With more than a little praise, members of Community Board 17 welcomed the new commanding officer of the 67th Precinct at their September meeting.
Deputy Inspector Corey Pegues has been at the helm of the precinct since the end of June. But, the meeting – at the First United Church of Christ, 590 Utica Avenue – was the first official encounter between the full board and the new commanding officer since he arrived at the precinct.
And, Pegues – who noted that he was “the first African-American to ever hold the position (of commanding officer) in the 67th Precinct” — made it clear that one of his major goals was to connect with the community.
“The first thing I want to do,” he told the group, “is bridge the gap between community and police. I don’t want people to look at the precinct as a jail. It’s not a jail. I want you to be able to walk in there if you need directions. The cops have got to be friendly,” he stressed.
There also has to be respect, Pegues added. “I give you 110 percent because I’m the leader,” he noted. “I expect the cops to give you 100 percent. Sometimes they might give 95.
“We might have somebody who might be a little loose with their lips,” he added, but, “You’re not going to have Sean Bell cops or Louima cops in the 67th Precinct, not under my watch,” he stressed. “We’re going to be very transparent because that’s what we owe the community. I am so, so sincere about making sure the cops respect the community.”
Questioned by board member Albert Payne about issuing summonses “indiscriminately” to individuals “who haven’t earned the right to get them,” in order to start nuisance abatement proceedings, Pegues made it clear that such a thing would not occur with him in charge.
“Let me tell you about an African-American child I knew who grew up in the ‘80s, going to school in southeast Queens,” he replied. “The cops used to walk up to him, throw him against the wall, go through his pockets, sometimes they hit him with their nightstick, and they kept going.
“That little kid said the only way I am going to get back at these people is to change it,” Pegues went on. “That’s the guy who’s talking to you right now. So, I despise any cops that go out there and do anything they’re not supposed to. We’ve got enough work to do without creating work.”
Establishing a good working relationship between the police and the community can be challenging, Pegues acknowledged.
“When we meet people, it’s at the most trying times,” he noted. “It could be a domestic dispute, or a lift job where an old woman has fallen, or when shots are fired. Sometimes we have bad days too, but our bad days, we have to check them at the door.”
One of Pegues’ key concerns is young people, he told his listeners. “They’re 20 percent of our population, but 100 percent of our future. It’s important to tell them right from wrong,” he stressed. And, he added, it’s a group effort. “It takes a village to raise a child. That’s how I was raised.”
Pegues noted that he had “worked his way up” to his current post. “I never had a silver spoon in my mouth, growing up on welfare, so I have mayonnaise sandwiches, mustard sandwiches, cereal with water,” he said.
The ultimate goal, Pegues emphasized, is supporting the community. “When I leave here, I want house values to go up,” he stressed. “I want this to be the prototype neighborhood where people want to send their kids to schools, raise their families here, spend your money here. We’re not going to be successful without everyone having a vested interest, the cops, the community, the business owners, the clergy.”
“We look forward to working closely with you to maintain and strengthen the partnership that is so important,” said Lloyd Mills, the board’s chair.
“Our hope is that your presence, your experience and your leadership skills will have a profound impact on the community,” he added.
“What we’re hearing from you is a breath of fresh air,” added board member Douglas Allen. “So, I’m going to check my frustration and move on.”