Community Advocates Demand Answers as Brooklyn Surpasses Murder Count of 2019

Community Leader Tony Herbert

From the corner of Flatbush Ave and Fulton Street, community advocate Tony Herbert, joined by social organizers Ron Colter and Bishop Dwayne Loadholt, on Tuesday, August 25, slammed Mayor Bill De Blasio and elected officials for their leadership in the vicious fight against gun violence this year, among other social justice and health pandemics, that disproportionately hit Black and Brown communities.

The demands were made in front of the McDonalds where Kendale Hamilton, 23, was fatally shot last Thursday, Aug. 20,  after he and another man traded punches and gunfire, police sources said.

It also comes as police statistics show there have been more murders in Brooklyn as of Aug. 16 in 2020 as there were in all of 2019. Additionally, Brooklyn has seen a more than 100 percent increase in year-to-date shooting incidents.

Herbert brought visuals to his press conference depicting some of the guns taken off the street as well as a crime scene from a shooting. Photo by Ariama C. Long

Herbert, who has a history in law enforcement, specifically demanded the disclosure of the stats on detainees released from custody or have reoffended with an illegal firearm due to bail reform policies enacted in January.

“We want to know the real numbers,” said Herbert, “We’re the taxpayers. We’re the ones subjected to this violence. We need to know where our money is going and how you’re spending it, and why these people are back on the street. You said you had a plan. What’s that plan? Because we’re dying out here.”

Back in July, NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea and Police Chief Terence A. Monahan was quoted blaming COVID prison releases and bail reforms for the surge in gun violence, which was later investigated and debunked by NYPD’s own data and by several other sources

When asked about the lack of NYPD data to support the claim that violent repeat offenders out on bail account for the rise in gun violence in 2020, Herbert said, “Everyone should be entitled to bail, but when you know that it’s a recidivist individual, letting them out three or four times sends a message clearly that something is not right.” 

“We’re sympathetic with the individuals who get arrested and are looking for programs and have substance abuse and need help,” said Colter. “We’re talking to the individuals who continuously come in and out of jail, think it’s okay to carry these guns, and commit these shootings in our community.” 

This McDonalds at the Flatbush Avenue/Fulton Street intersection in Downtown Brooklyn has seen several incidents of violence the past few years. Photo by Ariama C. Long

Colter, a retired NYPD officer, also questioned why De Blasio has been through so many police commissioners over the course of his term. 

“He’s not going through this many commissioners because no one else wants to stay in the most beautiful city in the world. This the greatest city in the world, this Mayor is turning our city into a dumping location,” said Colter, who said he became a cop to combat gun violence and make New York safer in the first place.

Herbert and Colter agreed that there’s a “low morale” among officers in the recent months. “The Mayor ran his campaign on the backs of police officers,” said Colter. “I could tell you first hand I saw the transformation from a very aggressive, violent Brooklyn to one that I could walk from end to end of Nostrand and be comfortable. It starts at the top.” 

Herbert circled back to the disbandment of the undercover anti-crime units, which he said was gotten rid of because of the Mayor’s pressure on Commissioner Shea.

“Sadly, because of the work the anti-crime unit was doing, that’s where the majority of the lawsuits were coming from because they were very aggressive, so there were concerns with all the new laws, the chokehold law, that the anti-crime unit would be subject to more lawsuits because of their tactics,” explained Herbert.

Some legislators are in support of amending portions of the chokehold bill that refer to the diaphragm because of heavy criticism from law enforcement that it impedes making safe arrests, and bringing back the plainclothes anti-crime unit.   

Mayor Bill de Blasio
Borough President Eric Adams
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams

In yesterday’s morning’s briefing, De Blasio addressed the rollbacks on the bill saying the conversation over the last month or two has been about the need to have constant reform and improvement in the relationship between police and community. And also the need to address the growing problem of shootings and gun violence.

“I’ve heard from so many City Council members, so many community leaders that they are deeply, deeply concerned. And they want to address both these needs simultaneously. Details, I understand will come out in the course of the day, but you know, the Chairman of the Public Safety Committee in the Council, Donovan Richards (D-Queens) has taken the lead on this. And clearly the crucial reform in the original legislation continues. Chokeholds will be illegal no matter what. As I understand the focus here is just on some clarification on the issue of diaphragms,” said de Blasio.

De Blasio also spoke of the alleged ‘slow down’ among officers that, according to NY1 data, is evidenced in longer response times getting to crime scenes this summer.  

“I’ve said that there are tremendous challenges right now and a perfect storm of problems. And that our officers are trying to manage all of these realities and make sense of them, including without the normal supports that typically exist in the criminal justice system. I’ve been asked about the quote-unquote slowdown, and I’ve said I’ve seen something that was a systematic slowdown. This is not what I’m seeing here. I’m seeing a lot of challenges, a lot of attempts to navigate them,” said De Blasio.

“We have never had a pandemic, an economic crisis, a budget crisis, a social justice crisis, you know, all wrapped into one all in the space of a few months, and when you see so much dislocation in the normal operating of things, like the fact that the criminal justice system is nowhere near full speed,” continued De Blasio.

“We cannot become numb to this, or act like it’s some statistical aberration. Earlier this summer, 101 people were shot in the course of a week — all of them Black and Brown. The crisis we are facing demands we put forward real solutions,” stated Borough President Eric Adams, a former NYPD officer, on August 16.

Adams outlined the steps needed to address what’s considered underlying contributors to the pandemic and the rise in gun violence.

Adams proposed forming a tri-state commission to stop the flow of illegal handguns into communities, reinstating a modified version of the anti-crime unit, fund a better crisis management system, invite clergy and law enforcement leaders to partner, and create a comprehensive employment plan that targets young adults.

“I also believe we need to take a closer look at the recently-reported drop in arrests by the NYPD and what may be driving that trend. Failing to change course now will mean more senseless bloodshed that will disproportionately impact Black and Brown communities. As someone who has dedicated his life to the mantra that ‘Black Lives Matter,’ even before it became a hashtag, I simply will not accept that,” said Adams.