Commish: I need 10,000 black menVolunteers will patrol high-crime areas
By DAVE DAVIES
Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson is joining with civic leaders in an effort to recruit 10,000 black men to fight crime in Philadelphia's toughest neighborhoods.
Dubbed "A Call to Action: 10,000 men - It's a New Day," the effort will begin Oct. 21 with a rally and recruitment drive at the Liacouras Center, followed days afterward by the training of the volunteers to act as community "peacekeepers."
"It's time for African-American men to stand up," Johnson said in an interview. "We have an obligation to protect our women, our children and our elderly. We're going to put men on the street. We're going to train them in conflict resolution."
Johnson said volunteers will be asked to patrol in high-crime areas for two to three hours a day for "a minimum of 90 days."
He said that the effort wasn't a city program, though many police commanders will be involved in training volunteers and supporting the patrolling peacekeepers, and training will take place at city recreation centers.
Community and religious leaders will be closely involved, Johnson said.
A key architect of the strategy is Dennis Muhammad, chief of security for Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan. Muhammad has a Detroit-based consulting business that works with police departments on community policing and sensitivity training.
Muhammad met in City Hall last summer with Johnson, Mayor Street and some business leaders, and Johnson was enthusiastic about the notion of rallying African-American men to stem the growing tide of violence.
In an interview yesterday, Muhammad said he envisions a dramatic presence in Philadelphia's most troubled neighborhoods that could inspire a national movement.
"We plan to deploy these men and distinguish them with a colored shirt or something, and our very physical presence will become a deterrent," Muhammad said. "It would be hard to commit a crime on a corner with 200 men.
"When this is successful, we hope to bottle this and take it to every major city in the country," he said.
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Commish: I need 10,000 black men