New York State Senator and candidate for New York City Comptroller Brian Benjamin released his proposed plan to prioritize criminal justice reform by increasing transparency around police settlements and procurement, investing in a safer and fairer city, and redefining our police force for the 21st century.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Brian’s plan builds off of his record as a champion of criminal justice reform measures in the State Senate. Sponsor of the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act, prohibiting the deadly abuse of force, and successful advocate for repealing 50-a, making police disciplinary records public, Brian will bring his experience fighting for transformative measures to increase transparency and police accountability to the Office of the Comptroller.
“I’ve dedicated my career as a public servant to fighting for a fairer justice system alongside causes like the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Brian Benjamin. “I will use the powers of the Comptroller’s office to bring unprecedented accountability to the police and to fight for lasting change in how we approach public safety.”
BRIAN’S PLAN FOR REDEFINING POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY AND PUBLIC SAFETY IN NEW YORK CITY:
As Comptroller, Brian will use all the powers of the office to ensure policing is transformed and modernized until it is fully accountable and appropriately scaled to the community. Using his extensive experience fighting for police accountability and criminal justice reform, Brian will take the following steps to create a safer, fairer New York City for all:
- AUDITING THE NYPD – On day one, Brian will begin an audit of the NYPD to determine where every dollar of the $5.42 billion in tax payers’ money it receives is spent. Each audit will lead to recommendations, every recommendation will lead to advocacy, and the advocacy will lead to implementation to ensure that the NYPD is serving New Yorkers in appropriate proportion to the issues our communities face. To achieve this, every audit performed by Brian’s office will go beyond simply reconciling revenues and expenditures. The fiscal performance of each program will be measured alongside their impact on communities by grading them in Brian’s Equity and Sustainability Audits. With these comprehensive audits in place, the city will have data to support wiser investments of police resources in our communities.
- PRIORITIZING CRIMINAL JUSTICE ISSUES – To hold the NYPD, the Mayor and the City Council accountable, one of Brian’s first hires will be an Assistant Comptroller for Public Safety. From the beginning of an investigation or audit to the very end of the implementation of recommendations, this senior staffer will work directly with Brian and report to him. The Assistant Comptroller for Public Safety’s portfolio will prioritize mental health, safety, equity and workforce development as New York City works to redefine public safety and our police force for the 21st century. This new organization of the office will focus on public safety results that matter to New Yorkers, and will foster the interdepartmental and interagency cooperation that is necessary for real success.
- REPORTING ON POLICE SETTLEMENTS – Over the past 5 years, New York taxpayers have paid out $1.3 billion dollars for 20,000 settlements in cases against the NYPD. Each of these cases represented a miscarriage of justice in which New Yorkers’ rights were violated. As State Senator, Brian has introduced legislation to ensure that police cannot keep these settlements secret and hide patterns of abuse or negligence. Because the Comptroller handles settlements for the city, Brian will be empowered to identify patterns in police settlement cases, issue reports to the public on these patterns, and build public pressure to rectify them.
- MAKING POLICE PROCUREMENT TRANSPARENT – As Comptroller, Brian will ensure the NYPD procurement process is as transparent as possible without exposing our city to threats, and will take special care to ensure that the NYPD is not spending more resources to support certain policing tactics in communities of color. As State Senator, Brian fought for the repeal of 50-a, ensuring that New Yorkers have access to the disciplinary records of NYPD members. The repeal of 50-a gave New Yorkers information about which officers had abused their authority and force. A completely transparent procurement process will provide the public with information about whether the NYPD is spending its massive budget on equipment and priorities that are incompatible with appropriate measures to keep the peace. As Comptroller, he will make sure that NYPD spending is also made public so that New Yorkers understand how their taxes are being used in the interest of public safety. To reimagine policing, we need to know where every dollar is spent.
- INVESTING IN A SAFER AND FAIRER NEW YORK CITY – In the State Senate, Brian prioritized getting New York State out of the business of private for-profit prisons. Private prisons drive mass incarceration, as their business model depends on it. Brian introduced a bill to divest the state pensions from private prisons, working with Comptroller DiNapoli to get it done, and introduced a bill to forbid state-chartered banks from such investments as well, working with the CEO of Bank of America to end their relationship with Geo Group and Core Civic, the two largest private prison companies in America. In running for Comptroller, Brian knows that there is nothing more important than ensuring that our hard-earned pensions stay stable. But when it comes to investing pension assets, those same New York City employees deserve to have their money invested not only responsibly, but morally. They deserve not only a return but also to be funding things that build a bright future for their families. Working in close collaboration with his partners from organized labor, Brian will use his years of financial experience to shape the future of our city and the pension fund, ensuring a good return on the City’s investments and a safer and fairer New York City.
WHAT SUPPORTERS ARE SAYING:
Gwenn Carr, Activist and Mother of Eric Garner
“When my son lost his life because police used excessive force, Brian stood with me and together we created the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act. Police need to be held accountable when they become a danger to those they are supposed to serve, and because of leaders like Brian, they are starting to be.”
East Harlem City Councilmember Diana Ayala
“When shootings increased in the summer of 2020, Brian and I took to the street with violence interrupters and proved that investments in our neighborhoods lead to stronger and safer communities. Brian knows that we need to measure the success of these community programs to determine how we make public safety spending decisions. With this plan, he is continuing to focus on real public safety and on investing in neighborhoods like ours.”
Korey Wise, Activist and Member of the Exonerated Five
“I know better than most that police can get away with a lot when our city doesn’t keep them accountable, particularly if you are a Black man. I might not be free today if it weren’t for leaders like Brian who fight to ensure that public safety is actually focused on improving our communities.”
DeRay Mckesson, Host of Pod Save the People and co-founder of Campaign Zero
“I know Brian can bring accountability to police because I worked with him on legislation that audits the $220 million spent by NYPD in just one year on claims that disproportionately affect communities of color. Brian’s plan will shine a light on the negative and dangerous patterns that have plagued Black and brown New Yorkers for far too long.”
Tamika Mallory, Social Justice Leader and Founder of Until Freedom
“Brian has already been an important leader in the Black Lives Matter movement by championing the repeal of 50-A, divestment from private prisons, and the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act. With this plan, he will use the powers of the office of the New York City comptroller to bring us ever closer to justice.”
Brian Benjamin is running for Comptroller to chart a new course for New York’s financial future in these difficult times, one that protects New Yorkers’ retirements while upholding the values of decency and justice for all.
As a member of the New York State Senate, Brian has been a leader on criminal justice reform, introducing legislation to close Rikers Island and divest the state pension fund from private prisons in his first year. Throughout his time in the Senate, Brian has worked to reform our criminal justice system to ensure that it is an effective, just, and equitable system for all New Yorkers.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brian fought to pass the Rainy Day Fund law, which will ensure that New York City can meet its financial obligations when the next crisis hits. If elected Comptroller, Benjamin would work to ensure that New Yorkers’ retirements are protected, that agencies like NYCHA, DOE, MTA, and the NYPD face sufficient oversight, and that investments in the pension fund reflect New York City values.
Brian Benjamin was born in Harlem raised by Caribbean immigrants who came to this country seeking opportunity. He holds a degree in Public Policy from Brown and a Master’s in Business from Harvard. After earning his MBA, he returned to Harlem to start his career. As an affordable-housing developer, Benjamin helped create over one thousand units of environmentally sustainable, affordable housing.
In 2017 he was elected to serve as State Senator to New York’s 30th Senate District.