Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/nypd 2019-04-22T22:30:53+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com De Blasio Backs NYPD Harassment of Muslim New Yorkers 2019-03-20T04:00:00+00:00 2019-03-20T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8371-de-blasio-backs-nypd-harassment-of-muslim-new-yorkers Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/may-bill-de-blasio-rally-remarks.jpg" alt="may bill de blasio rally remarks" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Last year, New Yorkers learned about the experience of Jamilla Clark, a domestic violence survivor who was <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/16/nyregion/hijab-police-lawsuit-new-york.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">forced by NYPD officers to undress herself</a>, removing her religious headscarf against her will. Jamilla and other women’s experiences led my co-counsel and me to sue the NYPD, bringing a federal civil rights lawsuit.</p> <p>We hoped that self-proclaimed “progressive” Mayor Bill de Blasio would be quick to end this traumatizing practice. We were wrong. Last week, nearly a year after we first brought the lawsuit, <a href="https://puma-turkey-lszz.squarespace.com/s/2019-3-11-de-Blasio-NYPD-sign-on-letter.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">30 elected officials and community groups condemned the mayor for defending the NYPD policy</a>. Groups ranging from Make the Road New York to the Legal Aid Society to my own group, The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project said it “is wrong for the NYPD to force New Yorkers to violate their faith, and it’s wrong for you, Mayor de Blasio, to defend this policy.”</p> <p>Officers who force Muslim women and other religious New Yorkers to remove their head coverings aren’t breaking NYPD rules, and they don’t face disciplinary action. To the contrary, they are following official, <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/public_information/public-pguide2.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">NYPD guidelines</a>, which require Muslim New Yorkers to take off the hijab for a mugshot.</p> <p>A hijab is a religious headscarf that covers the hair and ears, but leaves the oval of the face fully visible. New York City’s unlawful and unconstitutional policy forces Muslim women to remove their hijab—a garment that symbolizes their faith and that so many view as an indispensable component of their identity.</p> <p>The signatories to our letter demand that the mayor “immediately end the NYPD policy of forcing arrestees to remove religious head coverings, including turbans, wigs, hats, and the hijab, when arrested.” &nbsp;At a time when other municipalities have stopped this horrific practice, allowing women to retain the hijab when arrested, New York is lagging behind. Cities from Dearborn Heights, Michigan and Long Beach, California to Minneapolis, Minnesota and Portland, Maine have recognized that it is unnecessary to remove religious head coverings for a post-arrest police photo.</p> <p>In the past, New York City settled litigation over this policy, paying women who had been targeted by the NYPD. But though the city was willing to pay victims of the policy, it was unwilling to end the practice. &nbsp;We need to go further and make clear that all arrestees have the right to retain their head coverings.</p> <p>We can fight this out in the courts for as long as it takes. But if it takes a federal court order to make Mayor de Blasio do the right thing, he’ll need to retire the “progressive” label once and for all.</p> <p>City leaders have promised to make New York a sanctuary for all faiths, but actions have fallen sort of our soaring rhetoric. This is the moment for our city to live up to our promise, this is the moment to respect the rights of religious New Yorkers, this is the moment to end New York City’s hijab arrest policy.</p> <p>***<br /> Albert Fox Cahn is the executive director of <a href="https://www.stopspying.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project</a>, a New York–based civil rights and police accountability organization. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/cahnlawny" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@cahnlawny</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/may-bill-de-blasio-rally-remarks.jpg" alt="may bill de blasio rally remarks" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Last year, New Yorkers learned about the experience of Jamilla Clark, a domestic violence survivor who was <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/16/nyregion/hijab-police-lawsuit-new-york.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">forced by NYPD officers to undress herself</a>, removing her religious headscarf against her will. Jamilla and other women’s experiences led my co-counsel and me to sue the NYPD, bringing a federal civil rights lawsuit.</p> <p>We hoped that self-proclaimed “progressive” Mayor Bill de Blasio would be quick to end this traumatizing practice. We were wrong. Last week, nearly a year after we first brought the lawsuit, <a href="https://puma-turkey-lszz.squarespace.com/s/2019-3-11-de-Blasio-NYPD-sign-on-letter.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">30 elected officials and community groups condemned the mayor for defending the NYPD policy</a>. Groups ranging from Make the Road New York to the Legal Aid Society to my own group, The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project said it “is wrong for the NYPD to force New Yorkers to violate their faith, and it’s wrong for you, Mayor de Blasio, to defend this policy.”</p> <p>Officers who force Muslim women and other religious New Yorkers to remove their head coverings aren’t breaking NYPD rules, and they don’t face disciplinary action. To the contrary, they are following official, <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/public_information/public-pguide2.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">NYPD guidelines</a>, which require Muslim New Yorkers to take off the hijab for a mugshot.</p> <p>A hijab is a religious headscarf that covers the hair and ears, but leaves the oval of the face fully visible. New York City’s unlawful and unconstitutional policy forces Muslim women to remove their hijab—a garment that symbolizes their faith and that so many view as an indispensable component of their identity.</p> <p>The signatories to our letter demand that the mayor “immediately end the NYPD policy of forcing arrestees to remove religious head coverings, including turbans, wigs, hats, and the hijab, when arrested.” &nbsp;At a time when other municipalities have stopped this horrific practice, allowing women to retain the hijab when arrested, New York is lagging behind. Cities from Dearborn Heights, Michigan and Long Beach, California to Minneapolis, Minnesota and Portland, Maine have recognized that it is unnecessary to remove religious head coverings for a post-arrest police photo.</p> <p>In the past, New York City settled litigation over this policy, paying women who had been targeted by the NYPD. But though the city was willing to pay victims of the policy, it was unwilling to end the practice. &nbsp;We need to go further and make clear that all arrestees have the right to retain their head coverings.</p> <p>We can fight this out in the courts for as long as it takes. But if it takes a federal court order to make Mayor de Blasio do the right thing, he’ll need to retire the “progressive” label once and for all.</p> <p>City leaders have promised to make New York a sanctuary for all faiths, but actions have fallen sort of our soaring rhetoric. This is the moment for our city to live up to our promise, this is the moment to respect the rights of religious New Yorkers, this is the moment to end New York City’s hijab arrest policy.</p> <p>***<br /> Albert Fox Cahn is the executive director of <a href="https://www.stopspying.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project</a>, a New York–based civil rights and police accountability organization. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/cahnlawny" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@cahnlawny</a>.</p> <p>

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Charter Revision Commission Hears Expert Testimony on Police Accountability 2019-03-10T05:00:00+00:00 2019-03-10T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8344-charter-revision-commission-hears-expert-testimony-on-police-accountability Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/pol-acc.jpg" alt="pol acc" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;@Charter2019NYC)</p> <hr /> <p>The 2019 Charter Revision Commission met on Thursday evening to discuss police accountability reforms before an impassioned crowd filled with activists. Local advocates along with some politicians have long called for increased transparency and accountability in policing, particularly in recent years following the 2014 death of Eric Garner at the hands of NYPD officers on Staten Island and the slow, somewhat secretive process by which any accountability has been handled for that incident and others like it over the years.</p> <p>The commission heard testimony from experts from representatives of the Civilian Complaints and Review Board (CCRB), NYPD, Legal Aid Society, and a variety of police reform advocacy groups.</p> <p>It was the second charter revision commission hearing this year featuring “expert” panels on key areas that the commission is considering for reform recommendations. The commission, which has narrowed its focus areas to four big buckets, will make its recommendations this summer and its proposals for changes to the city’s charter, its foundational governing document, will go before voters in November.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8248-2019-charter-revision-commission-announces-focus-areas" target="_blank" rel="noopener">four focus areas</a> are elections, which the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8322-charter-revision-commission-hears-expert-testimony-on-voting-redistricting-and-campaign-finance-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener">commission met to discuss the week prior</a>, governance, finance, and land use. Thursday’s meeting was the first to discuss governance, which includes police accountability.