An incident in New York where local residents blocked police officers from arresting an underage girl shows a growing gap between civilians and police, and underscores the challenges facing President Obama’s call for more community-oriented policing.
“Community policing is very important. We have a lot of these officers who aren’t from the community that they’re policing,” Michael Barber of Cop Watch told RT. “They don’t know who is who, and who is what, so they automatically assume that everyone is a criminal.”
Barber is the activist who recorded the May 14 incident in Upper Manhattan, when local residents confronted two apparent plainclothes police officers over their manhandling of an underage girl.
The eight-minute recording shows two men in civilian clothes emerging from an unmarked car to grab and question a 14-year-old girl after her seven-year-old companion had allegedly pushed a button on the police call box. The men are wearing green arm bands, and have guns and handcuffs on their belts.
Barber can be heard describing the place and time of the incident: around 7 PM local time, at the corner of 140th Street and Hamilton Place. This is an area known as Hamilton Hill, located between the neighborhoods of Harlem and Washington Heights.
One of the officers Barber identified as “undercover officer Gonzalez from the 30th Precinct” can be seen grabbing the 14-year-old before an angry local resident confronts him. The woman keeps demanding the officers’ names and badge numbers. Other residents join her and step in the path of the two officers when they try to seize the girl.
“You know you’re doing wrong! GO HOME!” one of the women yells at the officers.
“We document any type of police interactions with the community,” Barber told RT. “Usually we record all the way to the very end, because in a situation like this, you never know what might happen.”
In this instance, the officers retreat to their car and drive off empty-handed.
Barber says the officers’ behavior was unusual. They never called for backup or tried to explain why they were detaining the girl. They also refused to give their names and badge numbers, only saying they were from the 30th Precinct. That drew jeers from the locals.
The New York Police Department did not respond to RT’s request for comment
The< a href="http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/taskforce/TaskForce_FinalReport.pdf" target="_blank">report by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing was published Monday, calling for the demilitarization of law enforcement and a push for more community policing. Another part of the president’s initiative would prohibit police departments around the country from using certain military weapons and equipment.