Slate: The Eleventh Hour #301. Lee Brown. Rec: 2/13/90. Dir: Andrew Wilk
Grants for the program by announcer and overlay the Eleventh Hour graphic.
Guest on the program, Lee Brown, New York City Police Commissioner, and President Elect sitting in studio as Host Lipsyte unseen introduces him.
Host Robert Lipsyte welcomes viewers to the Eleventh Hour and introduces himself.
Lipsyte continues to introduce New York's new Police Commissioner, African American man, Lee Brown. Lipsyte mentions that Brown is coming into the job at a tough time with the increase in violence by the police as well as the "bad guys".
Wide shot in the studio, Lipsyte sitting at a rectangular table across from Brown.
You have said that you are three spiritual mentors so to speak, or Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Those seem like an interesting trio for a cop.
Lee Brown 3:25
Well I've learned a lot, I base my life around the teachings of all three. And I think it makes good sense. I am a Christian. And certainly I believe in the tenets of Christianity as put forth by Jesus. I believe that what Gandhi stood for his country in bringing about the changes, they're dealing with the human rights of people in this country, and indeed, all people that were all would be significant for anyone, regardless of their line of work, their occupation. And certainly Dr. King stood out amongst other great leaders, because he transcended race, transcend religion transcend politics, and he was concerned about people regardless of where they might be. And it seems to me that in the business that I'm in, it's good to have role models that stand for high ideals.
Robert Lipsyte 4:12
This is something I don't get. I mean, these are guys who believed in civil disobedience. These were not guys who believe necessarily in law and order on a on a street level, what what is a cop supposed to do?
Lee Brown 4:27
They believe in, right? What's morally and ethically right. And in the in the instance of King and Gandhi, they use non violence as a means of achieving that. And certainly I believe that every police officer should also be an advocate of non violence. Every police officer should be an advocate of what's right. My the values that guide me and my decision making process are very simple ones, nothing novel. Is it legal? Is it moral? Is it ethical, and using those as guidelines have served me well,
Robert Lipsyte 4:59
in a sense You know, we have the perception that police are supposed to keep the lid on our society keep us safe.
Lee Brown 5:09
And that is the role of the police. It contrary to what we happen to see on television, quite often, where you have a crime that's committed, and a saw within 30 minutes with time off commercials, that's not the case with police work. Police officers spend a tremendously large amount of their time maintaining peace, maintaining order settling disputes, and probably the percentage in which they're evoking the the criminal justice process by making an arrest is relatively small compared to what they spend their time doing in other arenas.
Robert Lipsyte 5:40
This is the ideal. I mean, you're talking about the ideal. Do you think that's that's what's happening in New York? I mean, the perception right now is, when you went to Houston in 1982, the the public prints, saw you as coming in to tame what was I think one of the phrases was a bunch of psychotic cowboys. And that phrase is not, of course, been used for the New York City police. But there is a sense that there is an alienation right now, between the police and the community. And in terms of doing what's right, doing it in a non violent way. It's not happening here.
Lee Brown 6:15
Now, I've been very impressed with the New York City Police Department coming here, I knew it to be the premier police agency in America, I think you'll find that the vast, vast, vast majority of members of the New York Police are doing exactly that, carrying on their chosen profession in a professional manner, providing quality services to the citizens of the city. And that's the tradition that has been established before I got here. That's the tradition that I want to perpetuate,
Robert Lipsyte 6:43
Why doesn't it feel that way out there? And why do a lot of people in the community feel that at its most radical, that they're an occupying force? I mean, how did this
Lee Brown 6:53
I think there's a lot of other dynamics taking place in in our community at this time that extend beyond the police, we find that we have an epidemic of drugs, particularly crack cocaine. And I think that's one of the most serious problems confronting America. And certainly the most serious problem confronting New York at this time, we find that there's a proliferation of illegal handguns or our guns, mainly handguns on the streets of our city, we find that violence on on precipitated violence, even against police officers is something that we're experiencing at this point in time. All these factors create anxiety within the community. And certainly it's a matter of concern for police officers as well. What we have to do, we being those of us involved in law enforcement is in tune to ensure that we continue to work positive positively with the people that we serve. Because it's clear that if we're going to be successful in achieving our mission, we're going to have to have the understanding, support and cooperation of the people that we serve. That's long term. Well, I believe that this study has had a tradition in doing that. The CPAP program, for example, your program, which is a tenet of community policing, is a good example of that many of your programs that I've had a chance to observe here are consistent with what I believe in, the New York City Police Department has been in the forefront of pioneering new concepts.