</p> <p>The hearing occurred one day after the Legal Aid Society released a <a href="https://capstat.nyc/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">database</a> of more than 2,300 cases of police misconduct involving almost 3,900 police officers between 2015 and 2018 (police unions say the database contains false and trivial allegations).</p> <p>The CCRB is currently the primary mode of formal police accountability in New York City. The civilian board, members of which are appointed by various officials and groups, investigates citizen complaints of police misconduct in four arenas: force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, and offensive language. The board then recommends a certain level of discipline to the police commissioner, who holds the ultimate authority to determine and enforce penalties for misconduct.</p> <p>The CCRB is a 13-member body: the City Council appoints one member per borough, the police commissioner names three members with experience in law enforcement, and the mayor installs five members and names the chair.</p> <p>The hearing was divided into three panels, though unlike the election reform hearing, which was split thematically, the police accountability panelists discussed similar issues and recommended similar amendments to the charter to address the topic at hand.</p> <p>The first panel included representatives from Citizens Union, a government reform group focused on transparency and accountability, Communities United for Police Reform, an activist organization, NYC Campaign for an Elected Civilian Review Board, and the New York Civil Liberties Union.</p> <p>The second panel hosted a criminal justice professor from Borough of Manhattan Community College, an attorney from the Legal Aid Society, president of the Boston-based National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, and the Independent Monitor of the Denver Police Department.</p> <p>And to conclude the hearing, the third panel was composed of the executive director of the CCRB, the NYPD legislative affairs director, and an NYPD Deputy Commissioner.</p> <p>All panelists and commissioners broadly agreed on the importance not only of accountability and transparency in the NYPD, but also on the maintenance of public perception of these tenets. Ideas on how to achieve those goals––or thoughts on whether New York City has already achieved them––differed.</p> <p>With exception from the two NYPD representatives, a consensus emerged among most panelists around amending the charter to increase the CCRB’s legal strength and to compel the NYPD to release public rationale when the commissioner’s disciplinary decisions divert from the CCRB recommendation. Many experts also advocated increasing CCRB’s budget in tandem with that of the NYPD.</p> <p>Police commissioners typically deviate from the CCRB’s discipline recommendations: according to the 2019 Charter Revision Commission, the police commissioner implemented the board’s recommendations in 26 percent of cases in the first half of 2018 and in 37 percent of cases in the first half of 2017. Deputy Commissioner Kevin Robinson of the NYPD, however, asserted that the concurrency rate––or the rate at which the NYPD acts upon the CCRB’s recommendation––has risen since this dip. The board agreed that the NYPD will often enforce some discipline at the CCRB’s recommendation, but it rarely aligns with the actual suggested measure of discipline.</p> <p>Executive director of the CCRB Jonathan Darche proposed four amendments to the charter: codification of CCRB’s administrative prosecution unit, allocation of subpoena power to the board’s “highest ranking staff,” a stronger impetus for NYPD compliance with the CCRB’s requests for information and documents, and to raise the CCRB budget to one percent of the NYPD budget.</p> <p>“While the department will continue to encourage a healthy working relationship that goes beyond the strict bounds of the charter,” said Oleg Chernyavsky, executive director of the NYPD legislative affairs unit, “we do not support such an expansion of the CCRB’s authority.” Darche encouraged the commission to consider the urgency of collecting evidence for misconduct investigations that rely on city resources like street cameras, where footage is routinely taped over.</p> <p>The NYPD commended its own steps toward increased transparency. Chernyavsky said that last year Police Commissioner James O’Neill gathered an external panel of criminal justice experts to assess the department’s internal discipline process, ultimately finding “no evidence of a lack of fairness.” The department still decided to act on a number of reforms suggested by the panel, like deliberation over the adoption of a standardized disciplinary matrix, according to Chernyavsky.</p> <p>Some experts suggested amendments to bolster CCRB’s oversight power. Joo-Hyun Kang, director of Communities United for Police Reform, proposed allocating disciplinary enforcement capacity to CCRB, including potential prosecutorial power. She also advocated fully publicizing all of the NYPD budget, enabling oversight of issues like surveillance technology procurement. Michael Sisitzky, lead policy counsel of the New York Civil Liberties Union, supported many similar provisions, including a charter amendment requiring City Council oversight of technology acquisition and decentralizing the disciplinary power of the police commissioner.</p> <p>“The biggest problem has always been in CCRB’s lack of authority,” said Sisitzky.</p> <p>Charter Commission Chair Gail Benjamin, former director of the City Council land use division and appointed as chair by Council Speaker Corey Johnson, along with Commissioner Alison Hirsh, vice president of 32BJ SEIU and appointed by Comptroller Scott Stringer, inquired about the disciplinary procedure for “peace officers.” The experts generally agreed that the city lacks an adequate oversight system for these 5,000 officers, but Darche said that the CCRB lacks the resources to oversee peace officers.</p> <p>The hearing’s most polarizing issue came from Pamela Monroe of the Campaign for an Elected Civilian Review Board. Monroe asserted that the “CCRB has failed,” and instead proposed a board of 21 elected officials “responsible to their district and answerable to New Yorkers.” The members would serve four-year terms that coincide with mayoral and City Council elections, she explained. The campaign has not yet determined if candidates should run along party lines or in nonpartisan elections. Monroe’s testimony drew fervent applause from the audience, which was largely composed of the campaign’s supporters.</p> <p>Commissioner Rev. Clinton Miller, who was appointed by Speaker Johnson, asked for details, and Hirsh and several other commissioners inquired about the necessity for elected officials on the CCRB and expressed concern over how the NYPD’s political power could sway these elections in the department’s favor and potentially prevent new accountability reforms. “New Yorkers deserve to have the people represent them,” Monroe answered. Local elections are a tenet of democracy, she explained, and espoused her campaign’s belief that the current CCRB is reflective only of the politicians who appoint them, rather than the city at large.</p> <p>While Brian Corr of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, reinforced Hirsh’s concerns over how police unions may wield their political clout in an election, most other experts declined to take a position on the issue as members of their organizations were still deliberating the idea.</p> <p>Commissioner Sal Albanese, a former City Council member and appointed by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, challenged many of the suggested reforms throughout the hearing. Albanese celebrated CCRB’s progress from when NYPD officers served on the board, which changed to its current all-civilian structure 26 years ago under the David Dinkins mayoral administration. He also extolled more recent reforms, including the installations of an inspector general and a federal monitor within the NYPD roughly five years ago.</p> <p>“Are these things not working?” Albanese asked, to laughs from both the audience and the panel.</p> <p>Corr later told Albanese that large cities need a body independent of the police department with checks on its power from the mayor and City Council, empaneled with “people who are trained in civic oversight, who understand investigations and can also look at systemic issues.”</p> <p>Commissioner Stephen Fiala, the Richmond county clerk and appointed by Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, asked several experts to detail their complaints with the <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ocdv/downloads/pdf/MOU_EVE_Program_2012.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2012 Memorandum of Understanding</a> that broadened oversight of the NYPD.</p> <p>Many experts lamented the lack of any measure compelling the NYPD to provide a public rationale in instances of non-concurrency between the department and the CCRB on disciplinary measures, despite provisions in the 2012 MOU that suggested the NYPD would disclose these explanations. Ethan Geringer-Sameth explained that Citizens Union has had to wield legal action to unveil certain NYPD decisions. “The fact that it’s not public now,” Kang said “really shows how the NYPD has been allowed to make their own rules.”</p> <p>Commissioner Carl Weisbrod, a Mayor Bill de Blasio appointee, asked the CCRB and NYPD representatives why the MOU “shouldn’t be codified, given the fact that it has stood the test of time.” Darche called the memorandum a “template for charter revision,” while Chernyavsky said that the MOU maintained police commissioner power because those who occupy that position worked through all levels of the police ranks, giving them important perspective on issues of police misconduct.</p> <p>Issues of police mistrust within communities of color were debated during the second panel. Albanese asserted that polling shows people of color generally trust police officers, while Manhattan Community College professor Liza Chowdhury said she had not heard of these polls and spoke of historical over-policing in neighborhoods of color, drawing enthusiasm from demonstrators in the crowd who carried photographs of African-American men who have been killed by NYPD officers. Fiala, meanwhile, agreed the NYPD must improve its relationship with civilians, but blamed a lack of trust on a general trend toward suspicion of institutions.