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Edward D. Reuss
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The New York newspapers report that the “rank and file” of the NYPD feel that they have been betrayed by Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly by his statement that “there appears to be no justification” for the use of deadly physical force by Police Officer Richard Neri of the NYPD Housing Unit.  The President of the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association disagrees strongly with the action of Commissioner Kelly.

 Let’s take a look at the facts. The shooting occurred at one o’clock in the morning on the roof top of 385 Lexington Avenue, Brooklyn which is in the confines of the 79th Precinct.  The location is a building in the “Louis Armstrong Houses”, a NY City Housing Authority complex.  I went to the NYC website and obtained the following facts about the 79th Precinct:

The 79th Precinct is located in northern Brooklyn in the Bedford Stuyvesant section. The geographical area of the precinct is a mere 1.2 square miles. It is primarily a residential area with some light factories, warehouses and five City Housing developments. The 2002 Census numbered the community population at 82,947.

The question of why police officers take their weapons out of their holsters while patrolling the rooftops of buildings needs examination. First, what kinds of crime occur in the area that Officer Neri patrols?

We have all heard about COMPSTAT. The Compstat records of the NYPD are available for any citizen with a PC.  Just go to
The NYPD Compstat records for the 79th Precinct are available at the following link:


The Compstat records for the 79th Precinct reveal that in the year 2002 there were over 600 robberies in the 79th Precinct.  In the current year, 2004, we only have the month of January, however, there has been a 28.5% increase in robberies over 2003. There were 52 robberies in the last 28 days. The statistics also show that ten years ago, there were over 2,000 robberies in the 79th Precinct!   In law enforcement circles, the crime of robbery is known as the “bell weather crime” because it is a true measure of crime in an area. It is an especially feared crime due to the violence associated with it.

Let’s see. Over 600 robberies in one year.  Over 50 robberies so far this January in an area of 1.2 square miles. I wonder if we should consider that a “high-crime area”? Do you think cops working in an area with those statistics should exercise caution when they patrol deserted and darkened areas such as rooftops at 1AM?  How about allowing them to draw their weapons when they investigate suspicious activity?  Gee, that’s a tough one.
There was an article written by Alicia Colon for the New York Sun that appeared in the January 28, 2004 issue.
She wrote an interesting piece because she grew up in the Carver Housing Project in Manhattan. She remembers living in fear as a child as a virtual prisoner in her apartment due to the crime. Read this article:


 Officer Neri is a member of the NYPD Housing Unit that is responsible to patrol 385 Lexington Avenue. He is an eleven year veteran of the NYPD.  He has never had a previous incident of discharging his weapon, and is not the subject of civilian complaints of brutality. Gee, I guess we couldn’t say he was “trigger-happy” could we?


I have written about the necessity for retaining the 48 hour rule.
The issue of the “48 hour rule” continually comes into play whenever police officers use deadly physical force.  For those not familiar with the rule, click on the following link to read more about the issue. 48 HOUR RULE
The rule has been criticized by members of the press.  However, there are very valid reasons why the rule should be retained by the NYPD.

That brings us to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Twelve hours after the shooting incident, Commissioner Kelly spoke with the press and stated that preliminary investigation of the shooting reveals that there appears to be no justification for the use of deadly physical force.  Did Kelly speak too soon? Did he make a determination before “all the facts are in” or before the officer had the opportunity to speak with the District Attorney? Well, I have news for those criticizing Ray Kelly. All the facts won’t be in for quite some time. The officer was placed on “Modified Assignment” rather than being suspended without pay as in past incidents.  That was a judgment call of Ray Kelly.  Until the “facts are all in”, that is, when the Grand Jury completes its job, the officer and his family will continue to remain on the payroll. The preliminary finding of the use of deadly physical force is determined by the team of ranking officers who responded to the scene. That team of ranking officers have become expert in such investigations. Did Kelly sit in his office in One Police Plaza and have the Brooklyn North Borough Commander, or the Chief of the NYPD Housing Unit take the heat by finding the shooting unjustified?
Did he wait until political opportunists could spread false rumors throughout the community? Did he delay making a decision to that the media would suspect a “cover-up” by the police? Were we to be subjected to another round of accusations of a “blue wall of silence”?
No.  Kelly took the action that a commander must take.

Here’s a thought:  The US Army in Iraq are now engaging in what can be best be described as “police duty” in restoring order to that country. They are experiencing just how difficult policing really is. There have been many incidents of “friendly fire” where the innocent have been killed by mistake.  Should we institute criminal charges against our soldiers who make those mistakes?   Who would entertain such actions? I say this to illustrate just how difficult policing has become in our time. 

Those of us who are retired remember previous police commissioners without the backbone to support our cops  in the street.  We remember the so-called “police riots” in Tompkins Square Park in 1988 when our police commissioner turned his back on us as the NYPD was pilloried in the media. 
We also remember a police commissioner who left our men and women police officers without support during the Crown Heights disturbances in the summer of 1991.  Were it not for First Deputy Commissioner Ray Kelly responding to the 71st Precinct and taking charge, those cops would have continued to retreat before the mobs in the street.

The Grand Jury will do its work and Officer Neri will have his chance to give his explanation.   The men and women of the NYPD have the right man in the job as Police Commissioner. He is a good man. Don’t lose faith in him. 

For the story on the shooting go to:

Copyright 2004 Edward D Reuss




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