WARD SENDING UNIT
TO TOMPKINS SQUARE TO FIGHT DRUG TRADE
in: The New York Times, September 9, 1988
Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward said yesterday that he planned to assign a special group of officers to Tompkins Square Park similar to one that rid Washington Square Park of heavy drug trafficking last year.
Speaking to reporters after an awards ceremony, Mr. Ward said that although drug use in Tompkins Square was not perceived to be as serious a problem as it had been at Washington Square, many residents still thought there was too much drug use.
"We think we'll be able to bring it into control," he said, even without reimposing a 1 A.M. curfew in the park similar to one now in effect in Washington Square Park, eight blocks west, in the 6th Precinct. Mr. Ward said he opposed a Tompkins Square curfew. The curfew sparked a clash Aug. 6 between the police and demonstrators.
Mr. Ward said the present commander of the Washington Square operation, Lieut. Robert McKenna, would also be responsibile for Tompkins Square, in the 9th Precinct.
The narcotics division will concentrate on drug problems and the public morals division on preventing people from taking alcohol into the park, Mr. Ward said. He said the plan would likely be in effect by next spring.
"Gradually, I think if you start to bring the park back, you start to attract a different kind of clientele," the Commissioner added. "Then the clientele polices the park itself. That seems to be what's happening at Washington Square Park."
Meanwhile, a Manhattan artist who was jailed for contempt Tuesday after refusing to surrender his videotape of the Tompkins Square melee, offered to screen the tape for the grand jury that is investigating allegations of police brutality. The four-hour tape, made by Clayton Patterson, shows officers' striking demonstrators with nightsticks and some officers' wearing badges with concealed numbers.
The showing could purge Mr. Patterson of the contempt charges.