Call Us → 212-616-5810

In Harlem, a Surprising Pair, Allied Against Violence

The New York Times
July 31, 2012

It was an unusual pairing: the gruff and pragmatic police veteran who exhibits little tolerance for political rhetoric, and the Harlem political activist whose inflammatory oration once incited widespread criticism.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Lenora Fulani

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Lenora Fulani discussed relations between the police and black and Latino youth.

Yet there they stood, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Lenora B. Fulani, next to each other on Tuesday in a news conference at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building in Harlem.

Mr. Kelly’s appearance with Dr. Fulani came as tensions continued to rise over the force’s aggressive street-stop practices as well as a recent rash of shootings in which at least three children, including a 4-year-old boy who died on a Bronx playground, were shot as young rivals exchanged gunfire.

Last month, Mr. Kelly angered some black political leaders when he suggested that they should be more vocal about gun violence. “Many of them will speak out about stop-and-frisk,” he said, but are “shockingly silent when it comes to the level of violence right in their own communities.”

On this topic, Dr. Fulani squarely planted herself in Mr. Kelly’s corner.

“Commissioner Kelly and I both recognize that certain fundamental social needs are not being met by traditional approaches; we have both put ourselves on the line to help meet those needs,” Dr. Fulani said. “We all do need to speak out about violence in the communities. Commissioner Kelly, you are right about that.”

Mr. Kelly stood stoically, with his hands clasped in front of him and his mouth curled in a downward C, just behind Dr. Fulani’s right shoulder as the community leader discussed “Operation Conversation: Cops and Kids,” a collaborative workshop created to foster communication and understanding between two groups that often do not mix: police officers and black and Latino teenagers.

Mr. Kelly used the news conference to address the outbreak of shootings since early July and to offer some reassurance to residents. “Crime is down by more than 80 percent from where it was two decades ago,” he said. “We brought homicides down to their lowest level in modern history, and we’re on track to see another record low in murders this year. But these facts are of little comfort to the family of 4-year-old Lloyd Morgan, who was shot and killed on July 22.”

Mr. Kelly said that fatal shooting and the drive-by shooting on Sunday in Brooklyn that wounded six people, including a 2-year-old girl, were reminders that “we still have a great deal of work to do to stop the violence and to protect the city’s most vulnerable residents.”

Hank Scheinkopf, a Democratic political strategist, said Tuesday that the joint appearance by Mr. Kelly and Dr. Fulani was unusual but not surprising.

“It’s an odd pairing,” Mr. Scheinkopf said. “It’s Kelly’s way of finding a community-based leader of some consequence to say, ‘Look, Commissioner Kelly is doing the best he can to reduce community violence,’ which is a smart thing for Kelly to do.”

Dr. Fulani, a developmental psychologist, has long been a leader of the New York City Independence Party. In 2005, she backed Michael R. Bloomberg’s mayoral re-election campaign, supporting his candidacy even as Mayor Bloomberg appeared to distance himself from her in response to criticism over remarks she had made about Jews. She wrote in 1989 that Jews “had to sell their souls to acquire Israel” and, in the process, had to “function as mass murderers to people of color.” Mr. Bloomberg had characterized Dr. Fulani’s comments as “despicable,” though he privately donated money to the Independence Party and the All Stars Project, a nonprofit organization that Dr. Fulani helped found.