</p> <p>Cynthia Conti-Cook of the Legal Aid Society recommended implementing a conflict counselor position within the CCRB to serve as independent legal representation for clients, rather than the standard set by New York City Law Department’s interpretation of state Civil Rights Law 50-a, which she deemed “the crux of the problem.” The state law, she explained, requires attorneys advancing complaints against police misconduct to delineate why they believe misconduct exists, but blocks their access to disciplinary documents from the NYPD. Defense attorneys, Conti-Cook said, are “arguing in the darkness.”</p> <p>Chernyavsky advocated for amendments to 50-a that would permit the release of information in the public interest––including officer names, trial transcripts, decisions and disciplinary outcomes––while maintaining safeguards “aimed at protecting officers against harassment.”</p> <p>“Commissioner O’Neill,” Chernyavsky said, “has attempted to be more transparent within the bounds of the existing law,” noting the decision to release body camera footage and <a href="https://compstat.nypdonline.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">CompStat data</a>. “We can have both. We don’t need to throw away the safeguard that are afforded to our officers at the cost of transparency.”</p> <p>Many experts and commissioners shared a desire to see a police force that demographically better reflects the communities it serves (which has been the trend in the NYPD), and the need to confront trauma both in neighborhoods that have experienced police brutality and within the police force.</p> <p>Representatives from the NYPD did not propose any charter amendments.</p> <p> </p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/pol-acc.jpg" alt="pol acc" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;@Charter2019NYC)</p> <hr /> <p>The 2019 Charter Revision Commission met on Thursday evening to discuss police accountability reforms before an impassioned crowd filled with activists. Local advocates along with some politicians have long called for increased transparency and accountability in policing, particularly in recent years following the 2014 death of Eric Garner at the hands of NYPD officers on Staten Island and the slow, somewhat secretive process by which any accountability has been handled for that incident and others like it over the years.</p> <p>The commission heard testimony from experts from representatives of the Civilian Complaints and Review Board (CCRB), NYPD, Legal Aid Society, and a variety of police reform advocacy groups.</p> <p>It was the second charter revision commission hearing this year featuring “expert” panels on key areas that the commission is considering for reform recommendations. The commission, which has narrowed its focus areas to four big buckets, will make its recommendations this summer and its proposals for changes to the city’s charter, its foundational governing document, will go before voters in November.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8248-2019-charter-revision-commission-announces-focus-areas" target="_blank" rel="noopener">four focus areas</a> are elections, which the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8322-charter-revision-commission-hears-expert-testimony-on-voting-redistricting-and-campaign-finance-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener">commission met to discuss the week prior</a>, governance, finance, and land use. Thursday’s meeting was the first to discuss governance, which includes police accountability.</p> <p>The hearing occurred one day after the Legal Aid Society released a <a href="https://capstat.nyc/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">database</a> of more than 2,300 cases of police misconduct involving almost 3,900 police officers between 2015 and 2018 (police unions say the database contains false and trivial allegations).</p> <p>The CCRB is currently the primary mode of formal police accountability in New York City. The civilian board, members of which are appointed by various officials and groups, investigates citizen complaints of police misconduct in four arenas: force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, and offensive language. The board then recommends a certain level of discipline to the police commissioner, who holds the ultimate authority to determine and enforce penalties for misconduct.</p> <p>The CCRB is a 13-member body: the City Council appoints one member per borough, the police commissioner names three members with experience in law enforcement, and the mayor installs five members and names the chair.</p> <p>The hearing was divided into three panels, though unlike the election reform hearing, which was split thematically, the police accountability panelists discussed similar issues and recommended similar amendments to the charter to address the topic at hand.</p> <p>The first panel included representatives from Citizens Union, a government reform group focused on transparency and accountability, Communities United for Police Reform, an activist organization, NYC Campaign for an Elected Civilian Review Board, and the New York Civil Liberties Union.</p> <p>The second panel hosted a criminal justice professor from Borough of Manhattan Community College, an attorney from the Legal Aid Society, president of the Boston-based National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, and the Independent Monitor of the Denver Police Department.</p> <p>And to conclude the hearing, the third panel was composed of the executive director of the CCRB, the NYPD legislative affairs director, and an NYPD Deputy Commissioner.</p> <p>All panelists and commissioners broadly agreed on the importance not only of accountability and transparency in the NYPD, but also on the maintenance of public perception of these tenets. Ideas on how to achieve those goals––or thoughts on whether New York City has already achieved them––differed.</p> <p>With exception from the two NYPD representatives, a consensus emerged among most panelists around amending the charter to increase the CCRB’s legal strength and to compel the NYPD to release public rationale when the commissioner’s disciplinary decisions divert from the CCRB recommendation. Many experts also advocated increasing CCRB’s budget in tandem with that of the NYPD.</p> <p>Police commissioners typically deviate from the CCRB’s discipline recommendations: according to the 2019 Charter Revision Commission, the police commissioner implemented the board’s recommendations in 26 percent of cases in the first half of 2018 and in 37 percent of cases in the first half of 2017. Deputy Commissioner Kevin Robinson of the NYPD, however, asserted that the concurrency rate––or the rate at which the NYPD acts upon the CCRB’s recommendation––has risen since this dip. The board agreed that the NYPD will often enforce some discipline at the CCRB’s recommendation, but it rarely aligns with the actual suggested measure of discipline.</p> <p>Executive director of the CCRB Jonathan Darche proposed four amendments to the charter: codification of CCRB’s administrative prosecution unit, allocation of subpoena power to the board’s “highest ranking staff,” a stronger impetus for NYPD compliance with the CCRB’s requests for information and documents, and to raise the CCRB budget to one percent of the NYPD budget.</p> <p>“While the department will continue to encourage a healthy working relationship that goes beyond the strict bounds of the charter,” said Oleg Chernyavsky, executive director of the NYPD legislative affairs unit, “we do not support such an expansion of the CCRB’s authority.” Darche encouraged the commission to consider the urgency of collecting evidence for misconduct investigations that rely on city resources like street cameras, where footage is routinely taped over.</p> <p>The NYPD commended its own steps toward increased transparency. Chernyavsky said that last year Police Commissioner James O’Neill gathered an external panel of criminal justice experts to assess the department’s internal discipline process, ultimately finding “no evidence of a lack of fairness.” The department still decided to act on a number of reforms suggested by the panel, like deliberation over the adoption of a standardized disciplinary matrix, according to Chernyavsky.</p> <p>Some experts suggested amendments to bolster CCRB’s oversight power. Joo-Hyun Kang, director of Communities United for Police Reform, proposed allocating disciplinary enforcement capacity to CCRB, including potential prosecutorial power. She also advocated fully publicizing all of the NYPD budget, enabling oversight of issues like surveillance technology procurement. Michael Sisitzky, lead policy counsel of the New York Civil Liberties Union, supported many similar provisions, including a charter amendment requiring City Council oversight of technology acquisition and decentralizing the disciplinary power of the police commissioner.</p> <p>“The biggest problem has always been in CCRB’s lack of authority,” said Sisitzky.</p> <p>Charter Commission Chair Gail Benjamin, former director of the City Council land use division and appointed as chair by Council Speaker Corey Johnson, along with Commissioner Alison Hirsh, vice president of 32BJ SEIU and appointed by Comptroller Scott Stringer, inquired about the disciplinary procedure for “peace officers.” The experts generally agreed that the city lacks an adequate oversight system for these 5,000 officers, but Darche said that the CCRB lacks the resources to oversee peace officers.</p> <p>The hearing’s most polarizing issue came from Pamela Monroe of the Campaign for an Elected Civilian Review Board. Monroe asserted that the “CCRB has failed,” and instead proposed a board of 21 elected officials “responsible to their district and answerable to New Yorkers.” The members would serve four-year terms that coincide with mayoral and City Council elections, she explained. The campaign has not yet determined if candidates should run along party lines or in nonpartisan elections. Monroe’s testimony drew fervent applause from the audience, which was largely composed of the campaign’s supporters.