It was 2003, and the Commander of the 70th Precinct was having a bad night. A group of residents had rented a bus and filled the monthly precinct meeting with frustrating stories of crime and a general lack of responsiveness from the NYPD. Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant, was brutalized at the precinct just a few years before.
It was a time of great tension in the northern part of the 70th, and Commanding Officer Robert Richard knew he had to do something to reach out to the community.
The organizers of the revolt lived in the northern part of the 70th, in what was called Beat 9. CO Richard chose two young officers and assigned them as Community Officers (‘Cpops’) to reach out to the community. One of them was Kim Berry, a young officer with five years on the force, all in the 70th Precinct.
On a Sunday morning, Berry began knocking on doors in Beat 9 to start building relationships with the community. Over the next few years, her outgoing charm, combined with her energetic attitude, won over an alienated population, launching a career in Community Relations.
Last Friday, Detective Kim Walker exited the 70th Precinct building for the last time. Many officers move between precincts throughout their careers. But Walker had found her calling and did not want to move elsewhere, she told Bklyner.
“As I retire from the NYPD after 22 years of service, I would like to say thank you to everyone who has made my career so incredible. That includes the Officers as well as the community that I served.”
And the community she served over the years showed up to say ‘right back at you’ – from tenant leaders to a mother whose son was killed in the neighborhood to a mayoral candidate.
Back in 2003, Officer Walker preferred her one-person scooter or walking to patrol cars. She wanted to know the neighbors and she wanted to be involved in what was important to them.
“We could count on Officer Walker for a warm smile and for her sincere concern,” recalled Beat 9 resident and now mayoral candidate Maya Wiley.
James Heaton, a key organizer of the busload revolt, had created the F.R.E.N.D. (Flatbush Residents Email Network Database) Newsletter, one of the tools used to organize the occupying of the Precinct Council Meeting. He remembers her showing up on the block.
“The 70th Precinct was, it seemed, understaffed and overstretched. They were doing a rather poor job of responding to the community and people were angry. Trust was very low. At that moment, Kim took it on herself to ask, “Can we try to start over? Let me be the face of the NYPD for you.” She made it her business to be there and to engage with us. This made a difference,” Heaton said.
Walter Omawali, president of the East 21st Tenants Association agrees.
“I was right here,” he said, pointing to the front of the precinct, “picketing after Abner Louima. We did NOT have faith in the NYPD.” He is old school. While he was mad at the NYPD, he was also mad they were not able to contain crime. “I am from East 21st Street, back in the days we call “Gunsmoke”. You went out of your building slowly, looking around the corner.”
Part of the outreach involved inviting Omawali to meet the rookie “impact zone” officers when they arrived. Slowly, trust began to take hold.
“Kim Walker is one of a few Officers who restored my faith in policing,“ Omawali said.
When some neighbors started taking teens around Beat 9 to paint over gang graffiti, she tagged along to make sure it was a safe way to volunteer. As local efforts like these grew, Walker’s personal commitment included her taking weekend assignments to attend community events like the FDC/Church Ave B.I.D. annual clean-ups where she often supervised 70th Precinct Explorers.
One year she showed up out of uniform with her two young sons to help paint bridges. When someone inquired as to why she was out of uniform, she explained that she was just volunteering on her day off and wanted her kids to experience it.
“She was an incredibly conscientious and capable police officer who performed above and beyond her duties with warmth and affection for all,” remembered Glen Wolin, a regular at the clean-up events as well as the Police Community Council rep and C.E.R.T. organizer for Beverly Square West.
“She seemed to be everywhere and always had a radiant smile when interacting with the residents of Beverly Square West. The community thought so highly of her that the Beverly Square West Neighborhood Association sent a letter of praise to the 70th Precinct.”
She was there when the Prospect Park South Halloween Parade was just starting to draw people and helped it grow safely into the sometimes 1,000 person event it is now.
