NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- With the 2015 City Council campaign now officially underway, New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson and Council Member Jared Rice appear anxious to stoke racial anxiety in New Rochelle in the hopes of securing solid support in New Rochelle's black community.
How else to interpret their recent social media activity?
Two weeks ago, Rice branded New Rochelle residents White Supremacists and exhorted his Facebook Friends to read "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander, a 2010 book that has become especially influential among civil rights activists and for years raised the issue of "mass incarceration" in the context of Alexander's book, going back to his first public appearance as a political candidate.
"They walk among us in New Rochelle," said Rice. "You didn't know we had white supremacists?" I have to deal with them on a daily basis."
Last week, Noam Bramson, without support from City Council or the City Manager, unilaterally declared he has called New Rochelle Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll to appear before Council next month to explain how training and community engagement can be improved in light of recent Grand Jury decisions in Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY.
"I have asked our Police Commissioner to brief the City Council next month on our PD’s training and community engagement methods, and to evaluate opportunities for improvement," said Bramson in a recent blog post on his web site.
Bramson failed to identify issues particular to the City of New Rochelle or its police department that would warrant such a review. Police training is largely done through the Westchester Police Academy. Training done in-house is run by Lieutenant Cosmo Costa, soon to be promoted to Captain to replace Captain Kevin Kealy. Costa's second-in-command of training is Sergeant Calvin McGee, who is black.
This appears to be a matter of political grandstanding by Bramson, who told a crowd at his fundraiser this past weekend he would be running for another term as Mayor. Rice is now widely seen as a downsized-version of Al Sharpton; all he's missing is the track suit and chains. Rice accused New Rochelle veterans of being racists for raising an historical military flag over the former New York State Naval Armory and mocked Republicans as racists with a "game" called negrospotting.
In his blog post, Bramson went on to decry what he perceived to be the lack of minorities in the department noting that he recently encouraged more minorities to apply to take the police exam. In his blog article, he says that before the most recent Police civil service exam a couple of months ago, he invited "a broad spectrum of local African-American and Hispanic leaders to a meeting, where, alongside other City officials, I asked them to encourage more people of color to apply for a position in our PD and help us build a wider and more diverse applicant pool".
"We can work to make Police Departments more reflective of the communities they serve," said Bramson.
Caught in the middle of the racially inflammatory rhetoric by Bramson and Rice is a long-serving police officer who has been up for a major promotion. Sergeant Neil Reynolds, who is black, is expected to be promoted to Lieutenant on December 18th. He is the head of the Superior Officers Association and currently #2 on the Civil Service Eligibility List for Police Lieutenant.
Reynolds was originally #6 on the list (out of 18) but has moved up due to promotions and retirement. There are currently two openings with one going to Sergeant Brian J. Fagan, who headed up the Narcotics Unit that just completed Operation City Sweeper II. Fagan was #3 on the list but moved up to #1 with the prior promotion of the two sergeants ahead of him.
1 Adrian Navarrete (promoted)
2 Raul Rodriquez (promoted)
3 Brian J. Fagan (being promoted on 12/18)
4 Theresa-Ann C. Christopher (currently top 3)
5 Luigi N. Olcese (retired)
6 Neil K. Reynolds (currently top 3)
7 Daniel Conca (currently top 3)
8 Anthony Chiera
9. John J. Inzeo
10 William Walsh
11 Hubert A. Morell
12 Barry J. Johnson
13 Judy R. Brandeis
14 Steven T. D’Onofrio
15 Kevin Perri
16 Calvin McGee
17 Robert C. Torr
18 Kyle M. Wilson
Adrian Navarrete and Raul Rodriquez were promoted. Luigi N. Olcese retired, Brian J. Fagan is being promoted. Theresa-Ann C. Christopher has been out on maternity leave for about 8 months but recently returned. With Christopher out, Reynolds was next in line and a promotion in the offing long before the Grand Jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island were announced (or before the incidents themselves for that matter).
Unfortunately, by choosing to now make police recruitment and promotion a racial-political issue, Bramson appears more interested than making the promotion of a black Lieutenant about him than about Reynolds long career in New Rochelle.
There has been some discord within the department about the recent creation of a new Lieutenant position based on speculation that this was done by Police Commissioner Carroll to allow him to promote Reynolds in order to placate Bramson.
In reality, Carroll appeared months ago before the City Council to propose eliminating a Sergeant position and creating a new Lieutenant position, sources say. Given this, it could hardly be the case that this has something to do with Eric Garner or Mike Brown,
Readers already know that Talk of the Sound is not known as a defender of Patrick Carroll -- in fact, we think he should have retired long ago. However, in this case, it appears that there is absolutely no correlation between the creation of the Lieutenant position, the promotion of Reynolds and the Brown/Garner decisions and that Carroll has acted in a proper manner.
Unfortunately, that does not appear likely to discourage Bramson or Rice of portraying a well-earned promotion in a racial-political light -- a far cry from the rhetoric we so often hear about embracing diversity. The pair seemed determined to take New Rochelle down a road of racial animosity and divisiveness.
If Bramson was genuine in his supposed concerns about making the New Rochelle Police Department "more reflective of the communities they serve" he might have considered that during this entire time on City Council, including 8 years as Mayor, he might have once raised concerns that the entire senior leadership of the department is white: Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll, Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Murphy, Police Captain Joseph Schaller, Police Captain Kevin Kealy (all four pictured above at a recent press conference) and Captain Robert Gazzola. Kealy, soon to retire, will be replaced by Lieutenant Cosmo Costa, who is also white. All senior leadership, as of today, including all senior civilian positions and all Captains are white and this has been the case for many, many years yet not a peep from Bramson about this (or Rice).
