The Police Department has begun an advanced tactical-pistol course that will be given to all anti-crime officers and eventually expanded to include other patrol cops in an effort to avoid “friendly-fire” killings that have resulted in the deaths this year of two officers who were confronting suspects at the time they were shot, the department disclosed Oct. 8.
Commissioner James P. O’Neill confirmed the move in response to a reporter’s question at a briefing on crime statistics at the Police Academy in College Point, Queens. Chief of Training Theresa Shortell said that the anti-crime officers were undergoing the training as a team, and that it would include videos involving “tactics that we see are a concern.”
She said the training had begun that week, and that the department earlier opened up a tactical training center in the 111th Precinct in Queens, with plans to expand to feature borough-based courses throughout the city.
Those moves came in the aftermath of the Sept. 29 killing of Police Officer Brian Mulkeen as he was grappling with Antonio Lavance Williams after the man fled when confronted outside the Edenwald Houses in The Bronx. After Officer Mulkeen yelled “he’s reaching for it” at least twice, as if to indicate Mr. Williams was grabbing for a gun, and fired five shots, the other responding officers opened fire, with their bullets fatally striking both Mr. Williams and their fellow cop. Mr. Williams, who had several previous arrests, was carrying a gun but never fired it.
In February, Det. Brian Simonsen was also fatally shot by one or more of his six colleagues while responding to a burglary in a Queens cell-phone store. The suspect in that case was wielding a fake gun.
In the aftermath of Officer Mulkeen’s death, the lack of training given to officers in such situations was sharply criticized, with Detective Simonsen’s widow, Leanne Simonsen, telling the New York Post, “I know things happen in seconds. But there’s gotta be some way that you clear your guys before you just start firing.”
Chief Shortell said roughly 900 anti-crime cops in plainclothes who are assigned to precincts were being given the initial training, which would then be extended to “the other various units also.” She said it would be done with a ratio of two instructors for every cop being trained.
Asked what areas would be focused on, she replied, “It’s any issue that we see as, could be gun retention, it could be chasing somebody versus surveillance on somebody,” and the department would “share best practices from borough to borough. Any lesson we learn in The Bronx, we don’t want to repeat it in Brooklyn, and vice versa.”
Those details emerged after top commanders went through a September crime report offering somewhat positive news, but tempered by a small jump in homicides last month and a rise in criminal activity during the first week of October, notably the murder of four homeless men in Chinatown, allegedly by Randy Rodriguez Santos, a 24-year-old man with a history of mental-health issues who was arrested several times previously for violent incidents.
Crime Down 2.6% for Year
Chief of Crime Control Strategies Lori Pollock told reporters that crime last month rose 1.6 percent, but remained down by 2.6 percent for the first nine months of this year compared to the same period in 2018.
There were 29 murders last month, compared to 28 last September. While September ended with four fewer murders this year than during the first nine months of 2018, 13 murders in the first eight days of October—compared to seven for that period last year—brought homicides for 2019 to 250, one more than for the same period in 2018.
The areas in which that crime was up included in public housing, where 17 percent of murders had taken place, compared to 13 percent a year earlier. Gang-related murders accounted for 30 percent of the total, domestic-violence homicides for 16 percent, and narcotics-related murders comprised 11 percent.
In 65 percent of those cases, Chief Pollock said, cops had either made arrests or identified perpetrators.
Shootings Finally Reduced
On the positive side, shootings, which had been on a steady rise during the first eight months of the year, declined to 67 compared to 71 in September 2018, although they remain up by 26 through Oct. 8: 627 so far this year compared to 601. And domestic-shooting fatalities have declined from 16 last year to just two. The majority of shootings, she said, had been the result of “marijuana sales, narcotics and gang violence.”
Rapes declined last month, bucking another upward trend for 2019 until then, with 173 reported this year compared to 147 through the same period in 2018.
But robberies rose 11 percent in September, “with personal electronic devices the most-common item targeted,” Chief Pollock told reporters. Grand Larceny Auto is up 14 percent this year, from 513 in 2018 to 586, “and very often that car is running,” she added in a word to unwary motorists who leave their vehicles to do brief errands.
Burglaries Way Down
Burglaries, on the other hand, dropped to 857 in September, an all-time low that continues a year-long trend which she credited to the impact of neighborhood policing. Since the program was implemented in 2015, Chief Pollock said, there had been a 30-percent drop in burglaries.
Hate crimes, however, continue to rise, with Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea saying the prime targets have been Jewish residents, with 59 more anti-Semitic crimes committed this year than for the same period in 2018.
The crime briefing came immediately following the swearing-in of 697 recruits at the Police Academy, two days before they would mark their graduation in a Madison Square Garden ceremony.
Commissioner O’Neill said this was the largest class to come out of the academy since the 785 in a January 2018 class. In what might have served as a rebuttal to the Police Benevolent Association’s claim that salaries were too low to attract and retain officers, he remarked, “We’re fortunate here in New York because we don’t have recruitment issues as some of the other cities and other police departments have around the country.”
First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker highlighted the diversity of the graduates, saying that 34 percent were white, 32 percent Hispanic, 17 percent African-American and 13 percent Asian. Twenty-seven percent of the new officers were women. Mayor de Blasio said it was “really good for the NYPD and really good for the City of New York that more and more women are choosing to join the NYPD.”
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