.
A police officer of the 81st Precinct secretly recorded roll calls and other meetings and events that took place within the precinct over a 15 month period. Earlier this year, this police officer turned his secretly recorded audio tapes over to the Village Voice newspaper.
So far, three articles have been printed in three different issues of the Village Voice. These articles reveal, among other things, that the commander of the precinct (Deputy Inspector Steven Mauriello) went to extreme measures in order to portray to his superiors that crime in our community was declining.
In reality, Deputy Inspector Mauriello directed his officers to question criminal complaints from residents, downgrade complaints, issue summonses to meet quotas, and arrest residents without probable cause. This was all done to make it appear to his superiors that crime was being handled in Bedford-Stuyvesant and that he was performing well as precinct commander.
The pressure from One Police Plaza must be overwhelming for a precinct commander to stoop to such inappropriate, disrespectful, and perhaps even illegal behavior in order to appease his superior officers. However, there is no excuse for a precinct commander to knowingly instruct his officers to harass, intimidate and arrest innocent residents of our community.
There should not even be a question of whether Deputy Inspector Mauriello should be removed from his post by Police Commissioner Kelly. The question is why hasn’t he already been removed?
I realize there are many residents of our community who may not have read the Village Voice articles, nor the Our Time Press reprint of substantial excerpts from these articles. There are, I am sure, residents who have not yet been directly affected by these police actions and are also unaware of the number of their neighbors that have been unjustly affected.
There are a smaller number of residents who have a relationship with the precinct commander. They may be aware of some of the good things Deputy Inspector Mauriello has done and his responsiveness to certain elements of the community.
However, under no circumstances can the community allow a precinct commander to remain in place when he has demonstrated such disrespect and utter disregard for our civil rights. Remember, we engaged in a Civil Rights Movement during the 60’s and 70’s so that we would never again accept second class citizenship.
The elected officials and clergy have met on more than one occasion to discuss the seriousness of the issue, and have dispatched a letter to the Police Commissioner requesting that Deputy Inspector Mauriello be removed from his post and from the community. The Police Commissioner’s response was not timely, nor was it satisfactory.
It is universally accepted that effective policing relies heavily upon cooperation from the community, which can only happen when there is communication and some degree of trust. It is obvious that the current commander of the 81st Precinct has betrayed that trust and has created an environment that is antithetical to police-community relations.
While I understand that the police department has protocols and procedures that must be adhered to in considering the status of its personnel, the police commissioner must also consider that the crisis in confidence in the relationship between the community and its precinct commander is irreparable.
The morale of the police officers within the 81st Precinct is at an all-time low.
Expedient action on his part is necessary to begin repairing the trust required for the community to feel secure in working with the 81st Precinct. It is only through this collaborative relationship that truly effective policing can occur.
Council member, 36th District