</p> <p>Commissioner Rev. Clinton Miller, who was appointed by Speaker Johnson, asked for details, and Hirsh and several other commissioners inquired about the necessity for elected officials on the CCRB and expressed concern over how the NYPD’s political power could sway these elections in the department’s favor and potentially prevent new accountability reforms. “New Yorkers deserve to have the people represent them,” Monroe answered. Local elections are a tenet of democracy, she explained, and espoused her campaign’s belief that the current CCRB is reflective only of the politicians who appoint them, rather than the city at large.</p> <p>While Brian Corr of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, reinforced Hirsh’s concerns over how police unions may wield their political clout in an election, most other experts declined to take a position on the issue as members of their organizations were still deliberating the idea.</p> <p>Commissioner Sal Albanese, a former City Council member and appointed by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, challenged many of the suggested reforms throughout the hearing. Albanese celebrated CCRB’s progress from when NYPD officers served on the board, which changed to its current all-civilian structure 26 years ago under the David Dinkins mayoral administration. He also extolled more recent reforms, including the installations of an inspector general and a federal monitor within the NYPD roughly five years ago.</p> <p>“Are these things not working?” Albanese asked, to laughs from both the audience and the panel.</p> <p>Corr later told Albanese that large cities need a body independent of the police department with checks on its power from the mayor and City Council, empaneled with “people who are trained in civic oversight, who understand investigations and can also look at systemic issues.”</p> <p>Commissioner Stephen Fiala, the Richmond county clerk and appointed by Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, asked several experts to detail their complaints with the <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ocdv/downloads/pdf/MOU_EVE_Program_2012.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2012 Memorandum of Understanding</a> that broadened oversight of the NYPD.</p> <p>Many experts lamented the lack of any measure compelling the NYPD to provide a public rationale in instances of non-concurrency between the department and the CCRB on disciplinary measures, despite provisions in the 2012 MOU that suggested the NYPD would disclose these explanations. Ethan Geringer-Sameth explained that Citizens Union has had to wield legal action to unveil certain NYPD decisions. “The fact that it’s not public now,” Kang said “really shows how the NYPD has been allowed to make their own rules.”</p> <p>Commissioner Carl Weisbrod, a Mayor Bill de Blasio appointee, asked the CCRB and NYPD representatives why the MOU “shouldn’t be codified, given the fact that it has stood the test of time.” Darche called the memorandum a “template for charter revision,” while Chernyavsky said that the MOU maintained police commissioner power because those who occupy that position worked through all levels of the police ranks, giving them important perspective on issues of police misconduct.</p> <p>Issues of police mistrust within communities of color were debated during the second panel. Albanese asserted that polling shows people of color generally trust police officers, while Manhattan Community College professor Liza Chowdhury said she had not heard of these polls and spoke of historical over-policing in neighborhoods of color, drawing enthusiasm from demonstrators in the crowd who carried photographs of African-American men who have been killed by NYPD officers. Fiala, meanwhile, agreed the NYPD must improve its relationship with civilians, but blamed a lack of trust on a general trend toward suspicion of institutions.</p> <p>Cynthia Conti-Cook of the Legal Aid Society recommended implementing a conflict counselor position within the CCRB to serve as independent legal representation for clients, rather than the standard set by New York City Law Department’s interpretation of state Civil Rights Law 50-a, which she deemed “the crux of the problem.” The state law, she explained, requires attorneys advancing complaints against police misconduct to delineate why they believe misconduct exists, but blocks their access to disciplinary documents from the NYPD. Defense attorneys, Conti-Cook said, are “arguing in the darkness.”</p> <p>Chernyavsky advocated for amendments to 50-a that would permit the release of information in the public interest––including officer names, trial transcripts, decisions and disciplinary outcomes––while maintaining safeguards “aimed at protecting officers against harassment.”</p> <p>“Commissioner O’Neill,” Chernyavsky said, “has attempted to be more transparent within the bounds of the existing law,” noting the decision to release body camera footage and <a href="https://compstat.nypdonline.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">CompStat data</a>. “We can have both. We don’t need to throw away the safeguard that are afforded to our officers at the cost of transparency.”</p> <p>Many experts and commissioners shared a desire to see a police force that demographically better reflects the communities it serves (which has been the trend in the NYPD), and the need to confront trauma both in neighborhoods that have experienced police brutality and within the police force.</p> <p>Representatives from the NYPD did not propose any charter amendments.</p> <p> </p> Headley Case Again Raises Questions About NYPD Accountability Under De Blasio 2018-12-17T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-17T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8150-headley-case-again-raises-questions-about-nypd-accountability-under-de-blasio Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/squad-presser.jpg" alt="squad presser" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>When video was captured in 2014 of Staten Island resident Eric Garner dying with an NYPD officer’s arm wrapped around his neck, just months after the election of a progressive mayor promising a new day at the police department, it seemed like a watershed moment. The evidence was there for millions to see for themselves, across the city and country, and beyond. It seemed impossible that the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, would escape any accountability. But more than four years later there has been little beyond Pantaleo’s move to desk duty. Years of agitation and advocacy, lawsuits and desperate pleas occurred as a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo on criminal charges and a federal civil rights investigation has crawled to no end. Only recently -- amid ongoing criticism that there is still no real accountability for police officers who break the public trust, department protocol, or the law -- the NYPD announced a departmental trial.</p> <p>Over the course of the past five years, there is little evidence that Mayor Bill de Blasio and the police department that he controls have taken steps to improve officer accountability, and the administration has even taken a large step backwards in terms of transparency (and the accountability that can come with it) regarding officers’ disciplinary records. Now, de Blasio is facing another round of questions about his management of the department, while he touts reform measures like de-escalation training and neighborhood policing that do not appear to directly connect to outcomes for officer accountability.</p> <p>The recent arrest of Jazmine Headley, also caught on video that went viral, led to no action against two police officers who were seen violently pulling the young mother’s one-year-old baby from her arms and threatening bystanders with a taser. The NYPD, after a “strenuous” week-long review of the incident, declared its officers innocent and pegged the blame on two security guards, called “peace officers,” at the Human Resources Administration office where the incident took place. Separately, Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks, under whom HRA falls, suspended the two peace officers and announced that they would face disciplinary charges that could lead to termination. Tellingly, Banks also announced new HRA protocols that include directing peace officers to not request NYPD assistance -- unless there is an immediate safety threat -- “without first contacting the Center Director or Deputy Director or her/his designee to attempt to defuse the situation by addressing a client need.”</p> <p>De Blasio, who came to power in 2014 vowing to reform the NYPD but has since failed to fully follow through in the eyes of many of his supporters, initially issued a tepid response to the incident and later defended the NYPD during a press conference and then an interview on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show. He pointed to the peace officers and a situation that was “already out of control” when the NYPD arrived, and said it was “unfair” that critics lambasted the NYPD while ignoring the many reforms that have been enacted under his tenure.</p> <p>“It’s very easy to critique when you’re not in charge,” said de Blasio, whose allies acknowledge several aspects of police reform he has instituted but say he’s fallen far short on accountability for badly behaving officers. “When you’re in charge you better get your facts straight.”</p> <p>Elected officials and advocates were dismayed by the NYPD’s refusal to discipline the two police officers. “This defies belief. I am angry, confused and heartbroken,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson <a href="https://twitter.com/CoreyinNYC/status/1073725902339616769" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweeted</a> on Friday. “Anyone who watched that video I’m sure comes to the same conclusion. We still need Justice for Jazmin[e].”</p> <p>“This incident was badly mishandled, and agencies’ independent reviews have determined which employees are the most responsible for escalating the situation,” said Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a de Blasio spokesperson, in a statement. “Now we will work to ensure that both agencies work together to improve their policies and protocols so we can prevent this incident from happening ever again. This will absolutely lead to immediate reforms on the part of both agencies.”