On Tuesday, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and 67th Precinct Clergy Council “The God Squad” President Pastor Gilford Monrose came together to announce new strategic community partnerships to reduce gun violence in Brooklyn.

At a press conference at Bed-Stuy’s Restoration Plaza Gonzalez said the City could not “arrest our way out of the problem” of increasing gun violence, adding “we have to allow public-led safety initiatives to flourish.”

“We stand united as people who love our community, who would do everything in our power to stem the violence.”

The partnerships are based on a pooling of resources between the DA’s Office and Clergy Councils that involves community members, the NYPD and faith leaders providing support and guidance to at-risk youth.

The partnerships will offer assistance in several high-crime precincts to strengthen trust between communities and law enforcement as part of a holistic approach to reducing crime and breaking the recurring cycle of violence and criminal justice involvement, the pair said.
 
The announcement was made on the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Gonzalez said the injustice of Floyd’s death “still weighs heavily on us, his life matters” and said it was a time to reflect on social justice and criminal justice reform.

Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez.

“I know we can keep our communities safe and do so while reducing negative interactions between community members and law enforcement,” he said.

The ultimate goal of the partnership is to reduce the violence in Brooklyn’s communities, which, coupled with the loss of life, had a significant and traumatic effect on communities, Gonzalez and Monrose said.

As part of the program, East Flatbush’s 67th Precinct Clergy Council, aka The God Squad, will provide strategic, supportive and technical assistance to neighboring Clergy Councils in the 69th, 70th, 71st, 73rd, 75th, 77th, 79th, 81st, 83rd and 90th Precincts – covering all of Central and North Brooklyn.

Street-level intervention, victim services, clergy care, social support services and the Flatbush Leadership Academy would decrease gun violence and youth involvement in the justice system, the pair said.

The DA’s Office said it would refer youth in diversion programs to mentorship opportunities and other forms of support; flagging local disputes among youth that could benefit from clergy intervention; offering internship and work opportunities to graduates of the Leadership Academy; prioritizing community-based programs as alternatives to incarceration; offering supportive assistance to victims; and more.

“Finding community-based solutions to violence must be a priority in our fight against gun violence,” Gonzalez said.

“I believe our faith leaders have an important role to play and can help us turn these crime upticks around because they have the experience, credibility and the resources to support victims of crime and to reach vulnerable youth and set them on a better path.”

Pastor Gilford Monrose.

Pastor Monrose said the Clergy Councils had long served as a liaison between law enforcement and the communities they served.

“By building on the collective of clergy leaders, and growing on this collective of comprehensive, community plan to decrease young people’s involvement in crime and gun violence, while providing support to victims of violence, this partnership will embody a holistic, multi-pronged approach with the help of our very diverse Brooklyn clergy,” he said.

He added that like George Floyd, all the victims of police violence and gun violence had a name.

“They have a family, they are not just individuals or statistics, they are  not just another Black person – they are our sons and our daughters…we love them, we care for their families,” he said. He added that nothing pained him more than holding the funeral of a 17-year-old with their whole life ahead of them.

“We want to do more than just funerals, we want to do more than just praying, we want to bring our collective resources to the table.”

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Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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