Did other organizations or people within the community help limit the intensity of the conflict or help resolve it? Who? How?
[Full Interview] [Topic Top]
The police, they had a
curfew and the police have a way of enforcing curfews among black folk. white folk can go
on about their business uninterrupted, right? And yet the police run around, and every time
they see a black, a car with a lot of blacks in it, they are running up there questioning that.
Sticking their shot guns in the window and these kinds of things that provoke not only
mistrust, but great anger. So I had to tell the governor, Rockefeller, at the time, and I said,
"Governor, tonight I want you to go out in the black area with me." Naturally the rest of the
staff hit the ceiling. "The governor go out there?" I say, "yeah, I'm out there and I don't know
anyone more important than me." I said, "I want the governor to see how the police are
conducting themselves." I said, "no mind can tell him, can describe what he's got to see. I'm
not asking him to go out unprotected, his cars going to be, I'm sure, packed up with police in
there. There's going to be a police car in front of him, unmarked I hope and one behind him.
The governor just must see what's going on." And sure enough, he came out that night and I
got in the car with him. And right in front of us was a group of blacks, five of them, who were
hospital workers, right? They had a need to be coming through there. They lived in there and
they got off at the hospital at 11:30 that night. So, the police immediately acted like they were
criminals and violators after the curfew. The police stopped the car and, in a storm trooper
kind of way, made them get out of the car, and you could hear the language, which was foul.
They were called n*****s and all of that. I said, "Do you hear that governor? Do you see what
I'm talking about?" He was so incensed the next morning he called together the chief of police,
the head of the national guard unit, and all of those. He said, "Ozell persuaded me to get out,"
you see they didn't know, until then, that the governor was out in the field. Said, "Ozell
persuaded me to go with him last night and I was so incensed! I just want you to know that
your conduct out of there is just wild, and uncontrolled, and unnecessary." The mayor was
there and he said, "Mr. Mayor, let me tell you one thing. I will take over this city. Ozell now
told me there was a curfew and telling you and seeing it is a different matter. I will take over
this city so quickly it will get you swimming in your head. Now I don't want any more
conduct in that manner. I'm going to have the state police all out there where you are.
Everybody is going to be reporting to me every 15 minutes, every time you stop a car I want to
know what happened." And he talked about it, said, "Well, that group was one man and three
women coming from the hospital," and they ran over there and stuck their guns in the window
and made them get out of the car and were treated in such a way that nobody would want his
wife treated. I am incensed by the whole thing." And the whole police methods changed after
that. So I just go around describing it.
Was that a long lasting kind of change?
Yes, because after the crisis was over the governor was insisting upon it.
[Full Interview] [Topic Top]
What is the response of the enforcement and investigatory communities to CRS'
They have come to see us as another federal partner that can build a bridge with them if they
are unable to do it at that time. It's important to be able to do that especially now, since here, in
this part of the country, they have less time available to the community. They really have not
logistically been able to get to talk with the communities themselves. Our outreach and
solidifying relationships help shapes the kinds of questions with which they are going to be
faced. We are setting up the second sets of meetings within the next several weeks, with our
federal partners so they will have better understanding of the types of scenarios and cases that the
community has been presenting to us so that their time is reduced in terms of how they focus on
the community concerns. We are channeling information more directly around the community
concerns and it's more preparatory for them. It also functions in a second way for us,
systematically. We have to keep community tension levels down. It's particularly important here
because community tension and escalation winds up adversely effecting the recovery effort in
New York City and New Jersey. Community stability is critical to the recovery effort. If you
have community instability, the recovery effort is completely retarded. If law enforcement has to
deal with community instability or community tension issues, then it's diverted away from its
investigatory activity. Our role has become not more expanded, but the mission is more critical.
We had really solid relationships with the community groups. We are now able to move toward
working with the umbrella groups in the community, again return to those, and now have merged
those two, between the community advocacy groups and the umbrella groups in the communities
that include Asian and Pacific Islanders in coalitions with the Muslims and South Asians. We
are able to move both those two sets of sectors along with the INS and the New York
Immigration Service and immigration coalition groups into better communication with the
federal partners. This is the next step. All around reducing community tension, depressurizing
the situation, responding to community interests and concerns, and providing avenues for
dialogue between community interests and federal law enforcement.
[Full Interview] [Topic Top]
So we had a plan that tried to find
intermediaries in these communities where perhaps someone who was trusted in that community,
could help serve a warrant, so that a routine legal matter could be taken care of without police
being blasted away. And in discussing this with the police chief of Richmond, California it
seemed to work fine. The chief listened to us and he thanked us. He then wrote a scathing letter
to Attorney General John Mitchell expressing surprise that "You would have people like this
working for the Justice Department who would not have police do their required work in a
required manner.” So we got complaints that way when they disagreed with what we