Former Black NYPD Police Commissioner Shares His Experience

“I was aware of that, and I had done my own research to find out what was going on between the police and the community, and between the communities themselves,” former Black NYPD Police Chief, Lee Brown recounts how he proficiently handled the famous 1991 Crown Heights riots.

It is estimated that at least one Black person gets gunned down by police every day. Many black people have taken to the street to protest what they call systematic oppression. Not all of these protests have gone smoothly, as the police on many occasions have resorted to using brutal means to stop the protests.

Former Black NYPD Police Chief Lee Brown who handled the crown heights riot that lasted from August 19 to August 21, 1991, was heavily criticized for the way he handled the rioters, but in fact if more Police chiefs were like him, the rising tensions between Black communities and the police would have subsided a little.

The then Black Police Chief, Brown was accused of letting rioters run amok. Many people claimed he intentionally delayed police response to allow the rioting black population in Crown Heights to vent their anger to the detriment of the Jews. But in fact, it was his swift and tactical approach to the problem that stopped what could have engulfed the nation in flames from becoming a national problem.

Despite receiving heavy criticism from both the press, government officials and some members of the community, Lee Brown still defends his decision. He and then-Mayor David Dinkins were present on the scene within minutes of the riots to calm people. They spent the next few days of the riot addressing the complaints of the rioters and strengthening the relationship between the Jews and the African-Americans. America was lucky to have had a man of such integrity in charge of the police force at the time of the riot.

Today many Police chiefs’ approach to controlling protesters is to send out scores of officers armed with full riot gears with the command, “stop them no matter what it takes.” The protests would have reduced, or maybe even stopped, if instead of simply breaking up protests these police departments did more to address the underlying tension between them and the communities.

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