‘This is what community spirit is all about’: Police and Bronx residents call for unity at town hall

Police hold a anti-violence town hall on Aug. 6
Photo by Jason Cohen

As COVID-19 and racial tensions have marred the city over the past five months, Bronxites and the police recently came together for a day filled with basketball, food and even the borough president rapping.

On Aug.6, this fun afternoon concluded with an anti-violence town hall held by the police at 169th Street between Third and Park Avenues.

“We wanted to do something special for the kids and the parents,” said Chief of Community Affairs Jeffrey Maddrey. “This is what community spirit is all about. This whole city is struggling with gun violence right now.”

Maddrey was joined by Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison and Assistant Chief Kenneth Lehr. Maddrey explained that getting guns off the streets is not an easy fix.

He shared that he grew up surrounded by guns, but it never crossed his mind to use one in a harmful way. Harrison discussed the recent uptick in violence and recognized Eve Hendricks, the mother of Brandon Hendricks, the 17-year-old basketball player who was killed last month.

He also acknowledged Detective Pat Blank, who had worked in the central robbery unit for many years, but recently transitioned to helping youth. He began teaching football to kids in Rockaway and showing them how to focus on sports instead of drugs and gangs.

“This is the kind of work that’s being done in the NYPD and sometimes not being recognized,” Harrison said. “He’s doing the right thing and helping kids get in the right direction.”

Attendees at the event shared the same message that the community must fix itself in order to improve. Pamela Johnson, the president of the 47th Precinct Community Council, told the cops that community council meetings create more relationships between cops and residents and wanted to know if they could be put on Zoom.

Lehr fully supported holding the meeting virtually and said he would look into it.

“I’ve always felt community council meetings are a great platform for people to come out and talk about issues in their precinct,” Lehr said.

Resident Chaz Greene heaped praise on the police and elected officials. He commended Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson for always being in the trenches and showed love to District Attorney Darcel Clark as well.

He noted that years ago, he was attacked and almost killed and felt the former DA did not do him justice. But as he looked at the current state of the Bronx and the city, he said that he was disturbed.

“The disrespect and stupidity needs to end,” he stressed. “We can not only expect the police department to police the kids. Do not be afraid of getting your community back. Then the police department can help us save ourselves.”

Barbara Holmes said the media may make it seem like police are the problem, but she agreed with Greene that the people within the community are equally at fault.

She questioned where the parents were to teach their children how to act with respect.

“It breaks my heart to see so many people and young kids killing one another,” Holmes stated. “We don’t make guns but they come here and they’re sold to these gangs and we use them. We have to do more.”

She recalled how recently, 14 young boys came into her building looking for a kid who stole $50. Holmes said they were not all beating him up. She asked whose money it was and said that he could go get it and told the rest to leave.

The teen got his money back and there was no violence. Afterwards she spoke to the boy who was going to attack him over a measly $50.

“Let me talk to you, let me hug you,” she said. “I don’t know what your parents have told you, but Miss Holmes is telling you that I love you and I don’t want you to go to jail.”

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