The NYPD and the Interfaith Center of New York held a joint event last night to unveil their new police training film, “Policing in Today’s Multi-Faith New York,” which will be part of a new online training program that will be mandatory for students in the NYPD Police Academy.
The film is a long-in-the-making response to a 2011 controversy over the use of “The Third Jihad” to train officers. Although it had never been officially authorized for use at the Police Academy, the 73-minute film generated quite a bit of bad press for the NYPD when it was shown to recruits. For instance, a Village Voice story called the video, which posits that the Muslim religion uniquely encourages world domination, “toxic” and even quotes then-Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, who called it “wacky” and “inappropriate.”
Of course, if educational materials encourage animosity between police and minority groups, they’re not just inappropriate but dangerous, making events like Thursday night’s all the more urgently needed.
“There’s no way we can see our cities safe if there is no communication,” said Rev. Que English of the Bronx, who participated in a panel discussion following the video, alongside Rabbi Robert Kaplan, Rev. Chole Breyer, Imam Tahir Kukaj, and Baba Antonio Mondesire.
Rabbi Kaplan referred to all the panel-participants as his “dear friends,” and that sentiment of good-will and community was widespread throughout the night.
Still, the most important communication for the NYPD is often the most difficult to make, as Rev. Breyer reminded audiences.
“You don’t need to agree with your partners about everything,” said Breyer.
She also pointed out that community relations have improved for the NYPD since controversies like the “Third Jihad” video drove division in the city.
“The impression that was received at one point was ‘Either you’re with us or against us.’ I think that has changed, enabling the possibility of partnerships for the good, where you don’t have to see eye-to-eye on every issue. That’s really important because I think that’s how our democracy works,” Breyer said.
Rabbi Kaplan agreed that things have gotten better, pointing out that his community in Crown Heights recently came together to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Crown Heights riot.
“How do you celebrate a riot?” Kaplan asked. “We’re celebrating that we haven’t gotten to the point of rioting in 25 years. We’ve been close. Stuff is still happening. But folks know how to work with each other, and working with the NYPD locally has really allowed us to meet some of the challenges.”
Glen Schneider is a clergy liaison with the City who gladly attended the event.
“To learn about other’s cultures is great, and the fact that we can all come together for a common goal, which is the safety of our city, is helpful,” he said.
Schneider went on to compliment the new video as a particularly hopeful development.
“It’s going to be great for the NYPD and these rookies to see what’s going on in the streets and to develop a better understanding of all cultures in New York City,” said Schneider.