</p> <p>Joo-Hyun Kang, a spokesperson for the Communities United for Police Reform coalition, said the department “is continuing to protect its own officers at any cost.”</p> <p>“On Mayor de Blasio’s watch, the NYPD has been completely unwilling to hold its own officers accountable for wrongdoing and misconduct,” Kang said in a statement, calling for the two police officers to be fired from the force. “It’s outrageous and wrong that no officers were even interviewed for the NYPD’s sham investigation into Jazmine Headey’s arrest, and that the names of officers have still not been released. An independent investigation into Jazmine Headley’s case and how the NYPD officers acted is clearly needed.”</p> <p>The Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent police oversight agency, is also investigating the incident and it’s possible it may come to a different conclusion than the police department. However, even if the CCRB makes a disciplinary recommendation, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill would still have the final word and could dismiss even those findings. <a href="https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/mikehayes/nypd-disciplinary-review-board-created" target="_blank" rel="noopener">BuzzFeed News reported</a> in March that hundreds of police officers had been allowed to remain on the force despite committing offenses for which they should have been terminated. The report prompted the NYPD to create an independent panel in June to review its disciplinary practices. The three-member panel was initially given four months for the review but <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-metro-nypd-discipline-panel-extension-20181005-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">requested</a> an additional 90 days to complete its work, at the end of which it will issue a public report with its conclusions.</p> <p>“In a day and age that we’re talking about building trust between police and communities, that incident undoes all the progress we’re trying to make,” said City Council Member Donovan Richards, who chairs the Council’s public safety committee, in a phone interview on Monday. “It further exacerbates the mistrust.”</p> <p>Though he credited the mayor and commissioner for taking what steps they have to improve the public’s perception and relationship with police -- including the neighborhood policing program and the body camera program -- he flatly said accountability has not improved. As a response, he is preparing to introduce legislation that would mandate the creation of a “discipline matrix” that categorizes police conduct violations and details the specific punitive measures each violation would invite. Other jurisdictions have codified such guidelines to ensure that misconduct is punished in consistent and standardized ways, with little leeway for weakening disciplinary recommendations. Similar policies have been enacted and debated in other municipalities as well, including in Newark, New Jersey, which created a new civilian oversight board in 2016 that would use a matrix to determine responses to officer wrongdoing.</p> <p>“What happened to bias training?” Richards wondered, citing the new training techniques that the department has been touting alongside de-escalation training as a solution since after Garner’s death in 2014. “Why do we need training to treat communities of color with respect? If this was a different zip code, this incident would absolutely have not happened.”</p> <p>“If you have to get training to not pull a baby so harshly, you probably do not belong in the department. I don’t know how you train someone to not do that,” he added. Richards had <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/nyregion/newyorktoday/new-york-news-jazmine-headley.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">called</a> for the officers to be fired soon after the incident.</p> <p>One significant hurdle to accountability has been the de Blasio administration’s reinterpretation of the state Civil Rights Code’s section 50-a, which protects police officers’ personnel records from public disclosure. Previous administrations have released a limited amount of information about officers’ disciplinary history. De Blasio’s administration did so as well up to 2016, when it claimed that the law had been misinterpreted for decades and changed its policy. The mayor said his hands were tied and that it was up to the state Legislature to scrap the provision.</p> <p>Richards noted, however, that there has been “radio silence” from the administration on repealing 50-a. “There’s always time to get a better grade,” he said of the city’s record on police accountability, “The big test coming up is 50-a.” He is encouraged that a Democrat-controlled state Legislature will take up the issue if there is a vocal push for it.</p> <p>Results of the NYPD commission and repealing 50-a could bolster the notion of a new era of accountability that critics are demanding. In the wake of the Headley incident, not only did those critics connect what they saw as police misconduct to the Garner incident, but also to other instances in the years since, including multiple shootings by police of unarmed individuals suffering from mental illness. An ongoing federal corruption trial involving several former top NYPD officials and two prominent donors to the mayor has also undermined the department’s reputation and the mayor’s commitment to reform. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Short of any steps forward, Richards is concerned that the department is sending a message to other “bad apples” that they will be defended no matter what their behavior, further eroding any confidence that New Yorkers, especially communities of color, may have in law enforcement. De Blasio has staked some of his policing legacy on a neighborhood policing program he says is part of already drastically-improved relations between police and communities -- a claim many activists and elected officials say is overly generous. The administration also points to a reduction in both use-of-force incidents and complaints against officers as proof that its policies are working, while crime continues to drop and arrests are significantly down.</p> <p>Recalling the video of Headley’s arrest, Richards worried about her baby and the trauma he went through.</p> <p>“That baby will see that video some day,” he said. “Do you think he will trust the police?”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/squad-presser.jpg" alt="squad presser" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>When video was captured in 2014 of Staten Island resident Eric Garner dying with an NYPD officer’s arm wrapped around his neck, just months after the election of a progressive mayor promising a new day at the police department, it seemed like a watershed moment. The evidence was there for millions to see for themselves, across the city and country, and beyond. It seemed impossible that the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, would escape any accountability. But more than four years later there has been little beyond Pantaleo’s move to desk duty. Years of agitation and advocacy, lawsuits and desperate pleas occurred as a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo on criminal charges and a federal civil rights investigation has crawled to no end. Only recently -- amid ongoing criticism that there is still no real accountability for police officers who break the public trust, department protocol, or the law -- the NYPD announced a departmental trial.</p> <p>Over the course of the past five years, there is little evidence that Mayor Bill de Blasio and the police department that he controls have taken steps to improve officer accountability, and the administration has even taken a large step backwards in terms of transparency (and the accountability that can come with it) regarding officers’ disciplinary records. Now, de Blasio is facing another round of questions about his management of the department, while he touts reform measures like de-escalation training and neighborhood policing that do not appear to directly connect to outcomes for officer accountability.</p> <p>The recent arrest of Jazmine Headley, also caught on video that went viral, led to no action against two police officers who were seen violently pulling the young mother’s one-year-old baby from her arms and threatening bystanders with a taser. The NYPD, after a “strenuous” week-long review of the incident, declared its officers innocent and pegged the blame on two security guards, called “peace officers,” at the Human Resources Administration office where the incident took place. Separately, Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks, under whom HRA falls, suspended the two peace officers and announced that they would face disciplinary charges that could lead to termination. Tellingly, Banks also announced new HRA protocols that include directing peace officers to not request NYPD assistance -- unless there is an immediate safety threat -- “without first contacting the Center Director or Deputy Director or her/his designee to attempt to defuse the situation by addressing a client need.”</p> <p>De Blasio, who came to power in 2014 vowing to reform the NYPD but has since failed to fully follow through in the eyes of many of his supporters, initially issued a tepid response to the incident and later defended the NYPD during a press conference and then an interview on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show. He pointed to the peace officers and a situation that was “already out of control” when the NYPD arrived, and said it was “unfair” that critics lambasted the NYPD while ignoring the many reforms that have been enacted under his tenure.</p> <p>“It’s very easy to critique when you’re not in charge,” said de Blasio, whose allies acknowledge several aspects of police reform he has instituted but say he’s fallen far short on accountability for badly behaving officers. “When you’re in charge you better get your facts straight.”</p> <p>Elected officials and advocates were dismayed by the NYPD’s refusal to discipline the two police officers. “This defies belief. I am angry, confused and heartbroken,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson <a href="https://twitter.com/CoreyinNYC/status/1073725902339616769" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweeted</a> on Friday. “Anyone who watched that video I’m sure comes to the same conclusion. We still need Justice for Jazmin[e].”