The room was filled to capacity and many had to stand in the back during the course of the meeting.
The Macedonia Baptist Church, located at 330 Beach 67 Street, was filled to capacity on March 19, as hundreds of people from the eastern sector of the peninsula attended an NAACP meeting. The meeting was called to address allegations of misconduct by the Queens Narcotics Unit in the Far Rockaway area. Two such cases were featured in separate front-page stories that appeared recently in The Wave.
"We want the police to do their jobs. We want crime down in our communities, but we also want them to respect us and our civil rights in the process," said Reverend Evan Gray, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church. Grey is also a co-chair of Police Matters for the Far Rockaway Branch of the NAACP.
The attendees were comprised of different ethnic backgrounds, young and old, and many noted concerns about questionable police procedures they have witnessed or experienced.
"This is not an attempt on our part to discredit the New York City Police Department. We are not plotting against them, as some would have you believe. This meeting is a public meeting to take the complaints of the community. We purposely requested that police and elected officials not be a part of this meeting because we want to gather all the information and facts so that they can be presented to Commissioner Kelly and others. We don't need a middleman. Other communities in this city have banded together to have their concerns addressed, and we are going to handle our business," said NAACP Far Rockaway Chapter President Ed Williams.
Flornell Myers talks in depth about the night 25 Queens Narcotics officers entered her home.
"The day will come when we will meet with representatives of the NYPD, and in particular the Queens Narcotics Unit, but we have to take care of our house in order first. They must understand that no longer will the community be dictated to. We'll get the facts and supportive evidence, and then we'll meet with them. It's a new day, and we are sick and tired of having our civil rights violated," continued Williams.
Flornell Myers, whose story was one of those featured in The Wave, talked in detail about what happened to her and her family during a raid by 25 Queens Narcotics officers.
"I want the police to do their job, but they have to be held accountable when they mistreat innocent people and violate their civil rights," said a teary-eyed Myers.
Williams went on to mention the Hines case to the audience. By this time, there was a line going out of the door and up the steps of the church.
Reverend Evan Gray spoke out against illegal police procedures.
Others who attended the packed meeting included NAACP dignitaries, a coalition of clergymen and ministers, Bernard Gassaway (Beach Channel High School Principal), Curtis Archer (Executive Director of Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation) and Robert Simmons (Chair of Police Matters for the Far Rockaway Branch of the NAACP).
In the week that followed, there was an even greater turnout for the monthly NAACP meeting, which was held at Junior High School 198. The forum featured prominent officials from the Queens Narcotics Division, the Queens District Attorney's office. The estimated number of participants was between three and four hundred.
William questioned the panel about the procedures used in both the Myers and Hines case, and representatives from Queens Narcotics strongly defended those involved in executing a search warrant.
"We allow the person to see the warrant if requested. In the case of the Myers family, a no-knock warrant was issued and executed. People have to understand that executing a search warrant is a very dangerous procedure. An officer is placed in a situation of extreme jeopardy in this act. The public needs to understand that," said the Queens Narcotics official.
Robert Adams, the brother of Eric Adams (who is President of 100 Blacks In Law Enforcement, and an NYPD lieutenant), spoke to the crowd about his brother's fight against illegal police procedures.
"Following procedures and executing them effectively is one thing, but to destroy a family's home and humiliate them in the process, when they were never charged with a crime is another. To this day, the family has not been charged with a crime, they have not been compensated for damages, and not one person from Queens Narcotics, the NYPD or the district attorney's office has apologized. This community has a problem with that, and the NAACP has a problem with that," said Williams.
The Queens Narcotics representatives also noted that the information they received to obtain a search warrant from a judge was, in fact, gathered from a paid informant.
"There is something seriously flawed with the system when the NYPD uses a source that is paid, and that source ends up providing them with the wrong information. This has been happening in our community for far too long, and it's a new day. This is going to stop," said the Far Rockaway chapter President.
At the end of the forum, Eric Adams, an NYPD lieutenant and President of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, received an enormous ovation as he stood up to address the crowd.
"Let us understand that there are some real problems with regard to policing methods in our communities. I have worked alongside officers and witnessed it first hand. People in the department have called me anti-police for speaking out. I'm here to say that I am very pro-police, but I am also pro-civil rights. No one should be abused or mistreated under any circumstances," said Adams.
While Adams held members of the police department and Mayor Guiliani accountable for the deterioration of police-community relations, he placed equal blame on community residents for allowing drug dealers and repeat offenders to flourish in their community.
"Do I want to see criminals and dangerous felons off the streets? You're damn right I want to see them off the streets! We have to be willing to step up and let the police know who these guys are. We, as residents of the community, have to take action to get them out of our communities. We need to take care of business, so no one else will have to come in our house to do it," said the lieutenant.
A meeting between the Far Rockaway chapter members, national NAACP representatives, and NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly is expected to take place sometime in April.