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Stated Meeting: Council Approves Firearm Reporting

Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Citizens Union
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If police officers pull their triggers the City Council will now be put on notice under legislation passed unanimously by the council on Wednesday.

The New York City Police Department will be required to submit annual reports to the council detailing incidents of gunfire by police officers. The department will have to include the race, gender and age of those involved in the incident.

The bill, (Intro 516-A) sponsored by Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., has the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, according to a mayoral spokesman.

Keeping Tabs on Triggers

Lauded as an effort to keep the police department accountable, the proposal is not an indication of any problems there, city officials cautioned. But, instead, it hopes to identify trends and give the council greater oversight of data, which has been difficult to receive at times. Before this proposal, the department was not required to provide gunfire statistics to the council, and only did so sporadically and voluntarily.

"We haven't determined there is any problem in this area," said Vallone. "But we don't know this information unless we get it, and there is no requirement we receive this information now."

In the past, the department did not include the race, gender or age of individuals involved in shooting incidents with police officers. On the other hand, said Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the department did provide the breed and the sex of a dog if a police officer had shot it. The speaker called the difference "absurd."

Though the administration has expressed support for the bill, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association opposes the proposal. Association President Patrick J. Lynch said in a written statement, "The NYPD is the country's most restrained police departments in the use of deadly physical force. Requiring a report for every firearms discharge is unjustified and will not benefit anyone but the paper suppliers. It's a solution in search of a problem."

Other police officials have complained complying with the legislation would be costly and labor intensive. Council officials disputed that argument, saying it would only require officials collect more specific demographic information than they already do.

Primarily, the bill will give city officials a snapshot of the types of incidents that lead to pulling triggers by police officers. In recent years, said Vallone, police shootings have decreased significantly. In 1997, a weapon was discharged 253 times. In 2007, a gun was fired by police officers 111 times, and approximately 30 to 40 of those incidents involved animals, he added.

The new data will be provided borough by borough and precinct by precinct. Quinn said the council has not determined whether the annual reports will be made available on its Web site.

Members of the council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus applauded the proposal, saying it would help determine whether certain races are targeted.

"In communities of color it is extremely important we have that information," said Councilmember Robert Jackson, the co-chair of the caucus. "It seems as though these people that are shot are people of color."

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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The Lessons To Be Learned

By Arthur Levine
(AP Photo/Stephen J. Boitano)

This has been a terrible week filled with horrific images. We have had to explain to our children things that are incomprehensible to us. The days ahead will continue to be filled with pain as we learn about the losses of friends, relatives and acquaintances. I am concerned about what follows then. It has been said on broadcast after broadcast that American life will never be the same again. Rather than waiting for the changes to happen to us, perhaps wehave an opportunity to choose the changes we would like to occur.

I am an educator, so I will talk about the schools. We have a moment in which we can choose the values we want our children to learn in their classes. Amid reports of Arab citizens or visitors being harassed, I would like my children taught about tolerance and the strength that diversity brings.

In a time when our television screens are filled with stories of heroic volunteerism, I would like my children to learn about altruism, and the responsibility of service. This is a good time for schools to add vitality to service requirements that have grown dusty and disconnected, to make service not simply an extracurricular activity but an active part of the curriculum.

In an age in which voting rates and participation in civic life has declined, I would like my daughters to learn about community. Never have there been more vivid demonstrations of the meaning of community than we are seeing on our television screens today. Schools have the opportunity to take that experience and translate into an education which helps students learn the ways and meanings of civic participation, the power of and the mechanisms for dissent, and the manner in which individuals and groups can constructively change our community.

In an era in which America is inextricably interconnected with the rest of the world, as September 11 painfully showed us, I would like my children to learn about the world in a manner we have never before accomplished. The canon of literature our children read should be expanded beyond western writings to include global works, not because this is politically correct, but because it is essential. For example, I can no longer imagine a great books curriculum that does not include the Koran. This is a work that has had a profound influence on our country; in fact, on every presidency since Jimmy Carter. It would be good to teach more about other nations, their languages, and the meaning of a global society. It would be practical to have our children spend time in other countries and to make a concerted effort to invite foreign students and teachers to this country -- even when there may be pressure to do exactly the opposite in the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster.

In our schools and even more so in our homes, the real challenge will be not to match the values with our words, but with our deeds. If there is any inconsistency, our words teach children the ideal and our deeds teach them how much one can safely ignore the ideal.

Arthur Levine is president of Teachers College, in Columbia University.

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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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