</p> <p>“This incident was badly mishandled, and agencies’ independent reviews have determined which employees are the most responsible for escalating the situation,” said Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a de Blasio spokesperson, in a statement. “Now we will work to ensure that both agencies work together to improve their policies and protocols so we can prevent this incident from happening ever again. This will absolutely lead to immediate reforms on the part of both agencies.”</p> <p>Joo-Hyun Kang, a spokesperson for the Communities United for Police Reform coalition, said the department “is continuing to protect its own officers at any cost.”</p> <p>“On Mayor de Blasio’s watch, the NYPD has been completely unwilling to hold its own officers accountable for wrongdoing and misconduct,” Kang said in a statement, calling for the two police officers to be fired from the force. “It’s outrageous and wrong that no officers were even interviewed for the NYPD’s sham investigation into Jazmine Headey’s arrest, and that the names of officers have still not been released. An independent investigation into Jazmine Headley’s case and how the NYPD officers acted is clearly needed.”</p> <p>The Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent police oversight agency, is also investigating the incident and it’s possible it may come to a different conclusion than the police department. However, even if the CCRB makes a disciplinary recommendation, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill would still have the final word and could dismiss even those findings. <a href="https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/mikehayes/nypd-disciplinary-review-board-created" target="_blank" rel="noopener">BuzzFeed News reported</a> in March that hundreds of police officers had been allowed to remain on the force despite committing offenses for which they should have been terminated. The report prompted the NYPD to create an independent panel in June to review its disciplinary practices. The three-member panel was initially given four months for the review but <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-metro-nypd-discipline-panel-extension-20181005-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">requested</a> an additional 90 days to complete its work, at the end of which it will issue a public report with its conclusions.</p> <p>“In a day and age that we’re talking about building trust between police and communities, that incident undoes all the progress we’re trying to make,” said City Council Member Donovan Richards, who chairs the Council’s public safety committee, in a phone interview on Monday. “It further exacerbates the mistrust.”</p> <p>Though he credited the mayor and commissioner for taking what steps they have to improve the public’s perception and relationship with police -- including the neighborhood policing program and the body camera program -- he flatly said accountability has not improved. As a response, he is preparing to introduce legislation that would mandate the creation of a “discipline matrix” that categorizes police conduct violations and details the specific punitive measures each violation would invite. Other jurisdictions have codified such guidelines to ensure that misconduct is punished in consistent and standardized ways, with little leeway for weakening disciplinary recommendations. Similar policies have been enacted and debated in other municipalities as well, including in Newark, New Jersey, which created a new civilian oversight board in 2016 that would use a matrix to determine responses to officer wrongdoing.</p> <p>“What happened to bias training?” Richards wondered, citing the new training techniques that the department has been touting alongside de-escalation training as a solution since after Garner’s death in 2014. “Why do we need training to treat communities of color with respect? If this was a different zip code, this incident would absolutely have not happened.”</p> <p>“If you have to get training to not pull a baby so harshly, you probably do not belong in the department. I don’t know how you train someone to not do that,” he added. Richards had <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/nyregion/newyorktoday/new-york-news-jazmine-headley.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">called</a> for the officers to be fired soon after the incident.</p> <p>One significant hurdle to accountability has been the de Blasio administration’s reinterpretation of the state Civil Rights Code’s section 50-a, which protects police officers’ personnel records from public disclosure. Previous administrations have released a limited amount of information about officers’ disciplinary history. De Blasio’s administration did so as well up to 2016, when it claimed that the law had been misinterpreted for decades and changed its policy. The mayor said his hands were tied and that it was up to the state Legislature to scrap the provision.</p> <p>Richards noted, however, that there has been “radio silence” from the administration on repealing 50-a. “There’s always time to get a better grade,” he said of the city’s record on police accountability, “The big test coming up is 50-a.” He is encouraged that a Democrat-controlled state Legislature will take up the issue if there is a vocal push for it.</p> <p>Results of the NYPD commission and repealing 50-a could bolster the notion of a new era of accountability that critics are demanding. In the wake of the Headley incident, not only did those critics connect what they saw as police misconduct to the Garner incident, but also to other instances in the years since, including multiple shootings by police of unarmed individuals suffering from mental illness. An ongoing federal corruption trial involving several former top NYPD officials and two prominent donors to the mayor has also undermined the department’s reputation and the mayor’s commitment to reform. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Short of any steps forward, Richards is concerned that the department is sending a message to other “bad apples” that they will be defended no matter what their behavior, further eroding any confidence that New Yorkers, especially communities of color, may have in law enforcement. De Blasio has staked some of his policing legacy on a neighborhood policing program he says is part of already drastically-improved relations between police and communities -- a claim many activists and elected officials say is overly generous. The administration also points to a reduction in both use-of-force incidents and complaints against officers as proof that its policies are working, while crime continues to drop and arrests are significantly down.</p> <p>Recalling the video of Headley’s arrest, Richards worried about her baby and the trauma he went through.</p> <p>“That baby will see that video some day,” he said. “Do you think he will trust the police?”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
The Right to Know is Law – Will the NYPD Abide by It? 2018-11-12T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-12T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8067-the-right-to-know-is-law-will-the-nypd-abide-by-it Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/37860416686_7fee8fef46_z.jpg" alt="NYPD officers" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>New York City recently took an important step toward police reform. The long-anticipated Right To Know Act has officially gone into effect, with important provisions dictating police-civilian encounters. The Act includes critical laws that will help end unconstitutional searches and require that police officers both identify themselves and provide the reason for an encounter – even leaving a business card in certain interactions.</p> <p>After years of fighting for these reforms, we can start to rebuild the broken trust New Yorkers have in the NYPD by bringing more transparency and accountability to everyday interactions. But to do this, we need full and immediate cooperation from the NYPD and the Mayor’s Office.</p> <p><a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2015555&amp;GUID=652280A4-40A6-44C4-A6AF-8EF4717BD8D6&amp;Options=ID%7CText%7C&amp;Search=consent" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The consent to search law</a> will change the way certain police searches are conducted to help end unconstitutional searches. The new law requires that when there is no legal justification for a personal, home, or vehicle search (like a warrant or probable cause), NYPD officers must explain to the person they would like to search that they have a right to refuse the search, and their consent to the search has to be documented.</p> <p><a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1681129&amp;GUID=F650527A-AA60-49DB-8A02-97E9C4A0CBDE&amp;Options=ID%7CText%7C&amp;Search=0182" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The NYPD identification law</a> will require officers to provide basic information to the person they’re interacting with in writing, including the officer’s name, rank, command, and a phone number to be able to submit complaints or comments if no arrest is made, as well as a specific reason for the interaction. Interactions that are covered by the law include street stops, home searches, most roadblock and checkpoints, and questioning of crime survivors and witnesses.</p> <p>Many people reading this might assume that such basic information provision is already a part of our policing system. But these steps were previously absent from law, which has resulted in serious problems.</p> <p>This legislation is a vital part of restoring accountability and transparency in the NYPD, thus keeping communities, especially communities of color, safe from the harmful and abusive policing they are subjected to on a regular basis.</p> <p>The Right To Know Act is a milestone not only for its content, but for also for its origins. This legislation started with community members impacted by police abuses and is the result of action from more than 200 organizations involved in Communities United for Police Reform (CPR). The charge in the City Council was led fearlessly by many Council members who also felt that the problem was personal to all New Yorkers.