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[Reforming Police in New York}
Williams: “We must demonstrate that we are committed to making tangible and immediate changes that will address the inequities in our policing system that are at the heart of these protests.”
Photo: YouTube

NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams has called on Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio to change violent policing in New York–like running over protesters with police vehicles.

Williams released the following statement:

Dear Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio:

Over the past few days, thousands of New Yorkers have taken to our City’s streets in protest to express their pain around the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black Americans who have been the victims of police violence. This pain is one that is rooted not only in grief for lives cut ruthlessly short, but in frustration with a policing system that has long discriminated against people of more color.

The City of New York Police Department (NYPD) and the mayoral administration to which it reports have reinforced and escalated this pervasive feeling of frustration through the responses to these protests. Members of the NYPD have preempted protests with militaristic displays of force, attacked peaceful protestors, and threatened the lives of unarmed people by driving a police cruiser into a crowd. New Yorkers need to know and feel they can safely interact with police, including recording interactions with police in their communities. The actions and words of this City’s leadership over the past days have unquestionably failed in making this critical point clear.

As the elected leaders of our City and State government, I urge you to use the moment currently in front of us as a turning point. We must revamp our response to these protests by ending practices that escalate tensions and threaten the safety of New Yorkers. Further, we must demonstrate that we are committed to making tangible and immediate changes that will address the inequities in our policing system that are at the heart of these protests. In this aim, the following actions to must be taken to address the needs of our communities:

1.Repeal (Not Reform) 50-a. A repeal of 50-a would provide much-needed transparency on police misconduct and discipline in New York State, and help the public see accountability for officers who have engaged in misconduct. To this end, existing FOIL statutes will continue to protect private information about officers (like their home address) once 50-a is repealed.

2.Make the Office of the Inspector General a truly independent agency.

3. City Council should advise and consent to the appointment of the NYPD Police Commissioner.

4.NYPD Budget

a. Disclose Itemized NYPD Budget. An operational matrix that allows departmental initiatives to display corresponding spending amounts, that does not itemize expenditures, but instead display only the programmatic breakdown would help New Yorkers understand the work, as every other city agency is required to do.

b.Reduce the Budget of NYPD by Reinvesting in Communities. We know how to reduce crime and recidivism-jobs. Communities feel safe through community development in health, jobs, and education. Programs like Cure Violence offer alternatives to police interaction and expanding the scope and investment of these programs means more people have access to services and support that interrupt and reduce violence in the community. The quickest way to stop violence in our schools is with guidance counselors, restorative justice coordinators, and jobs. Investment into guidance counselors, and SYEP is how our city must move forward to heal at this moment.

i.As an alternative to mass reductions to necessary services across the state due to New York’s deficit, I have proposed implementing six broadly supported proposals that would raise more than $20 billion for the state budget, closing this gap and more while impacting only billionaires, multi-millionaires, and the largest corporations including.

5. Strengthen the CCRB role in the disciplinary process. The NYPD Commissioner should not be the sole arbitrator of discipline.

6. Pass the Right to Record Act. Codify and expand, into Local Law, the First Amendment right to record police activities from a safe distance, and make it easier to sue in state court.

7. Pass Reporting Bill on Level 1 and Level 2 Stops. Our communities deserve to know all instances in which police officers are engaging with members of their neighborhoods and why those interactions are happening. We cannot address the issue of disparate policing enforcement without first knowing the full scope of this problem.

8. Cancel New MTA Police Officer Additions. The resources allotted for their hiring should be invested in improving transit for all New Yorkers.

9. As pursuant to the current law, provide the Public Advocate’s office with names and records of officers who engaged in misconduct this week. This includes looking into Officers who have ties to known hate groups.

10. Remove SRG from protests. The Strategic Response Group or SRG is a highly militarized component of the NYPD that is often deployed to police protests in NYC. This is not a force for de-escalation of angry and nonviolent civilians.

11. Move to a system where mental health providers and peers, rather than police, are the primary responders to emergency calls from people in mental distress.

Because of the urgency for families in our city, I look forward to receiving your response within one day. For any questions or further discussion, please contact First Deputy Public Advocate Nick E. Smith, at [email protected]. Thank you.

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