Walker’s ability to keep the peace with a smile drew the attention of the Community Affairs Department, and in 2010, she was promoted to the Community Affairs program for the 70th Precinct, joining two big personalities, Det. Dominic Scotto and Lt. Jacqueline Bourne.
Robin Redmond, Executive Director of Flatbush Development Corporation, remembers her first impression of Det. Walker – “‘Awww, she is so sweet and so shy. How is she going to make it with these two.’ Well, if a first impression was ever wrong, trust me, my friend, that one definitely was. Over the years, I grew to rely on Detective Walker and her larger-than-life personality, and today am proud to call her friend. Flatbush was lucky to have you representing us all these years. You will be missed.”
Officer Yvonne Breinner, one of Det. Walker’s teammates on Community Affairs at the time, recalled at a recent Police Community Council (PCC) meeting – “The 70th is great in that it is so diverse, but that is also why it is difficult. She came in as a rookie and this one woman single-handedly brought to the 70th a warmth and unity that was just not there before.”
Robert Moskowitz of Flatbush Shomrim concurs. “Kim Walker made everyone feel they were special. But really it was her who was special.”
Such widespread appreciation might seem hard to believe, but Rabbi Saul Perlstein of the 70th PCC explains – “How many people can say they have no enemies? Kim is a rare person with no enemies.”
The 70th Precinct Community Affairs team cosponsors events such as the Night Out Against Crime and the Church Avenue Fair. At events like this, Walker would reconnect with young people who she had now literally known since birth.
Church Avenue B.I.D. Director Lauren Collins remembers her energy at the fairs.
“Kim would always be there before me (and long after I’d gone home), ready to help or just to be available for a chat. A few years ago, the 70th surprised the community by distributing pre-packed to-go lunches at the fair. I’ve never seen so many surprised passersby and Kim seemed to truly love the task. She will be missed! She has been a consistent, smiling, friendly presence throughout the years.”
When the “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” Organization reached out to Patrol Brooklyn South, Kim volunteered.
“It was my responsibility to make the precinct pink,” she tells us. “And now every year I do the walk and bake sales to raise money for research.” But it’s clearly also a good time for building relations with the NYPD.
“Detective Kim Walker’s service to our community has been remarkable for the level of commitment and warmth that she brought to every situation. There aren’t too many cops who light up a room when they enter the way Kim does,” says Community Board 14 manager Shawn Campbell.
“Her ability to put everyone at ease and yet carry on a job that is complex in a community that is one of the most diverse in the city, has been a lesson in dedication and humanity. Detective Walker is unique, and her charm, laughter, service and sincerity will be missed in this community. We certainly wish her the best, as that’s what she deserves!”
As Det. Walker walked out of the precinct for the last time, the entire Police Community Council was there at the walk-out, and its President Ed Powell marveled at the size of the crowd as he spoke.
“Kim just always made you feel better,” he said.
PCC Vice President Mary McCrae added that “The Annual Night Out Against Crime simply would not have happened these last years without Kim. She manages so much.”
Community Affairs has a somber side, too.
Each year they honor Detective Dillon Stewart, who was in killed in the line of duty in the 70th during Kim’s tenure. Walker and the members of the Community Affairs team attend graduations and other important events in Stewart’s daughters’ lives. This year they organized 20 officers to attend a dance performance that Stewart’s daughter Samantha performed in honor of her father.
For Walker, this is “one of the best parts of the job. It’s an amazing feeling,” she said, to remind them that while “they lost their dad, they gained a family of 27,000.”
Connections of this import extend outside of the NYPD family.
Bernard Marie approached the steps with a plant for Kim. They embraced and then the woman turned to the crowd and explained that her son had been killed in the confines of the 70th.
“I am not even from the 70th, but my son was killed here, in the 70th. Kim Walker stood with me as if I was part of this community.” Ms. Marie’s son Justin, a business major at Delaware University, had been visiting a friend in 70th and stepped in to break up an argument.
