A cop drama about East New York picked up for a pilot by CBS is an “insult to the community,” Councilmember Charles Barron says.

Last week, CBS revealed it had ordered a pilot for the show named “East New York” in its latest development season.

The show — created in part by the producer behind Law & Order and NYPD Blue — is said to follow a new police captain in East New York, which is described as an “impoverished, working class neighborhood at the eastern edge of Brooklyn.”

New York State Primaries 2018
Charles Barron. Photo: Supplied.

In it, the police captain Regina Haywood leads “a diverse group of officers and detectives, some of whom are reluctant to deploy her creative methods of serving and protecting during the midst of social upheaval and the early seeds of gentrification.”

However, New York City Councilmember for the 42nd District Charles Barron told BK Reader he found the concept offensive, and would be sending a letter to CBS to let it know.

“This is an insult to the East New York community,” he said. “How dare you focus on a cop coming into the 75th Precinct, which has such a notorious history in our neighborhood.”

Barron said he did not agree with the concept of the show, considering the harm he said the East New York precinct had historically caused in the neighborhood, including corruption and violence against residents.

“I don’t even need to see it,” he said. “The concept of you focusing on the 75th and manipulating us by making it a Black female officer to be like, ‘This is cool.’ No, it’s not cool.”

Black Lives Matter peaceful protest in East New York. Photo by Anna Bradley-Smith.
Black Lives Matter peaceful protest in East New York. Photo by Anna Bradley-Smith.

Barron said the concept plays into the hands of law-and-order politicians who think the answer to crime is policing, when the answer is the eradication of poverty and unemployment, and improved social services.

It’s important that the recent change in East New York is celebrated in any new series, Barron said, including 18,000 units of affordable housing, three new schools, renovation of parks and thousands of new jobs.

“CBS should have a program about power rising in East New York, about the transformed East New York. Don’t focus on the 75 when today the 75 has the most complaints and the most overtime abuse.”

BK Reader reached out to award-winning Brownsville filmmaker Elaine Del Valle, who is currently working on her film Brownsville Bred, which treats the neighborhood as a character that local people rise up from because of, not in spite of.

Houses in East New York Brooklyn
Photo: Nigel Roberts

She said she had heard of the show, and had reached out to CBS to offer her knowledge of the neighborhood if it goes to series.

“Networks these days are leaning into authenticity, and I have a feeling they’ll equip it with writers who are in the know.”

Barron said it has only been through political reform and through the game-changing work of the East New York community organization Man Up — which runs violence intervention — that crime has steadily decreased in the neighborhood in the past 20 years.

Man Up Inc. founder Andre T. Mitchell previously told BK Reader that East New York is an overpoliced neighborhood where cops have a history of harassing its predominantly Black residents, almost like an “occupying force.”

Man Up, Inc. working in East New York. Photo: Jessy Edwards for the BK Reader.

East New York was “ground zero” for Stop-and-Frisk and even today is the city’s precinct facing the highest number of federal lawsuits by far

In 2020, an Intercept investigation into East New York’s 75th Precinct found that the police station led New York City in terms of complaints of misconduct by the public. Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) records revealed that the precinct had 1,364 allegations of misconduct against it as of 2020. In contrast, the neighboring 73rd Precinct had 688, and many in the city have less than 50.

The precinct was also found to be one of the most prolific in terms of quantity of arrests, violence against residents, misconduct, fabricating evidence, false arrests and routine constitutional violations. The most severe disciplinary measures taken against police named in the complaints were docked vacation days.

CBS and the producers of East New York were reached for comment, but did not immediately respond.

Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

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