Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Launches Police Politeness Policy
By Ellen Wulfhorst
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Faced with tensions between New York City police and the public, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said Tuesday that officers should use ``Hello,'' ``Thank You'' and similar polite terms during arrests and official duties.
Residents, meanwhile, should treat police with more respect, such as addressing them by their department rank, the mayor said in announcing the policy at a news conference at police headquarters.
Explaining the program, the mayor said: ``To say even to the worst criminal you're arresting, 'You're now under arrest, Sir,' will channel some of the natural human emotion of anger.''
``I know there will be people who are cynical about this,'' he added. ``I've been mayor of New York City for too long not to realize that people will be cynical about any good step that's made in the direction of decency.''
Relations between the police and public have deteriorated badly since four white officers killed Amadou Diallo, an unarmed street peddler, in a hail of 41 bullets on Feb. 4. The West African immigrant was struck 19 times.
Fallout from the shooting, along with complaints of police insensitivity and brutality, are plaguing the mayor at a time when he is believed to be contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate.
Instead of receiving praise for reducing the city's crime rate to its lowest levels in a generation, he has been taking the blame for what critics say are heavy handed police tactics, particularly toward minorities.
In the wake of the Diallo killing, protesters for weeks staged daily demonstrations outside police headquarters until the officers in the case were indicted on murder charges. More than 1,000 protesters were arrested.
Giuliani was criticized for his handling of the case, particularly his failure to meet with the city's minority leaders and elected officials.
Critics also complained that Giuliani convened a task force in 1997 to improve community and police relations but later disputed and dismissed its findings and recommendations.
Norman Siegel of the New York Civil Liberties Union, who worked on the task force, called this campaign ``inadequate'' and the mayor's view ``myopic.''
``This is just strictly a public relations gimmick. He doesn't get it,'' said Siegel.
``The reason why there is collective outrage in New York post the Diallo incident is because people have said, 'Enough is enough,''' he said.
The politeness campaign is not Giuliani's first attempt at government by good manners.
As part of the mayor's effort to improve the quality of life in New York, city employees have been asked to be more cordial, subway riders have been urged to be better behaved and taxi cab drivers have been ordered to be civil or face the consequences.
The politeness campaign is the second time police have been told to behave. Three years ago, the Giuliani administration launched a Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect program known as CPR.
This time, the policy will be enforced with training, rewards and discipline, the mayor said.