Robert Lipsyte 8:16
Let me interrupt to Dr. Brown, you believe that. And that's very important, because you have to be positive and you have to make this system work. But a lot of New Yorkers don't feel that certainly black New Yorkers and Hispanic New Yorkers who see a 75% police was a 75%. White, who doesn't live in the community, and a police force that often feels because of its training, the class of radio and television and cop shows, feels frightened in the community.
Lee Brown 8:48
Perceptions are important, whether it's real or not. If people believe something, then that's significant that we have to address it. What we're in the process of doing right now let's take a look at all of that. I've spent a lot of my time talking to people who represent people and people in the community talking to police officers and determining what's on their mind. I have to set the goal for the department if you would develop the vision which we work toward. And that vision, as far as I'm concerned is to make sure that the police are viewed as, as well as being an integral part of the community. It serves no one's purpose if the police are looked upon as being an occupying force. We can't do what we need to do unless we have that support that I referred to earlier. I see a mechanism of doing that. And the mechanism is really building on what already exists in the city in terms of a philosophy of policing that I call community policing. Community policing involves making sure that the officers are if you would partners with the people in the neighborhoods, this city is rich with neighborhoods. We need to capitalize on that and deliver our services around the unique characteristics of neighborhoods, making sure that police are an integral part of that neighborhood neighborhood not apart from it
Robert Lipsyte 9:59
does that this I mean, physically a police officer walking along the street talking to people isn't that what
Lee Brown 10:05
one does not necessarily have to physically walk along the street and talk to people. We've been mobilized with radio cars right now. And we first started mobilize patrol in America, it was a means of getting one place from one place to another, that can still be the same purpose of the cars, one doesn't have to roll the windows up and not talk to people. But we have to also look at many other mechanisms that we have to interact with people. We have strong sense of community here, we have groups that are designed to take care of the quality of life issues in the communities that they are concerned with. We want to be part of that process,
Robert Lipsyte 10:42
Police community work with people who had talked to community groups, go to churches, or schools understand this, your department called recently and we were checking a figure and there are 1400. Police as we speak, there are 1400 foot patrol officers right now on the street, which I guess doesn't seem like an awful lot.
Lee Brown 11:04
What we need to make sure we keep in mind is that foot patrol is a strategy. What I'm thinking and talking about is really a new way of looking at policing, a new style of policing, a new philosophy of policing. And regardless of how you go about delivering that services, it's the way you think about police services. That's what we call community policing.
Robert Lipsyte 11:25
Show us how that that philosophy is going to change perception.
Lee Brown 11:29
To the extent that you have police officers assigned to an area on a permanent basis, what we would want to happen in the future is that there becomes an ownership on the part of the police officers for the people who live or work in that area. By the same token, we want the people who live or work there to develop an ownership toward the police officer. And jointly, we look at what are the issues that are of concern to the people who live in this area? Jointly, we determine what are the best strategies for resolving these issues. And jointly, we use the combined resources of the police and the community to solve problems.
Robert Lipsyte 12:04
Let's take an example. I think the thing that people are talking about this week, at least, are the shootings in which police officers shot in, in several cases, children, teenagers, how would a new philosophy new perceptions and ownership of partnership either avoid such situations or make them easier to deal with
Lee Brown 12:28
To begin with? We have over the past few years, you've seen a decline in police police related shootings in the city this year. So far has been abnormal. So far, we've had 10 shootings involving police officers in the thing that's abnormal is we look, as I look back into the history, we haven't seen that in a long period of time. Now, how does this make a difference there? First of all, I think there's a need to have trust that the police are going to do the right thing and the shootings. And there's a time frame, which doesn't exist right now. Well, that's what we're we have to address if it doesn't exist. Do you have that perception? We have to work on that to make sure it does exist? But would you agree that that we've had a lot of questions about it. And as a result, there's some things that we need to do, we need to make sure that there's an understanding of the process that it takes oftentimes, and it's understandable. From my perspective, people want a resolution to it immediately. But understanding the investigative process, it takes time for the police to undergo an investigation, for example, just in interviewing and getting the officers version, what happens as a minimum of 48 hour delay before we can interview the officers, the average citizen, really not aware of that
Robert Lipsyte 13:37
Thats a department rule.
