Earlier this week, the RIRA Public Safety Committee submitted the following statement to the RIRA Common Council for consideration at its next meeting. The RIRA Common Council has not approved or adopted the following statement; the position herein is that of the Public Safety Committee. We expect that the statement will generate much debate within the Common Council. The RIRA Common Council invites you to attend the next Common Council meeting, Wednesday, March 14, at 8:00 p.m. in the Good Shepherd Community Center to voice your opinion.
On Sunday, February 18, RIRA member Joyce Short held a public protest with about 10 people. The small action alleged a Public Safety Department (PSD) cover-up of a pattern of public lewdness, including public masturbation, as well as deficiencies in PSD handling of one specific case that occurred in 2017. There have been up to five such reported cases over the past year that have been reviewed by PSD leadership and discussed with the RIRA Public Safety Committee (PSC). Their review counters and challenges any idea that a widespread pattern of such behavior or a cover-up by PSD leadership has occurred.
The Public Safety Committee (PSC) has engaged RIOC and the leadership of PSD in discussion of this issue extensively, including with the survivor of the 2017 incident present. There were several regular PSC meetings where the issue of sexual harassment and lewd public behavior was vigorously engaged. Dialogue, although tense at times, was not only possible but productive. Solutions to errors were found and changes have been and are scheduled to be made.
Although numerous mistakes were made on all levels, the RIRA PSC does not support the allegation of a PSD cover-up, or of a widespread pattern of such behavior on Roosevelt Island, from the documentation we have seen.
During discussions, the PSD Leadership acknowledged deficiencies in numerous areas, initiated by the miscommunication of the officer who answered and logged the original request for service incorrectly in the 2017 incident. Chief McManus and Deputy Director Brown have showed a willingness to dialogue, and, as errors were discovered, an openness to find solutions and take corrective actions.
The PSC has supported, in collaboration with RIOC and the PSD leadership, a Town Hall meeting where Islanders are provided with the opportunity to discuss this question and will continue to present RIRA’s willingness to host such an event.
While the PSC defends all Islanders’ right to protest any grievances, we also feel that the broad charges thrown out by Joyce Short need to be backed up by fact. The PSC would point to the example of the successful effort in 2013 and 2014 – which Joyce Short opposed – where the Keith Guerra Administration of PSD was removed after the PSC and the community documented, with facts and testimony, a genuine pattern of abuse and brutality. Joyce Short has not shared with the PSC any documentation that justifies her allegations and appears to be swinging blindly.
The PSC invites residents who have experienced acts of public lewdness, reported, or not, to let us know. Your confidentiality will be respected. This shouldn’t happen to anyone, and we must be able, as a community, to safely take actions to stop it. If this is a larger problem than it appears to be from the reported cases, let us gather testimony and facts so we can bring it to the PSD leadership and find solutions.
Do you agree with the Public Safety Committee’s position? Come to the next RIRA Common Council meeting on March 14 at 8:00 p.m. in the Good Shepherd Community Center and engage in the debate.
Chair, Public Safety Commitee