</p> <p>Our advocacy was inspired by those who have been devastated by the status quo. Mothers like Constance Malcolm and Gwen Carr, who lost their children to police violence, gave us hope in their willingness to demand action. Now, children coming home from school will know that the police are not permitted to scare them, like by forcing them to open their bookbags and display the contents without reason.</p> <p>But too often our work faced significant pushback from those most critical to our success, including our mayor, who has promised time and again to improve safety and police-community relations, and leaders of the NYPD. The Mayor’s Office scheduled a hearing for the Right To Know Act on the evening that Erica Garner was buried – knowing full well that many critical advocates wouldn’t be able to attend.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>The NYPD has missed countless opportunities to engage with CPR on how the Act would be implemented – in fact the department didn’t meet with us until last month, violating the law’s provision that community be consulted in advance of creating guidance and implementation. It has since refused to make any of the necessary changes to its internal guidance to officers that would bring them in compliance with the Right To Know Act and help ensure our communities’ rights are protected. Department leaders then turned around and said that we had “unprecedented” access to materials, and that they had already consulted with the community. This was untrue. And as the bill went into law, a Patrolmen's Benevolent Association spokesperson even referred to reform as a “burden” on officers.</p> <p>Those kinds of comments undermine the gravity of this law and hardly inspire confidence in the NYPD’s willingness to honor and uphold its effective implementation. NYPD materials still lack clear, coherent language on some of the details required for police to implement the law. And there is mounting evidence that the NYPD is hardly trying to implement the bill in its entirety. It’s crucial that the NYPD and Mayor de Blasio focus on implementing and enforcing the Right to Know Act properly, and provide guidance and materials needed to ensure that NYPD officers follow these new laws. But regardless of their actions, CPR is prepared to educate citizens on their right to know in order to ensure that the NYPD does not violate or obstruct that right.</p> <p>While the law going into effect is certainly something to celebrate, we clearly have much more work to do. The final version of the police identification bill included numerous carve-outs and exclusions that were universally opposed by the Right to Know Act coalition of more than 200 organizations. This legislation is one step of many in the path to true safety and justice for all New Yorkers. Passing reform-oriented legislation is crucial, but we must also critically examine and abolish harmful and unjust legislation. For instance, laws like ‘<a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/CVR/50-A">50A</a>,’ which continues to protect the officers who killed Eric Garner, need to be repealed to achieve the goal of full transparency.</p> <p>Today, the Right To Know Act is a symbol of the work we have done, but also of how far we still have to go. We are grateful to the community and the City Council, to New Yorkers for raising their voices, and to those who will continue to speak out against unnecessarily harsh policing. Together, we’ve made history. Let’s continue to do so.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>***<br />Monifa Bandele is a member of the steering committee for Communities United for Police Reform. She is also Senior Vice President and Chief Partnership &amp; Equity Officer at MomsRising. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/monifabandele" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@monifabandele</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/37860416686_7fee8fef46_z.jpg" alt="NYPD officers" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>New York City recently took an important step toward police reform. The long-anticipated Right To Know Act has officially gone into effect, with important provisions dictating police-civilian encounters. The Act includes critical laws that will help end unconstitutional searches and require that police officers both identify themselves and provide the reason for an encounter – even leaving a business card in certain interactions.</p> <p>After years of fighting for these reforms, we can start to rebuild the broken trust New Yorkers have in the NYPD by bringing more transparency and accountability to everyday interactions. But to do this, we need full and immediate cooperation from the NYPD and the Mayor’s Office.</p> <p><a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2015555&amp;GUID=652280A4-40A6-44C4-A6AF-8EF4717BD8D6&amp;Options=ID%7CText%7C&amp;Search=consent" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The consent to search law</a> will change the way certain police searches are conducted to help end unconstitutional searches. The new law requires that when there is no legal justification for a personal, home, or vehicle search (like a warrant or probable cause), NYPD officers must explain to the person they would like to search that they have a right to refuse the search, and their consent to the search has to be documented.</p> <p><a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1681129&amp;GUID=F650527A-AA60-49DB-8A02-97E9C4A0CBDE&amp;Options=ID%7CText%7C&amp;Search=0182" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The NYPD identification law</a> will require officers to provide basic information to the person they’re interacting with in writing, including the officer’s name, rank, command, and a phone number to be able to submit complaints or comments if no arrest is made, as well as a specific reason for the interaction. Interactions that are covered by the law include street stops, home searches, most roadblock and checkpoints, and questioning of crime survivors and witnesses.</p> <p>Many people reading this might assume that such basic information provision is already a part of our policing system. But these steps were previously absent from law, which has resulted in serious problems.</p> <p>This legislation is a vital part of restoring accountability and transparency in the NYPD, thus keeping communities, especially communities of color, safe from the harmful and abusive policing they are subjected to on a regular basis.</p> <p>The Right To Know Act is a milestone not only for its content, but for also for its origins. This legislation started with community members impacted by police abuses and is the result of action from more than 200 organizations involved in Communities United for Police Reform (CPR). The charge in the City Council was led fearlessly by many Council members who also felt that the problem was personal to all New Yorkers.</p> <p>Our advocacy was inspired by those who have been devastated by the status quo. Mothers like Constance Malcolm and Gwen Carr, who lost their children to police violence, gave us hope in their willingness to demand action. Now, children coming home from school will know that the police are not permitted to scare them, like by forcing them to open their bookbags and display the contents without reason.</p> <p>But too often our work faced significant pushback from those most critical to our success, including our mayor, who has promised time and again to improve safety and police-community relations, and leaders of the NYPD. The Mayor’s Office scheduled a hearing for the Right To Know Act on the evening that Erica Garner was buried – knowing full well that many critical advocates wouldn’t be able to attend.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>The NYPD has missed countless opportunities to engage with CPR on how the Act would be implemented – in fact the department didn’t meet with us until last month, violating the law’s provision that community be consulted in advance of creating guidance and implementation. It has since refused to make any of the necessary changes to its internal guidance to officers that would bring them in compliance with the Right To Know Act and help ensure our communities’ rights are protected. Department leaders then turned around and said that we had “unprecedented” access to materials, and that they had already consulted with the community. This was untrue. And as the bill went into law, a Patrolmen's Benevolent Association spokesperson even referred to reform as a “burden” on officers.</p> <p>Those kinds of comments undermine the gravity of this law and hardly inspire confidence in the NYPD’s willingness to honor and uphold its effective implementation. NYPD materials still lack clear, coherent language on some of the details required for police to implement the law. And there is mounting evidence that the NYPD is hardly trying to implement the bill in its entirety. It’s crucial that the NYPD and Mayor de Blasio focus on implementing and enforcing the Right to Know Act properly, and provide guidance and materials needed to ensure that NYPD officers follow these new laws. But regardless of their actions, CPR is prepared to educate citizens on their right to know in order to ensure that the NYPD does not violate or obstruct that right.</p> <p>While the law going into effect is certainly something to celebrate, we clearly have much more work to do. The final version of the police identification bill included numerous carve-outs and exclusions that were universally opposed by the Right to Know Act coalition of more than 200 organizations. This legislation is one step of many in the path to true safety and justice for all New Yorkers. Passing reform-oriented legislation is crucial, but we must also critically examine and abolish harmful and unjust legislation. For instance, laws like ‘<a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/CVR/50-A">50A</a>,’ which continues to protect the officers who killed Eric Garner, need to be repealed to achieve the goal of full transparency.</p> <p>Today, the Right To Know Act is a symbol of the work we have done, but also of how far we still have to go. We are grateful to the community and the City Council, to New Yorkers for raising their voices, and to those who will continue to speak out against unnecessarily harsh policing. Together, we’ve made history. Let’s continue to do so.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>***<br />Monifa Bandele is a member of the steering committee for Communities United for Police Reform. She is also Senior Vice President and Chief Partnership &amp; Equity Officer at MomsRising. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/monifabandele" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@monifabandele</a>.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
