Last week, Officer Omar J. Edwards was tragically shot and killed by a fellow officer from the New York City Police Department. Like so many New Yorkers, I mourn the passing of this fallen hero who dedicated his life to keeping our city safe. My prayers go out to Officer Edwards’ wife, Danielle, and the rest of his family.
Although this matter is still under investigation, we can say with certainty that Officer Edwards was shot while trying to apprehend a man who broke into his car. And the sad truth is that this incident is indicative of a larger problem: that an officer of color who is off-duty or in plainclothes is at greater risk when responding to an incident.
This harsh reality has angered and frustrated so many in our community. I share those sentiments. Now, we must take steps to turn our pain into progress so that these tragedies never happen again. The mayor’s response–which includes putting out a special DVD and reinforcing current training measures that clearly do not work–is simply not enough. We can do better and, we should do better by taking the appropriate actions to prevent these incidents before they occur.
The first step in this effort is to overhaul current training procedures. Although we hear a lot about training, the quality of the city’s programs does not match the rhetoric. We must strengthen current hands-on police training efforts, including role-playing. Such measures will provide officers with greater insight into the various scenarios that can take place in the field. Secondly, we must increase the minimum amount of time that officers must serve in uniform patrol before they receive a plain-clothes assignment. A plainclothes officer is under less supervision, and additional experience would be an invaluable asset to him or her on the job.
Finally, the face of the NYPD has changed. African-Americans, Latinos and Asians account for around half of all officers, and it is time that all New Yorkers recognize that anyone could be a police officer and rid ourselves of the old, misguided assumptions. Our city’s police department is full of many brave New Yorkers who, each and every day, exemplify courage through their commitment to our communities. We should honor their work by implementing these measures, which will go a long way in addressing issues that have plagued New York for far too long.