“Sometimes, even when there was no new developments, she still would call, just to see how I was doing and assure me my son was not forgotten.”
Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte praised the contributions Det. Walker has made.
“Detective Kim Walker has honorably served the Flatbush/East Flatbush community for over two decades. Just a year into her service, she was assigned to duty at Ground Zero, where she courageously helped our city recover from the devastation of the September 11 terror attacks and their aftermath. I have the pleasure of knowing Detective Walker in her capacity as Community Policing Officer, a role in which she worked tirelessly and served the community with dignity. Detective Walker led initiatives to curb gun violence and protected our neighbors from many threats over the course of her career. I am thankful for her service and will miss her positive and inviting energy. She has truly been an asset to our community.”
“Detective Kim Walker is exactly what you want in a Community Affairs officer: competent, professional, responsive and dedicated; but what truly set her apart is her warmth and her keen interest in and regard for the community,” Assemblymember Robert Carroll told us. “She genuinely cares about the rich diversity of the people she served, she knew them as individuals, and they felt that connection. She set a high standard of service and she will be dearly missed. I offer my deepest gratitude and congratulations on her well-earned retirement.”
“Detective Kim Walker is an extraordinary woman whose friendship, support, and dedicated service to our community will be greatly missed. For years, she was assigned to the 70th Precinct where she worked tirelessly to protect our neighborhoods by cultivating relationships that build trust between the NYPD, families, youth, and seniors. We thank her for the trailblazing work that she has done and wish her all the best in her future endeavors,” said Council Member Farah N. Louis.
‘I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Detective Kim Walker upon your retirement after twenty-two years of dedicated service to the NYPD,” said Assemblymember Simcha Eichenstein. “You have been an outstanding Community Affairs Officer, working closely with the community and serving as a wonderful liaison between our community and the NYPD. May you have much success in all your future endeavors. “
Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein gave a shout out from Albany:
“Detective Walker, for 22 years you have been a true partner in ensuring the communities within the 70th Precinct remain a safe space for families to settle and grow; approaching this sometimes trying and stressful job with poise and a great attitude. To insist we owe you for your service is quite the understatement; you’ve sacrificed your time, and at times put your life on the line, to ensure the safety and security of others. I wish you much luck on your retirement!”
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, whose district as councilmember overlapped 70th Precinct, was adamant to say goodbye.
“I have long had the honor of working with Detective Kim Walker in service of the people of Flatbush, and I know that she is respected and appreciated by both her colleagues in the department and the community to which she has dedicated many years. I join the city in offering her my gratitude for centering the well-being of New Yorkers for so many years, and extend my congratulations on her very well-deserved retirement.”
As Detective Walker was about to descend the steps, Commander Wall called out “And to those who will feel this loss the most, I am proud to tell you that it appears we will be trading one Walker for another,” he pointed to Kim’s son standing in the crowd.
“Her son Thomas Berry has his medical this Wednesday to begin his training.”
Many of the well-wishers spoke of how difficult it will be to replace her.
At the January Precinct Community Council Meeting, Commander Wall introduced, not one, but two Officers to replace Detective Walker.
“I have never had anyone complain about there being too many Community Affairs Officers,” he said introducing PO Mosely and PO Joseph, who will join Detective Nuzzi on the Community Affairs team.
Office Natasha Mosely says, “I know we have really big shoes to fill.” She comes to the new position with 15 years on the force, nine of those within the 70th, having worked in the Domestic Violence division as well as the schools unit. Officer Michael Joseph was for the last five years the 70th Precinct Sector C NCO (Neighborhood Coordinating Officer).
But we’ll give Det. Kim Walker the last word. She offers a bit of advice for both, residents and cops who protect them:
“I have no regrets and am very pleased to have worked so hard on so many community events that promoted and enhanced great relationships between Police and community,” Det. Walker says. “There are many great officers who took this job because they care and wanted to make a difference in this world. Don’t judge every book by its cover, and always treat people as you want to be treated.”