New Yorkers want and deserve a city where cops and community work together, one where our kids move on to college or a career, not a crew. In the 34th Precinct in Washington Heights, the Neighborhood Coordinating Officers (NCOs) and residents are making this a reality. On Saturday afternoon, the NCOs and their fellow precinct officers held a Back to School Festival at PS 48. The precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Chris Morello, was there, too, but said, “These cops took the initiative and planned this event themselves.”
In collaboration with the NCOs, local business offered their support, including food, school supplies, and entertainment. Hundreds of kids and parents played games, enjoyed bouncy houses and inflatable slides, and danced to a DJ. Representatives of the NYPD’s Law Enforcement Explorers program were on hand, as was Jennifer Araujo, the Community Coordinator for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Family Justice Center. The new Crime Stoppers van and K9 officers and their furry partners helped remind participants of some of the things the NYPD does to keep New Yorkers safe. And through it all, officers distributed bags and knapsacks, and dished out hamburgers and hotdogs—and plenty of water and juice as the day grew hot.
For an event dedicated to bringing cops and kids together, the location couldn’t have been more appropriate: PS 48 is better known as the Police Officer Michael J. Buczek School. Officer Buczek gave his life for the neighborhood in 1988, and since then his memory and his family have remained intertwined with the Heights and Inwood, particularly through the local Little League. That example of community embedment lives on today in the NYPD’s new Neighborhood Policing model, and the prescriptions of the Department’s Plan of Action.
When both sides reach out, we realize that the distance between the police and the people isn’t as great as it seems. We realize that public safety is a shared responsibility. And we realize that having one city, safe and fair, everywhere for everyone, is closer than we think.