101st Precinct Community Council Elects New President
The first thing you notice about Victor Bomoah is his kind smile. It’s a perfect introduction to the kind of man Victor is. In his own words, Victor is a simple man who loves to serve his community, and it’s no surprise that he was recently elected as the newest president of the 101st Precinct Community Council. Since moving here from Ghana 20 years ago, the 27-year-old has become entrenched in the peninsula’s culture. He was raised in Far Rockaway, educated in Far Rockaway’s schools, and now has the honor and responsibility of bridging the gap between Far Rockaway’s residents and the police. His role as Precinct Community Council President will require him to use what he’s learned as a community leader and advocate to strengthen police-community relations in Far Rockaway.
Precinct Community Councils are an important part of the New York City Police Department’s strategy to build more positive relationships between the police and the community. These councils have been fixtures in New York’s neighborhoods since the 1940s and are intended to provide a structure for police to communicate with community members and vice versa. It allows community members to meet with Commanding Officers and Community Affairs Officers, while also providing a space to engage in dialogue and create solutions for community specific issues. The 101st Precinct Community Council is one of 86 total councils. While each NYPD precinct has its own community council, councils are also convened in Police Service Areas, which serve public housing developments. Victor’s election in July adds him to a growing list of young people of color who’ve held the role of Precinct Community Council President. In 2015, former RYTF staff member Jazmine Outlaw became the 101st Precinct’s youngest council president at age 20. Given that people of color make up more than half of Far Rockaway’s population and the median age is 32 years old, Victor has a unique insight into this community and how the police can better serve it.
When it comes to bettering his community, Victor’s philosophy is simple. He believes in working hard, respecting others, and being willing to learn from others. He’s served the community in various capacities over the years. His resume includes positions as a community activist, founder of a nonprofit, and the Director of the YMCA after-school program. In each of these roles, Victor has worked to create a better community by championing honesty and connecting with community members on a personal level. His nonprofit, Giving the Gift of Love, holds toy and clothing drives, donates food and school supplies to low income families, organizes street clean-ups, and more.
As Precinct Community Council President, Victor wants nothing more than to improve on the work that’s already been done. He sees his young age as an opportunity to learn and grow from the triumphs and mistakes of others and he wants to ensure that he’s listening to the community when he’s making decisions in this role. When asked about his vision for the future of the community, he said, “I don’t have the answers to everything, but I can take steps. Small steps become bigger and better steps and that’s when greatness can be achieved”.
While committed to building on the work of others, Victor is also very cognizant of how tenuous police and community relations can be. He reminisced about Ferguson, MO and how riots and violence broke out in the wake of Michael Brown’s death in 2014. His biggest fear is to have a total collapse in police-community relations and he believes that community policing tactics that are based in respect are the first step to mending and solidifying these relationships. He quoted an African proverb, “When the roots are deep there’s no reason to fear the wind”. He likens the relationship between the police and the community to the roots of a tree. The deeper and stronger those relationships are, the less likely they are to be manipulated and disrupted by difficult times.
Community policing is a tactic used by the NYPD that assigns police officers to specific geographic locations to increase familiarity between residents and the officers. While Far Rockaway’s community policing program was one of the first in New York City, it has been highly criticized. The criticism is mostly due to the high rate of turnover of police officers, lack of involvement from the community, and discrepancies between how the program is represented in the media and how it’s actually run. Victor’s work will need to bridge the gap between the expectations and reality of Far Rockaway’s community policing program.
As the conversation ended, Victor encouraged residents to come out to the 101st Precinct Community Council meetings, which are held on the third Wednesday of every month at 6pm. One of his goals is to build awareness of the precinct’s work by increasing attendance at these meetings. Community members will have the opportunity to learn about the council’s upcoming initiatives, communicate directly with members of the police department, and most importantly, work to build the long-lasting relationships that translate into safer, happier communities. To find out more, visit the council’s Facebook page at facebook.com/101stPrecinctCommunityCouncil/.