The NYPD is expanding their community outreach by looking to ensure those living with disabilities are included in everything from local events to having a direct line to officers.
NYPD Community Affairs joined forces with District Leader Daisy Paez on Sunday to present a neighborhood extravaganza in the Lower East Side designed especially with the impaired in mind. Taking place on 4th Street between Avenues B and C during the evening of Aug. 28, the event was akin to a block party. NYPD officers cooked hotdogs while a DJ played music and young children created paintings and participated in games.
Since the beginning of the year, the department has been striving to expand their line of communication with disabled New Yorkers. In what the department deemed a great success, the NYPD employed deaf and hard of hearing youth in their Summer Youth Employment Program and are now hoping to expand their inclusivity to the larger disabled community.
This is something Deputy Commissioner of Community Affairs Mark Stewart has driven forth since taking over the position in February and has looked to broaden from mere friendly basketball games to full community events and extensive programming for the elderly and individuals with disabilities. As a father of two daughters and a grandfather, Stewart hopes to create more opportunities for individuals to interact with police officers in a positive light.
“The NYPD along with community leaders are doing more with our disabled, hard of hearing, and deaf community, and we are trying to have a relationship and interact with them,” Stewart said. “I want them to have the same interaction with police officers and get to know police officers and what they do. I don’t want the community to think that all officers do is write tickets and arrest people, we are in the community, and we want them to know that and be aware of that.”
Despite having a difficult job at times, Stewart told amNewYork Metro that he is also afforded positive moments such as watching the community have fun at events like these.
“I’m fortunate. I get to see this every day. This is a wonderful thing. The police officers are here, not because they have to be, they are here because they want to be. That’s the whole great thing about community affairs and interacting,” Stewart added.
Director of Youth Services and Community Engagement Alden Foster has worked tirelessly with the NYPD to cultivate a more inclusive environment. What began as a small event at a Deaf Church in the Upper East Side has now transformed into a Summer Youth Employment Program that hired 20 fully deaf young people, 10 hard of hearing, and a number of individuals with other disabilities. News traveled fast regarding their efforts, and members of the disability community are reaching out to the NYPD–something they say is a fresh but welcome change.
“Today we partnered with our local elected officials, the district leader reached out to us, and we’ve been wanting to do something special to unite the disability community. We have deaf individuals, but also we have people in wheelchairs, we have people with autism. We have a number of different disabilities and just really showing how the NYPD is trying to connect communities,” Foster said.
Foster shared that the NYPD brought deaf families from the Bronx to the event to underscore the importance of bridging that relationship. “The kids are just really enjoying it. Just by talking to the kids we picked up from the Bronx, we are getting tremendous positive feedback,” Foster said.
The evening also taught those with disabilities how to contact 911 in an emergency while offering other support. Both Stewart and Foster hope that relationships nurtured at events like these will last a lifetime.