In command at the 19th Precinct

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Deputy Inspector Kathleen Walsh talks to Our Town about traffic and bike issues — and what it’s like for women at the NYPD


  • Commanding Officer Kathleen Walsh notes the zeroes in homicide and rape categories. Photo: Straus News

  • Deputy Inspector Kathleen Walsh with her collection of challenge coins. Photo: Straus News

It was a homecoming of sorts when Deputy Inspector Kathleen Walsh became commanding officer of the 19th Precinct in January this year. An 18-year veteran of the NYPD, Walsh had been a sergeant at the 19th from 2005 to 2010. She moved up in supervisory roles in Chelsea and the Upper West Side before going to the 25th Precinct in East Harlem, where she became commander in May 2016.

“It’s good to be back,” Walsh said in her East Side office last week. “I never thought I would be sitting here.”

Walsh was born in Yonkers, N.Y. but moved to Galway — both her parents are from the Irish city — when she was a child. She returned to NYC in September 1993 and said she tries “to get home once a year” to Ireland.

Walsh met with Our Town last Friday to discuss issues in the community, the role of women in the NYPD and policing in an age of cellphones and social media. Excerpts:

On what has changed in the 19th precinct from then to now.

“There are a lot of familiar faces which … made it easier for me to come back and actually gave [me] an advantage,” said Walsh. “I have familiarity with the building, and the community, the community council.

“[I see] lot of the same issues. Traffic was an issue when I was here as a sergeant, bicyclists [were] an issue. Bicyclists and traffic were probably on everybody’s radar ... And maybe more so now,” she said, mentioning the increase in bike lanes since her earlier tenure.

Most of the complaints, she said, are of the variety, “I almost got hit.”

“Bicyclists do come pretty fast and they don’t always obey the rules of the road.”

But, she added, “We’re not up significantly in pedestrians getting hit by bicyclists than when I was here in 2006. But it is a complaint.”

Complaints about e-bikes.

“Officers have been going to restaurants, alerting them about new enforcement on those vehicles,” said Walsh. She noted that summonses go to businesses, rather than e-bike riders, although there is a gray area since some are third-party freelancers, like internet food-delivery services.

Walsh said that’s among the issues that need to be addressed by lawmakers rather than the police. “Some of that is legislation. It’s out of our hands a little bit.”

The increase in the use of e-bikes, she said, has become more of a concern for the community and is mentioned at nearly every community council meeting.

Communicating with residents in the age of social media and cellphones.

“It’s good,” said Walsh. “They tell you what their issues and problems are and they’ll see that we’re addressing them because we’ll put up operations on Twitter.” She noted that the NYPD gets feedback that way, both positive and negative, and added that the precinct would be setting up a Facebook account this fall.

Social media, said Walsh, “gives the police, particularly the 19th, the ability to alert the community to street closures, events and the like, but also allows for a law-enforcement component, by, for instance, sharing wanted posters and requests for witnesses to a crime.

“It’s a little bit more transparency between us now and the community. They’re able to see a bit more of what we do.”

Women’s empowerment in the NYPD.

“I’ve never felt held back as a female,” Walsh said. “I’ve always had very good mentors, both male and female. And never felt that being that being female was an issue or that ... because I was a female I couldn’t advance my career. I’ve had nothing but encouragement from both males and females.

“The NYPD is a great job,” she said. Regardless of gender, class or ethnicity, “the opportunity is there. If you work, you take the promotional exams, you can get promoted.”

New policing issues, and what commanders are looking for in new recruits.

“Video is big now. Everybody has cellphones. I remind [officers] to conduct themselves in a professional manner, because they are probably being taped. Treat everybody with respect, regardless of their economic status ... from the homeless person on the street, to the business owners, to the residents — everybody gets treated the same. And that’s what I try to instill,” said Walsh.

She noted that wanted flyers are now distributed by phone, and police reports are increasingly being done on tablets. Walsh said that officers “do tend to be looking a lot at their phones a lot more. In fact, you couldn’t carry a phone when I first came on, so it’s changed in that sense as well. You have your head buried a little bit, but at the same time you have all this information at your fingertips.”

On mental health training.

The “majority of our officers go through training,” Walsh said, and “all the new recruits as well. There’s a lot more awareness about mental health and how to deal with it.”

She added that the opioid crisis is not a “huge issue” in the 19th Precinct, but said she had seen more overdoses in the 25th.

On the nature of policing, as crime has dropped.

“I’m pretty certain if you asked any officer why they joined NYPD, they would tell you it was to get the bad guys, and not get the bicyclists,” Walsh said.

There are, of course, some city neighborhoods that still experience their share of violent crime. “If you’re in a precinct where there is violence, then guess what, that’s going to be what you’re addressing.” she said. Even within precincts, different parts of a neighborhood — “sectors” in NYPD parlance — could be dealing with different types of issues.

“Each sector is different in each command,” Walsh said.

“Listen, if there’s violence, then we’ll address the violence. If there’s not then we’re going to try and address [what] the command’s conditions are,” she said. “If there’s violence and quality-of-life issues you’re going to try and address both. It depends, again, on what part of the city we’re talking about.”

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