On a peacekeeping mission to southeast Queens on Tuesday, November 28 Mayor Michael Bloomberg met with approximately 50 community leaders to discuss a path forward following the shooting death of Sean Bell in a barrage of police gunfire outside a Jamaica topless bar.
Bell, 23, who was to be married that day, Saturday, November 25 was leaving his bachelor party at Club Kalua on 94th Avenue with two friends when an unclear series of events led to them being fired upon 50 times by police officers, killing Bell and wounding the others.
Bloomberg described the community meeting as open, honest and blunt, “Just the way it should be.” He also reiterated that he and New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly “Want to ensure that the community has all the information that we have and that people have an opportunity to express their concerns and that they know we are fully committed to a thorough and fair investigation.”
Community leaders commended Bloomberg for his swift action in addressing the community and family members.
“There's no question that he has handled this well,” said State Senator Malcolm A. Smith. “In the past we have not had the kind of access to the mayor in situations like this.”
However, while they said they were willing to be patient waiting for the results of the investigation the Mayor has promised, it is imperative that a larger systemic problem within the police department be addressed.
“It is not simply a question of an isolated shooting but a question of police culture that has to be changed,” said City Councilmember James Sanders, Jr. “The respect has broken down to a large degree in the police department. The culture itself needs to be looked at. The problem is a systemic problem.”
At a monthly meeting of Community Board 13 on Monday, November 27, attendees expressed dismay at the shooting but professed a willingness to be patient as the investigations proceed.
Board member and Laurelton resident Jonathan Raines said that although the firing of 50 rounds of ammunition by the police appeared excessive, “I want to hear what the facts are before making a judgment.”