NYPD camp reconstructing community relations in Eric Garner’s neighborhood

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NEW YORK -- 135 boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 16 are doing their part to bridge the gap between the police department, and the Tompkinsville community ... Less than a mile away from the Staten Island sidewalk where Eric Garner died one year ago after being put in an NYPD’s officer’s chokehold.

Tamiko Batson’s sent her son to the NYPD’s long-running annual summer camp. It’s free across the city, but came to Tompkinsville just last year, about a week before Eric Garner’s fatal police encounter.

Timing is everything. Batson says now is the perfect time to mend the relationship between the beat cops and the residents who live in this community of color.

“I have older boys, and the older boys see them differently, too. Now Jahssiah is only twelve. And he could see them different than the older boys do,” said Batson.

Back at the scene where Garner died, perceptions of the NYPD run deep, especially for those who knew him, or for those working on this block.

“I had a really bad experience with the NYPD too - and I’m white,” said Williams Squires. Squires knew Garner and works at a deli here. His opinion sheds some light on the complexity of the journey ahead for the NYPD.

“There’s certain NYPD officers that are really cool. And you can tell they’re really cool. And there’s some officers that have attitudes, and they gotta change their attitudes,” said Squires.

NYPD training, de-escalation techniques, and community involvement are now in the spotlight. But in a city where opinions are formed one interaction at a time … NYPD Officer and Summer camp instructor Lorraine Marin hopes the staff’s time with these children ultimately becomes the foundation for a new era of community engagement - for the next generation.

“Now that these kids have a relationship with us, when they see cops on the street, they have a different perception of police officers. The relationship has changed. From the day that they start, to the day that they finish - you could just see a total transformation,”

Simply put, for local mom Tamiko Baston, it’s about getting to her son Jassiah -- before the streets do.

“Well I mean, when we’re in the street sometimes, they don’t have to run behind, or act like - let’s  walk across the street. They don’t have to do all that,” said Batson.