Communities and the policemen sworn to protect them have been skeptical and even fearful of each other this past year in the wake of such controversial and deadly altercations in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and Baltimore. In an attempt to quell the tension between the two, the National Night Out Against Crime event brought them together for a peaceful evening in several boroughs throughout New York and across the country on Tuesday.
An annual event, this year’s National Night Out was perhaps more important than ever, as racial tensions continue to peak.
NY1 caught up with a few local residents at a rally in Brownsville, NY Tuesday to get their reaction to the opportunity to brush shoulders with policemen:
"This is what I like," said one person at the rally. "It's not just because they're watching us. They are with us, you know what I'm saying? It feels family-oriented, you know? So it's a good thing."
NYPD Chief Jeffrey Maddrey explained why so many on the force were looking forward to the event:
“They want zero crime in their community,” he said. “They want a good relationship with the police, and that’s why we’re here tonight so we bridge that gap.”
Also in attendance was New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is still promoting the event’s success:
De Blasio’s effort to improve police-citizen relations in New York may be seen as too little, too late by some NYPD officers. Last year, after video surfaced of policemen placing Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold, De Blasio broad-brushed the force and accused them of ushering in a culture of distrust. Some suggested he even accused them of racism. Because of those comments, the mayor lost respect among the police force, most evident when NYPD officers visibly turned their backs to him as he entered Woodhull Hospital for a press conference last December.
Perhaps De Blasio’s presence at National Night Out will earn him back that respect and convince New Yorkers that cops are here to help and to serve their communities, not to instill fear.
But will the harmony last for more than one night?