Lee Brown 13:38
That's a procedure. That's that's been there for years, that we have to wait 48 hours before we conduct the interview. And then then
Robert Lipsyte 13:45
Would you change that, for example, do you think that's too long,
Lee Brown 13:48
we have to find out if it's possible to change it in, I have to find out if it's possible to change isn't law is a union contract. That's what I'm looking at right now. In addition to that, when a shooting takes place, there's more than one aspect of the investigation. There's also a criminal investigation to determine if there were a violation of the criminal law. And in many instances, the prosecutor district attorney would want to wait before we make an administrative inquiry until we take care of the criminal part of it. So that's a message we have to get out to the people that is not cut and dry, as simple as possible as we would like for it to be. And certainly my posture is to reserve judgment until we we have a complete investigation because I have to make some decision. What we're doing right now is changing it to what we call a permanent shift. So officers are working the same shift over and over. We have done that as a pilot project. We're now in the process of developing the strategy to institutionalize it,
Robert Lipsyte 14:41
people see them at the same time all the time.
Lee Brown 14:42
That is correct. And I believe in my experience has proven that to be the case, that to the extent people get to know each other and not only on crisis situations, then there's a better working relationship. One of the concerns I have about New York right now is that we spend about 90% of our time Responding to 911 calls. And keep in mind that that 10% comes at peaks and valleys a minute, two minutes here, there doesn't give the officers time to do the things that we want them to do. How do you address that? Well, we're looking at an assessment of how we assign our personnel. Can we get more officers off there so they can lessen the burden on those that are responding to the 911 calls? Right now? Do we need to resend a radio card every time someone calls? 911? Are there alternative ways of responding to the citizens calls for police services? And they are, and we're exploring those alternatives,
Robert Lipsyte 15:36
not all 911 calls or calls of a criminal nature, we're talking about heart attacks, we're talking about right? Cats in a tree a lot of things, right.
Lee Brown 15:44
So what we're exploring will be a different way, not a lessening of the service level, but a different way of responding. And there's enough information that's available to us now, that suggests that we can respond in different ways. And people will be just as happy with the response.
Robert Lipsyte 15:59
Let me ask you a question. I mean, you are one of the most respected law enforcement officers in the country with a vast experience. Did you think that this is really a very, let me use the word professional job? Yes, I would, I would like to be impolite and say, Have you ever been to Rigo Park? And you will probably say, No,
Lee Brown 16:19
I've been to many parts of the city. And
Robert Lipsyte 16:22
Rego Park is where I was raised in Queens. And I wonder what is it necessary that the police commissioner know, you know, the kind of tiny texture and fabric of the city? Or is there a kind of national international professionalism of police work,
Lee Brown 16:39
I think you bring a combination of both. I bring 30 years of experience in this business, I bring 15 years, having served as a chief executive of law enforcement agencies in different parts of the country. And so I have a good background in the policing profession. Also, I clearly understand that one doesn't necessarily translate our transport a program from one jurisdiction to another. And therefore, it's important for me to get to know the city as rapidly as possible. And part of my agenda is to do that.
Robert Lipsyte 17:11
Do you think that the problems of New York really are idiosyncratic or are they problems you have faced and solved, or at least wrestled with,
Lee Brown 17:19
but the problems are very similar to problems I've been dealing with in other parts of the country, clear the magnitude of the problems are greater, because of the large city in the large population. But that's all relative to the number of people, we have to address the problems. And so my role is to take an organization that's already distinguished itself and keep it going in that positive direction. I have a good sense of what good police work is about, I have a good sense of what values for policing, good values for policing should be.
