Police Accountability Work Takes Many Forms

July 14, 2015
by Kenny Polyak
Jazmine Outlaw, member coordinator at the Rockaway Youth Task Force and newly elected president of the 101st Precinct Community Council.

At the end of June of this year, Jazmine Outlaw, a Far Rockaway resident and member coordinator for the Rockaway Youth Task Force, was elected president of the 101st Precinct Community Council, gaining national attention in Newsweek.

For over a year, Rockaway Youth Task Force members have attended their local Precinct Community Council meetings believing that building trust is one way to strengthen youth-police relations in Far Rockaway. These monthly forums, held in every police precinct but overlooked by most New Yorkers, are meant as a vehicle for neighborhood residents and police to discuss public safety.

Few young people attend precinct council meetings, but Rockaway youth see them as critical tactic in an area that is geographically isolated and facing a gradual surge in crime. A 20-year-old woman of color, Jazmine is thought to be the youngest person ever to serve as a precinct council president. Acknowledging the tensions that were ignited this year between police and Black communities, Outlaw says, “With the increase in shootings in our community, it’s time to speak up and speak out.”

The emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement last year sparked large public demonstrations and significantly raised public awareness of police abuse nationwide. Youth leaders from the Rockaway Youth Task Force are active participants in this movement, and their bright orange tee-shorts are easy to spot in the many public actions throughout the city that took place last year. Still, the group recognizes that affected communities can’t sustain an adversarial relationship with police in the face of increasing violence in their neighborhood. Outlaw’s election to Precinct Community Council president, signals a parallel strategy in their police accountability work.