The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has over one hundred buildings which include police precincts, NYPD Headquarters, Police Academy, horse stables, helicopter pads, boat docks, auto repair shops, indoor and outdoor firearms ranges, etc. Virtually every facility has multiple vending machines that dispense various high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and heart attack causing cookies, cakes, candy and sugary sodas.
A bit of NYPD history on this point is indicated. During the crime and drug ridden 1970’s, NYPD began publishing lists of establishments in each precinct that were then placed on the “OFF LIMITS” list. This was due to NYPD Officialdom’s belief that cops should not visit and spend their money in stores believed to be involved in criminal activities such as gambling, prostitution and drug dealing. In the worst areas, some precincts had so many stores and restaurants on the OFF-LIMITS List, cops were given permission to take lunch breaks in neighboring precincts. Cops went to their labor union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) who prevailed on NYPD to authorize the placement of vending machines inside of NYPD facilities.
The 1970’s saw thousands of murders. Fast forward to 2018, New York City has changed for the better. NYPD fields about two hundred murders a year which represents a ninety percent decrease from the annual murder rate in the 1970’s. Moreover, the police-community relations has markedly improved. Patrol officers all carry cell phones and have E-mail addresses and are in closer contact with citizens than ever before. The NYPD Community Affairs Bureau is constantly seeking opportunities to further engage the citizenry. Its time NYPD seizes the moment to take the improvement of their outreach to an even higher level.
It is time for NYPD Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill to order the removal of all vending machines from all NYPD facilities and ask his officers to visit and spend their money in area stores. Surely nothing will improve police-citizen community relations like police officers walking into area stores and spending their money. Furthermore, it’s appropriate that NYPD releases a detailed and accurate written report covering the past five years explaining 1) Who owns these vending machines. 2) How much money was earned. 3) Do the machine owners pay taxes on the profits. 4) Who pays for the electricity the machines use and 5) Are the machine contracts open to competitive bidding?
If the NYPD is unwilling to eliminate all vending machines and publish the written report suggested above, then the New York City Council must hold hearings, subpoena the records and consider legislation banning all vending machines in NYPD facilities. Let’s hope NYPD gets the memo.
Joe Gonzalez is a Community Activist who lives and works in Brooklyn New York.
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