Robert Lipsyte 17:50
But in a sense of that, let me let me quote from your sermon at St. John, the divine last week, in which he talked about hiring police officers in a spirit of service, not adventure.
Lee Brown 18:01
That's a value, what do we want our police officers to do? We want them to go out and help people solve problems that impact the quality of life in the neighborhoods, we don't want people to come in, it looks a person to come in, it looks only for the excitement of the red lights of the fire and the running from place to place. And the things that we see on television because television gives not to picture what police works about. So we want to make sure that the people that we hire, fit what we want our police officers to do, and that's what I mean, by hiring in the spirit of service about adventurer, and
Robert Lipsyte 18:37
in the spirit of essentially your career. I mean, you've got a lot of degrees, you have a master's degree, a PhD in criminology. And in a sense, if you will, you're a kind of corporate police officer, you've moved from city to city you've moved up you've kind of brought a body of experience, from from place to place, which is seems different, it seems to a certain extent, at odds of perhaps our perception of if not an adventurer with a gun, at least somebody you know, on the streets for many, many years in one place.
Lee Brown 19:16
Well, I think that's an advantage that I have in coming here. And particularly New York, I think there's a good compatibility between what I've been about over the last particularly 15 years where I've headed law enforcement agencies, and what the New York Police has been about the last several years. So New York's pioneered and things like affirmative action women on patrol, and community policing. Those are the same things I worked hard for in other places. So my coming here as the Commissioner is a good match between a police agency agency is headed in a certain direction, what I bring into the agency. So what I believe in is consistent with what the New York City police team has been about for the past few years.
Robert Lipsyte 19:57
And yet with all these progressive things that you talked about, it's odd that you were against an all civilian review board for the police. Why is that?
Lee Brown 20:07
It's important to deal with definitions that issue was raised when I was in Houston, the proposal there was to take the whole disciplinary process out from the police department, and create a separate body to receive and investigate allegations of misconduct or conduct on the part of police officers that take disciplinary action. And I strongly oppose that I still do. And the people in Houston shared my position that it did not come about. The issue here is a lot different. For years, this city has had its civilian complaint Review Board. At one time, the there was a mixture of it wasn't a mixture of civilians in context of the mayor making appointments last couple of years. Now, the mayor appoints six the police commissioner point six employees that are non uniform employees. I don't have any problem with that. And the reason I don't because the commissioner still maintains control over the discipline of the employees in the police department, I think it'd be a drastic mistake to move discipline from the commissioner. Because if you do, you can't hold the commissioner accountable. The commissioner is responsible for the integrity of the department. And discipline is an important tool of management. And so we're talking really about two different things we talked about. If you have the responsibility, you want the power as well, certainly, it's my responsibility and and what exists here. It's something that I support. Well, we'll look at this mixture, because it's only been in operation for a few years to see what it means. And I don't see a necessity of rushing trying to do something different at this point in time.
