Harlem police officer Kevin Williams is moving up in the world.
In an event at the Police Athletic League on Thursday night, Williams—the commander of the New York Police Department’s 28th Precinct—was honored for his recent promotion from captain to deputy inspector. Archbishop George Michael Apollo also presented Williams with the Golden Deputy Inspector Award—a $25,000 plaque featuring Williams’ likeness—saying that Williams was joining “a fraternity of golden soldiers.”
Since arriving in the 28th Precinct—which borders Morningside Avenue to the west and Central Park to the south—in August 2011, Williams has had to deal with a wide range of criminal activities, including gang violence among teen “youth crews” and illegal dirt bike and all-terrain vehicle racing. He has sometimes come under fire from neighborhood associations, which have accused the precinct of ignoring their suggestions and of not sending out enough patrol officers to interact with the community.
But Thursday night’s ceremony marked a change in tone from most precinct community meetings, where police are often criticized for perceived inaction and inflexibility. Williams said that while those concerns exist in the 28th precinct, progress is being made.
“West Harlem is one place where interaction between police and community is critical,” he said. “We don’t always agree, but I think we have a mutual respect for each other.”
At the event, Williams was praised by fellow officers, precinct commanders, and community leaders like Jackie Rowe-Adams, leader of the anti-gun activist group Harlem Mothers SAVE.
“He doesn’t mind rolling up his sleeves. He makes us feel safe,” Adams said, recalling that Williams once accompanied her to a school to talk to students about their fear of dealing with the police.
“Those young men had an experience more valuable than I could have imagined, and for that I respect him,” Adams said.
“He’s a gentleman,” Apollo said told the Harlem civic leaders and police officers who attended the event. “He’s well-respected and a people person, which is so important when dealing with such a diverse community.”
A commendation from New York State Senator Bill Perkins was also read.
“Ultimately, Deputy Inspector Williams has sought to and succeeded in making police relations to the community better,” the commendation read.
Williams said that he was humbled and honored to be promoted, but acknowledged that more needs to be done to make Harlem safe.
“When I found out that I was going to be the commanding officer of the 28th Precinct, it blew my mind,” Williams said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be here.”
“The award is truly a blessing,” he added. “I’m out here doing what I believe in. It’s not just about having a gun and a badge. It’s about communication with the community.”
Williams’ father, Jerome Williams, served as a sergeant in the 28th Precinct in the 1980s. Williams joked that his father told him not the ruin the family name.
“I hope I haven’t done that,” he said.
Williams’ wife Darlene, who met him while he was studying criminal justice at John Jay College, praised her husband for his commitment to the NYPD and to Harlem.
“We’ll talk about the community, about what we think he should do,” she said. “He’s really committed to what he’s doing. We’re proud of him.”