Upper School News & Stories
From left: Upper School Head Kelley Nicholson-Flynn, Sgt. Dwayne Palmer and Lt. Gaby Celiba
Continuing the Upper School's conversation about social justice, two representatives of the New York City Police Department spoke at the school on Thursday about a range of topics including community policing, racial profiling, and the complex human interactions that they encounter in their jobs.
Lt. Gaby Celiba, in his 11th year on the force, and Sgt. Dwayne Palmer, in his 25th year, work in the school safety and community outreach department. They noted that the city's police force numbers about 35,000. It is the largest municipal police force in the country.
While the force has become increasingly diverse, it still does not reflect the composition of the city. Whites make up half of the force and about a third of the city's population. Blacks make up 16 percent of the police force, and about a quarter of the city's population.
Palmer acknowledged that the police are distrusted by some in the city, and that he himself viewed the police with suspicion when he was a teenager. They also acknowledged the challenges of policing in a complicated world. They said that they and their colleagues approached their jobs with a genuine desire to help others and protect the safety of the community.The force receives ongoing training in conflict negotiation and resolution, and in cultural traditions that may affect human behavior.
Palmer said much of the day-to-day patrol work involves responding to requests for assistance (domestic altercations, unruly or suspicious behavior, crimes that have already occurred, or concerns about the safety and well-being others).
He said officers do not stop and question individuals without basis. The "stop and frisk" initiative that came under fire in the city in recent years was directed at concealed weapons and not contraband, he said.
Upper School Head Kelley Nicholson-Flynn thanked the officers for coming to the school. "I admire those who dedicate their life to work towards the mission of the NYPD, which is to enhance the quality of life in our city by working in partnership with the community and in accordance with constitutional rights to enforce the laws, preserve the peace, reduce fear and provide for a safe environment," she said during the event. "At the same time, I think it is healthy for a community, especially an academic one, to engage in dialogue when we feel that something isn’t quite right."
Other speakers this year have been a Riverdale graduate and former prosecutor for the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, a defense lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, and a Riverdale graduate working for the American Civil Liberties Union.