SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – The sound of a siren is all too familiar for residents of Syracuse. Since last year, violent crimes have gone up 22%, and in the last five years, they have gone up 19%, according to the Syracuse Police Department’s comparative statistics which were last released on May 11. Crimes such as homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault fall under the violent crime category.
Events over the summer of 2020, such as the murder of George Floyd, protests and the racial divide that the country made so apparent have caused growing tension between communities and their local police departments, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Clifford Ryan is a member of the Syracuse Citizen Review Board, which ensures an open citizen-controlled process for reviewing grievances involving members of the Syracuse Police Department. He is also the founder of OG’s Against Violence, whose mission is to “serve the city of Syracuse and Central New York to reduce the violence that has afflicted our community through grassroots outreach and a boots on the ground effort to reach out to people and bring positive change.”
Ryan has been heavily immersed in the Syracuse community and has seen firsthand what violence can do to the city and people he loves.
Ryan lost his son on July 22, 1999, in the city of Syracuse. Ryan said his son was “brutally murdered in broad daylight.” Though his son wasn’t a victim of police brutality, Clifford realized that that incident was one of many that were preventable.
“We need that relationship between the police department and the community,” Ryan said. “We need that situation to be better than what it is, and that comes with establishing that respect and that regard and that trust.”
What makes crime preventable is the interactions between the police and community and whether there is a trust there.
Sergeant Matthew Malinowski, who has been with the SPD for over 10 years and supervises the Office of Public Relations as well as being a public information officer, has dealt with crime since joining the SPD. He knows that the relationship between the community and the SPD has been damaged, so he and his team are doing whatever it takes to get the relationship back to normal.
“We’ve developed our police reform plans and continue to understand that information. Getting back to the people is important,” Malinowski said. “We continue to work towards building those relationships. We have other types or projects really with that goal in mind of transparency.”
A large part of the outrage over the summer of 2020 had to do with the training of officers. Jason Tom, who oversees the training division at the Syracuse Police Department, said the training of SPD officers goes above and beyond what they are required to do.
“If anything, we’re offering them more training,” Tom said. “A typical police officer will undergo 25-30 weeks of academy training. That is more than double what is required by the state. We try to make sure that they are competent and well prepared to be a police officer out on the streets.”
Though the SPD is doing everything to make sure their officers are trained correctly and able to act in the community in a safe manner, the damage within the community has been done.
There isn’t a perfect scenario when looking into the lense of a community member like Ryan, but there is some solution.
“We want them to be held accountable when they do the misconduct,” Ryan said. “We want them to do their jobs. Now, we know because of some of the scrutiny the police department is under that job isn’t being done nearly as good as it can be or as it was being done.”
Though Ryan wants police to be held accountable and for the relationship to improve, the trust broken may not be rebuilt for many years to come.