Robert Lipsyte 21:35
I think we have a sense of your philosophy. And it's certainly something that is fascinating that we could be comfortable with. But I guess we still want to have some quick fixes. We want to have somebody who's going to say something about getting those guns off the street, making us feel safer. And in a sense, maybe even whether this is a true perception or not raining back, a police department that might be fearful, and is responding in a fearful manner,
Lee Brown 22:06
I have a good appreciation for what's out there on the streets. I have an appreciation what the officers have to deal with day in and day out. These are not the best of times when you start talking about policing the city, particularly a city is large and complex as New York, we do have, as I mentioned earlier, an epidemic of drugs. Crack cocaine is a very, very serious problem. To the extent I don't think most Americans recognize the severity of the problem. We do have a proliferation of illegal guns on the streets, we do have people who are committing violence at an unprecedented level, really unprecedented violence. As to what we used to know, we find that drug problems really pushing the crime problem between 30 and 40% of the homicides we experienced in our city are drug related. And I would submit this probably even a conservative figure. So these are rough times. We have police officers who have to deal with that. What we have to understand is that when we talk about the problems and the complexity of the problems we're concerned about, we can't look at crime drug as being just a police problem. And I say that about by following up if we ask the question, Why does one commit crime? Why does one use drugs? I don't care what the answer is, I think we all would agree that the police do not control those factors that produce criminal behavior, illegal behavior. And so we have to be concerned about the chance to the schools that support the Chancellor and his efforts to make sure that people get quality education, we have to be concerned when we look at the workplace, we find that people no longer earn their living by using their hands that though the work market now is a place where people have to use their mind and not getting an education is not conducive to getting the job and not getting a job leads people into trouble. If we look at our prisons and jails, we find that the people we're concerned about here, the ones I talked about, the ones who are uneducated, unskilled, and and unemployable are the ones that end up in the criminal justice system. And so all of that is to say, when we talk about crime and and safety, we have to accept it as being a community problem. Now, there are two levels of addressing it, people need immediate relief. And that's where the police come in. We made over 100,000 arrests for narcotics in this city. That's not going to solve the problem. But you have to give immediate relief to people because they're suffering in their neighborhoods. But at the same time, we have to look at education, keeping people from using drugs, with a look at our treatment, because addiction is a big part of the drug problem. To the extent that one is addicted and a large number that people were arrested are they are going to commit crimes to support their habit. All of that is to say that this is not a simple issue. It's a complex problem, and there are no quick fixes work
Robert Lipsyte 24:43
to complicate it even further. Do you think race is relevant in this discussion?
Lee Brown 24:47
Well, to the extent that if we accept the fact that there are social economic reasons why people get involved in in crime or drugs and to the extent that there is a difference in their relative degree of deprivation based on race, then yes, we have to say we have to consider race.
Robert Lipsyte 25:04
Does that complicate police work in and again, police force that 75%. White,
Lee Brown 25:10
I think we could overcome that, that that process of complicating police work. But it does raise issues. And particularly when we find that there are racial incidents that occur in our city, that also must be addressed, we have to have an environment where people feel secure in their neighborhoods, to the extent that you find that not existing for whatever reason that it does complicate police work. If race is an issue that brings about division, then that's a problem that we have to deal with.
Robert Lipsyte 25:38
Supposedly, there'll be a demonstration this week in which the body of one of the teenage boys shot by the police will be brought to the steps of City Hall. This is something else you're going to have to deal with. So early in your career here.
Lee Brown 25:55
I think it's important that we look at the deaths that have occurred, those are events that we all have to be sad about, I probably one the most difficult things I have to deal with as a police commissioner is death, the death of a citizen, and particularly the death of a citizen when the police officers involved death of a police officer, those are the most difficult things that I have to deal with. As a, as a community, we have to be saddened when someone loses their life, particularly young people. It hurts within the police department to we feel the pain when someone loses their life, particularly a young person. But we have to look at those incidents and not linked them together. There's no correlation between one and the other. We have three young people that have been killed by police action. This year. 17 year old that we're looking at, we haven't reached conclusion on a 14 year old, we have to reach conclusion on the investigation and a 13 year old and they're all are different in one way or the other. The 13 year old, for example, unfortunately, the person came up to the police officer with a gun. We know that from the preliminary investigation. So there's a difference between that and the other two. And we have to complete the investigation. So we can tell you more about what happened in the other two instances, then we are able to do now. But what we have to hopefully get everyone to understand that takes a little longer to complete investigation than we would like. We don't want to compromise the integrity of the investigation for the speed and then we all be sad if we make the wrong call. So we got to do a thorough complete investigation and then do what's right based on the outcome of the investigation.
Robert Lipsyte 27:32
So we'll look forward to that into your career in New York. Welcome to New York Comissioner brown Thank you very much for being with us. That's the 11th hour I'm Robert Lipsyte
Interview concludes and Host Lipsyte welcomes Lee Brown to New York and thanks him.
Host Lipsyte announces the show and introduces himself. Show ends.
Pan out from Lipsyte and Brown, show credits overlay.
Charitable funding by announcer and overlay the Eleventh Hour graphic.
Description: The Eleventh Hour - Show #301 Title: Lee Brown Guest: Lee Brown, New York City Police Commissioner Original Broadcast Date: 2-13-90
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