BY SAM RAPPAPORT
Capt. John Hall stepped into the role of commanding officer at northeast Queens’ 111th Precinct on March 5. On Tuesday, he discussed his new role with the Queens Tribune.
“Part of the reason I joined the force was because I wanted to have a job where I could work outside,” Hall said. “There’s a certain irony that I’m in an office now.”
Hall, who joined the NYPD in 2005, worked his way through a labyrinth of positions before arriving as the top cop at the 111th Precinct. Hall’s first beat was as a patrol officer in Washington Heights. From there, he went to Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where he worked as a narcotics detective. He then made sergeant and moved to the Bronx’s 52nd Precinct. After a stint there, he worked at police headquarters, where he helped write policy governing the department’s videotaped interrogations and marijuana arrests.
After working as a lieutenant in Chinatown and a captain back in the Bronx, Hall found himself in his current position—at the helm of a precinct that staffs approximately 150 officers and patrols the areas of Bayside, Douglaston, Little Neck, Auburndale, Hollis Hills and Fresh Meadows.
“I really wanted this,” Hall said, despite his disdain for the confines of his office. “I wanted to be a commanding officer of a precinct with neighborhoods. I like working where people have a vested interest in their community.”
Hall said that his biggest challenge in the coming year will be the precinct’s adoption of a neighborhood policing model.
“We’re changing the way we think about policing,” Hall said of the program. “It’s definitely a paradigm shift.”
The NYPD’s Neighborhood Model of Policing is a citywide initiative that reorganizes the department’s patrol methods to assign certain officers with specific geographic areas. Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCO), as the department calls them, will be assigned to specific neighborhood sectors and act as liaisons between the community and the police. The NYPD plans to establish Neighborhood Policing models in every precinct by 2019.
The 111th Precinct is broken down into four neighborhood sectors, and there are two assigned NCOs for each of them.
“[The officers] will be more attuned to the specific issues of the neighborhood and, hopefully, give that small-town police feel in a large city police department,” Hall said.
Hall explained that the NCOs would be personally available through email and Facebook, and would regularly attend sector-specific meetings.
“When we have our patrol officers taking time off the radio to go to community meetings and actually hear the complaints and issues, it’s a lot more personal,” Hall said. “It definitely narrows that gap between community and police. I mean, done right, police are the community—same as the postman and the sanitation guy. I hate this oppositional way we look at it, where it’s like community—police.”
Hall said that the Neighborhood Policing Model is about solving problems collaboratively. He hopes that the program will increase the flow of information between the department, city agencies, civic groups, community members and nonprofits.
Hall, who lives in Sunnyside, received an undergraduate degree from Cornell University, where he studied biology and worked as a paramedic. The events of Sept.11, 2001 pushed him to pursue a career in public safety. However, he hasn’t let a law enforcement career stop him from pursuing his academic interests.
In 2014, Hall received a master’s in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and, in 2017, he received a master’s in urban informatics from NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress.
“It’s basically data science,” Hall said of the NYU program.
Hall said that his time in higher education allows him to approach his work through a more comprehensive lens.
“You leave the insular world of policing and get to hear difference viewpoints,” he said of spending time in academia. “You get to see the larger picture. It definitely informs my decision making now.”
However, Hall doesn’t intend to go back to school anytime soon.
“I’ve had enough,” he said, before adding, “at least that’s the answer for my wife.”