Yet why single our the New Rochelle Police Department?
Since the Mayor and his sidekick want to go down this road, let's go all the way down the road and see where that leads us.
The NRPD is no different than elsewhere in the City of New Rochelle where the joys and benefits of diversity are loudly proclaimed but rarely practiced when it comes to running the City.
The major positions in the administration of the municipal government are held almost entirely by whites: City Manager Charles B. Strome, Finance Commissioner Howard Ratner, Parks Commissioner Bill Zimmerman, Fire Chief Lou Dimiglio, Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll, General Counsel Mark Blanchard, Public Works Commissioner Alex Tergis, are al white. Development Commissioner Luiz Aragon might be claimed as "Hispanic" but in reality he is of Spanish-descent and thus white; he was born in Europe, raised in Brazil and Switzerland and fluent in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian.
The City Council is almost entirely white: Noam Bramson, Barry Fertel, Shari Rackman, Al Tarantino, Lou Trangucci, Ivar Hyden.
Blacks in senior level government positions amount to two people: Jared Rice from the "black opportunity" district and Bennie Giles, the City Clerk appointed directly by the Mayor.
The City School District of New Rochelle's senior positions are held almost entirely by whites: Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne, Assistant Superintendent Diane Massimo, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Korostoff. Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration John Quinn was white and his replacement is Jeffrey White, who is white.
Blacks in senior schools administration amount to two people: Assistant to the Superintendent Joseph Williams and New Rochelle High School principal Reggie Richardson. There are two hispanic principals, Kimmerly Nieves at Jefferson School and Sonya Nunez at Columbus School but no hispanics in senior level positions. The District is majority-minority but the school board is majority white.
CLICK TO ENLARGE
Recently Jared Rice teamed up with Council Member Louis Trangucci to push for more overtime in the budget for police. The first major use of that overtime was Operation City Sweeper II. While racial statistics were not provided by the NRPD, our breakdown of the 64 arrests is 56 were Black (88%), 6 Hispanic (9%), and 3 White (5%).
These arrests are precisely the sort of "mass incarceration" of blacks decried by Rice and described by Michelle Alexander in her book The New Jim Crow.
The New Jim Crow is a book by Michelle Alexander, a civil rights litigator and legal scholar, published in 2010 by The New Press. The book deals with race-related and social, political, and legal phenomena in the United States and attempts to apply the term 'The New Jim Crow' to the situation of African Americans in the contemporary United States. The name derives from the original Jim Crow laws that prevailed in the states of the former Confederacy of the U.S. through the 1960s...
In the book Alexander deals primarily with the issue of the current mass levels of incarceration in the United States (with 5% of the world's population, the U.S. incarcerates 25% of the world's prisoners) and what she perceives as societal repression of African-American men and, to a lesser degree, Latino men...According to Alexander, the majority of young black men in large American cities are "warehoused in prisons," their labor no longer needed in the globalized economy.
Alexander maintains that many young black men, once they are labeled as "felons," become trapped in a second-class status that they find difficult to escape. The conventional point of view holds that discrimination has mostly ended with the Civil rights movement reforms of the 1960s. However, Alexander claims the U.S. criminal justice system uses the “War on Drugs” as a primary tool for enforcing traditional, as well as new, modes of discrimination and repression.
According to Alexander, forms of "racial control" in the United States evolve as required by changing political circumstances and contemporary standards, with the policies of the current criminal justice system replacing Jim Crow laws, which in turn had replaced slavery. Alexander aims to mobilize the civil rights community to move the incarceration issue to the forefront of its agenda and to provide factual information, data, arguments and a point of reference for those interested in pursuing the issue. Her broader goal is the revamping of the prevailing mentality regarding human rights, equality and equal opportunities in America, to prevent future cyclical recurrence of what she sees as "racial control under changing disguise."
Rice had not a word to say when Police Commissioner Carroll skipped over dozens of qualified candidates including a high-scoring black candidate to hire the son of Council Member Lou Trangucci.
None of this stopped Rice from praising Bramson for what Rice called an "insightful" article.
— Jared Rice (@CouncilmanRice) December 6, 2014
Rice has since tweeted repeatedly on race including a surprising admission that he was previously arrested for what sounds a lot like obstruction of justice.
That time when I was stopped by the police for driving a nice car and subsequently arrested for not consenting to a search #AliveWhileBlack
— Jared Rice (@CouncilmanRice) December 4, 2014
As he has not provided details, we only have Rice's word for it that he was stopped by police because he was "driving a nice car" when Rice has a record of driving at high speeds and getting pulled over for speeding.
In one tweet, Rice, who grew up in New Rochelle, appears to target the New Rochelle police as racist.
— Jared Rice (@CouncilmanRice) December 8, 2014
And continues on the topic of "community relations".
1st agenda item of the day is to meet w/ Citizens For A Better New Rochelle to discuss w/our PD police/community relations. #NewRo
— Jared Rice (@CouncilmanRice) December 11, 2014
One tweet gives a clue where Bramson and Rice are heading with the articles and tweets about New Rochelle police and community engagement -- body cameras (which would likely suit most police officers in New Rochelle just fine).
Trending today is #bodycameras, is New Rochelle ready for them? Let's ask our PD at tomorrow's council meeting.
— Jared Rice (@CouncilmanRice) December 2, 2014
Nowhere in all of Rice's rhetoric do you find much mention that he is an officer of the court, as are his family members, while his mother is a judge in New Rochelle whose job includes trying cases involving young black men charged with drug crimes.