Questioning Police Power
September 30th, 2011
Following a meeting with leaders of city civil rights groups and other organizations, City Councilmember Jumaane Williams and Kirsten John Foy, an aide to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, are still awaiting a public apology for their detention and handcuffing by police following the West Indian Day Parade earlier this month.
And Mayor Michael Bloomberg has apparently not responded to their proposal that he and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly meet with Williams, Foy and young black and Latino New Yorkers that have been affected by what Williams, Foy and may others see as unfair and discriminatory police tactics. Instead Bloomberg, calling the police action a “misunderstanding,” had suggested he and Williams sit down over a beer “and work it out.”
Williams and Foy have repeatedly said their arrest highlights the effects of police policies — most notably stops and frisks — widely used against young black and Latino men in the city. In their statement issued last night, the two said they plan to hold town-hall style meetings in all five boroughs where others stopped by police can tell their stories. And they want the city Department of Education to “mandate ‘Know Your Rights’ training in middle and high schools.”
The statement comes as police are under scrutiny for other alleged abuses of power — police surveillance of Muslim New Yorkers, unwarranted marijuana arrests, and the pepper spraying of Wall Street demonstrators last weekend. Police have reportedly begun probing the latter incident, which has been viewed by hundreds of thousands, if not millions on YouTube.
All of these occurrences come after years that saw a massive expansion of police powers in the city, as Jim Dwyer writes in today’s Times. The department, Dwyer says, “has done so in a bubble of isolation from ordinary democratic processes. It exists in a world apart. ”
In their statement, Williams and Foy expressed hope this might be change. “We are all excited that our communities are focused and working together,” they said. “This is a fight for civil rights, and we are hopeful that civil rights will ultimately prevail.”By Gail Robinson on September 30, 2011, 8:52 am
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