2006-12-22 / Front Page

Sanders, Conflicted On Police, Seeks A Plan To Fight Violence

Closed-Door Meeting Today To Find Consensus - Analysis Of The News
By Howard Schwach

Closed-Door Meeting Today To Find Consensus -
Analysis Of The News

City Councilman James Sanders, Jr., is a man in conflict. On the one hand, he recently marched down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan shoulder to shoulder with the Reverend Al Sharpton and the New Black Panther Party demanding that police power be truncated and that all NYPD undercover activities be suspended in the wake of the shooting death of Rockaway resident Sean Bell at a Jamaica strip joint. On the other hand, he is meeting today with other local politicians and city officials to discuss a plan that would bring increased police activity to Rockaway in the wake of three recent homicides and a spate of shooting incidents, including one on Wednesday in which cops were the targets of the shots.

“We can no longer tolerate this wanton violence,” Sanders told The Wave in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “This is an extremely serious situation with complex roots. This is not going to go away overnight.”

“We have to bring in the cops and punish these people to the fullest extent of the law,” Sanders added.

When it was pointed out to the councilman that the previous week he had taken a diametrically-opposed position in the Sean Bell case, calling for a reduction of police in the black community, Sanders said, “I want cops who are assertive but not aggressive. We have to try to be consistent with what we say, and I have failed to say publicly that undercover cops are heroes and many of them make the ultimate sacrifice to protect their community.”

“I don’t like hypocrisy,” he said, “but sometimes it’s there.”

Sanders declined to go into the basics of the “skeleton” of a plan that he was to present today to those invited to his meeting. He said that he specifically excluded the press so that “real work could be done.”

He did say, however, that his plan would be multi-tiered, including a jobs component, an educational component and training youth coordinators to fight gang violence.

Sanders said that while this meeting is closed to the press and the public, another meeting would be held in the near future that will be open to everyone.

“People have the right to know how we plan to stop this terrible activity,” he said.

He added that he and other black leaders had been planning to begin an attack on gun violence after the first of the year.

“So much for waiting for the New Year,” he said. “This is something that has to be addressed now.”

Sanders’ comments come in the wake of three homicides in the black community over the past two weeks.

Christopher Glenn, 16, was shot and killed on November 27 outside his apartment building at 51-15 Almeda Avenue in Arverne.

Cedric Smalls, 18, of 7600 Shore Front Parkway, was shot and killed on December 15, in front of 81-03 Beach Channel Drive in Hammels.

Tashon Spurgeon, 25, of 51-11 Almeda Avenue, was run over and then shot and killed outside his brother’s home at 407 Fernside Place in Wavecrest.

In addition to the three homicides in a short timespan, there have been more than six “shots fired” calls in Rockaway, including one early Thursday morning in which police officers investigating those homicides were reportedly shot at.

Sanders and other black leaders are considering organizing a community march to address the recent spate of homicides and gun events in the community.

Sanders told The Wave that the shootings are related to gang activity around the Hammel Houses.

NYPD Captain Brian McMahon told a community meeting on Wednesdays that there are many factors contributing to the recent murders and shootings. “Some of them as basic as two groups not getting along and even some past incidents that go back to 2001.”

He said that he could not discuss some aspects of the ongoing investigation, but added cryptically, “Anytime somebody gets arrested, [they suspect] someone gave them up.”

He added that the police department has brought in new resources to solve the shooting cases, including the South Queens Task Force and the Queens Warrent Squad, a specialized team that searches for criminals with active arrest warrants. Locals have noted that the Queens Homicide Squad is actively working the case as well. McMahon, whose precinct usually bears the major brunt of homicides and gun events on the Rockaway peninsula, was optimistic about the chances of catching those who committed the recent crimes.

“A lot of people are working on these cases,” he said. “We fully expect a lot of the shootings and homicides to be solved.”

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