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Syracuse police chief addresses gun violence at panel

Riley Bunch | Staff Photograph

SPD Chief Frank Fowler, pictured above at a press conference in February, spoke Tuesday at a panel and touched on gun violence as well as interactions between police and the community.

Syracuse Police Department Chief Frank Fowler read off statistic after statistic, each one displaying that the city of Syracuse is safer now than it has been in recent years, he said.

Incidents in Syracuse of burglaries, aggravated assaults, robberies, rape and more are down this year compared to last year, Fowler said. But the police chief added that it’s difficult for him to talk at length about that, given gun-related violence is up this year compared to recent years.

“It’s really challenging for me to be able to talk about the fact that the burglaries are down, the fact that larcenies are down,” he said. “It’s challenging for me because when I do, the counter to that is, ‘Well, chief, what about the shots? What about the murders?’”

Gun violence was one of Fowler’s main talking points on the Tuesday night panel, “Improving Perception Between Police & The Community,” inside the Prince Hall Masonic Temple on Syracuse’s South Side. During the panel, he also discussed vehicular traffic stops made by police.

The panel came just over a week after a Syracuse police officer shot and killed an armed man near Walnut Park. The man, Deric Brown, 41, first fired at the officer, police have said.

Fowler said Tuesday that reducing gun violence in Syracuse is “hands down” his top priority as he nears his final year as police chief.

“We’re talking about murders, people are dying,” he said. “We’re talking about shots fired where people are being injured and they’re ending up in the hospital. And we’re talking about bullets flying in our neighborhoods and making our neighborhoods unsafe.”

He added that he believes open dialogue between the police and community, including events such as Tuesday’s panel, can help lead to a reduction in violence.

“We need communication,” he said. “We work for you all. This is your police department.”

Later, Fowler addressed encounters between police and community members during traffic stops. He urged those pulled over by police to “live to tell your story,” repeating himself several times.

He also cautioned against taking an “argumentative stance” with police during traffic stops.

“You may think you have all the answers,” he said. “… That’s never, never a good idea.”

Fowler also said getting body-worn cameras for Syracuse police officers is among his top priorities, and he added that police sometimes don’t act properly during traffic stops.

He encouraged anyone who feels they have been mistreated by the police to file a complaint either through the police department or Syracuse’s Citizen Review Board.

Said Fowler: “If there’s something that you think is outside of the norm, live to complain about it the next day.”

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