Questions Linger as Right to Know Act Goes Into Effect 2018-10-18T17:21:15+00:00 2018-10-18T17:21:15+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8004-questions-linger-as-right-to-know-act-goes-into-effect Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayorsoffice-gradu.jpg" alt="mayorsoffice gradu" width="600" /></p> <p>(Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The Right to Know Act, a significant piece of police reform legislation passed by the City Council last December, is set to go into effect Friday and advocates who hoped it would transform street interactions between New Yorkers and police officers are worried that the NYPD may not fully comply with the new law.</p> <p>The Right to Know Act comprises two laws with requirements for how officers conduct themselves in street stops. The first, sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Democrat, mandates that officers identify themselves when questioning individuals, provide a valid reason for doing so, and provide a business card with their name and rank to the individual. The second law, sponsored by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, a Brooklyn Democrat, requires officers with no probable cause to obtain verbal consent before searching an individual or their property while informing people of their right to refuse a search. The police department will also have to compile and report data on the number of such encounters.</p> <p>Developed as a response to the NYPD’s controversial use of stop-and-frisk policing, the Right to Know legislation travelled a bumpy years-long road to passage. In 2016, former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito refused to allow the bills to come to a vote and instead struck a deal with the NYPD to implement certain provisions administratively. The move was protested by criminal justice advocates who believed Mark-Viverito had kowtowed to opposition by the police department and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Then, in 2017, when the two bills were on the verge of being approved, Torres’ bill was amended in ways that police reform advocates said diluted and betrayed its original intent by removing certain categories of interactions from its jurisdiction. The CPR coalition pulled its support for that bill before it passed, as did some of the Council Members who co-sponsored it. Nonetheless, the enactment of the legislative package was mostly celebrated as a victory for criminal justice reform efforts in the city.</p> <p>Advocates and the bill sponsors have since been eagerly awaiting and preparing for the two laws to go into effect on Friday, though there have been questions raised about the NYPD’s readiness to change its ways -- concerns the NYPD is pushing back against, promising full compliance with the new laws and asserting its outreach efforts as “unprecedented.”</p> <p>“We’re gearing up to see how the NYPD implements the reforms mandated in the law,” said Michael Sisitzky, lead policy counsel in the advocacy department at the New York Civil Liberties Union, in a phone interview on Tuesday. NYCLU is a member of the Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) coalition, which spearheaded advocacy for the Right to Know bills for years. Sisitzky said his organization has been conducting internal education sessions about the two laws as they await its implementation.</p> <p>But he noted that the NYPD has failed to significantly engage with advocates or solicit enough community input on changing its policies to adhere to the laws, which was explicitly required by Reynoso’s bill.</p> <p>“That consultation didn’t happen in any meaningful way,” Sisitzky said. “The NYPD really decided to not follow the spirit and requirements of the law and consult with communities despite these communities being involved in this for the last five years.” He said it was a “missed opportunity” to reimagine policing tactics and that more so than other reforms related to greater reporting on enforcement or the creation of outside monitors, its success depends on how it is executed on the ground. “This was an easy chance for them to work with communities to create new policies,” he said.</p> <p>On Wednesday, Joo-Hyun Kang, director of CPR, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-right-to-know-act-obstruction-20181017-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told the New York Daily News</a> that the coalition had only one meeting with the NYPD in September and that it’s recommendations were not taken into account in new guidance issued to officers. Drafted guidance in the NYPD patrol guide, which dictates officer conduct and protocols, that was seen by Kang seemed to fall short of the requirements in the law, the News reported, and Kang worried that officers were not being properly trained.</p> <p>Council Member Reynoso echoed the sentiments of the advocates. On Wednesday morning, Reynoso visited the offices of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which handles complaints of NYPD officer misconduct and abuse of power, to speak with more than 60 CCRB staffers about the Right to Know Act, what inspired it and how it will improve policing, particularly communities of color, where the overuse of stop-and-frisk was damaging to police-community relations and ruled unconstitutional by a judge.</p> <p>Emphasizing the need for the Right to Know Act, Reynoso recounted his own personal experience with stop-and-frisk from his high school days, when he and his cousins were abruptly stopped and searched by police officers as they walked down the street. “That experience was very life-changing for me. I felt like I lost all dignity,” he said.</p> <p>Speaking to reporters after the meeting, he noted that the NYPD should have been more collaborative as they prepare to adapt to the new laws. “I think the NYPD does want to follow through with the bills,” he said, while conceding that they have “done a very poor job” of communicating with reform advocates. “While I do believe that they haven’t done enough at this moment to engage communities the way they’re supposed to by law, moving forward I do feel comfortable that they’ll be able to engage,” he said. “But, because we’ve lost all this time, without communicating to the advocates, there are some things that they could have done better or might have overlooked that could have been addressed before implementation. Now we have to wait till after implementation to address a lot of these issues.”</p> <p>Reynoso stressed that the new laws would be a valuable tool in the pockets of public defenders and New Yorkers who feel that their civil rights have been violated, and that the department’s compliance would also be ensured by the full implementation of its body camera program. De Blasio announced in January that all patrol officers would be outfitted with cameras by the end of the year.</p> <p>There are concerns, however, about how closely officers will follow the new laws. “Unfortunately, the NYPD doesn’t have the best track record complying with legal mandates,” NYCLU’s Sisitzky said. The NYPD has in recent months come under fire for refusing to abide by a City Council law mandating disclosure of data on subway fare evasion arrests. And de Blasio has repeatedly chosen to defer to the department’s leadership, which cited public safety concerns, instead of ordering compliance.</p> <p>Asked if the NYPD could be trusted to follow the Right to Know, which the department fought, and if the mayor could be relied upon to enforce it, Reynoso seemed to harbor some doubts. “I absolutely believe that the mayor should be on the front lines...but the mayor has shown that he cares deeply about his relationship with the NYPD.” Even when certain pieces of police reform legislation are justified, Reynoso said, “[The mayor] would err on the side of the police [rather] than the people of the City of New York.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for the mayor did not respond to a request for comment. An NYPD spokesperson, asked about the concerns expressed by advocates, said in a statement, “The NYPD will fully comply with the Right to Know Act when it takes effect this Friday. As the Department developed its policies, it heard numerous recommendations from the advocacy community through discussions with the Federal Monitor. The Department also provided advocates unprecedented access to NYPD policies, forms, and trainings prior to the law taking effect. And the NYPD will of course continue to talk to advocates to fine tune the policy as it is implemented and we can assess what’s working and what might be improved.”</p> <p>Advocates and the City Council say they will be keeping an eagle eye on the police adherence. “The City Council is proud of its efforts in this area and we will be watching the roll out to ensure the Right To Know is being followed,” said Jennifer Fermino, City Council communications director, in a statement.</p> <p>On Thursday afternoon, the CPR coalition rallied with several City Council Members outside City Hall, celebrating the Right to Know Act but also airing their complaints about the NYPD's lacklustre engagement and promising to hold the department and the de Blasio administration accountable. "And, on Friday morning, Reynoso and members of the CCRB will hit the streets of Brooklyn and the Bronx to inform New Yorkers about their new rights under the Act.</p> <p>“I think [the new laws] offer New Yorkers a real sense of control and knowledge over their encounters with the police department,” said Jonathan Darche, CCRB executive director, in a phone interview. “And we’ve been working hard with the department in order to make sure that we’re on the same page with them about how they are training members of service so that we can hold members accountable to the standard that is being demanded of them by the department.”</p> <p>“I’m excited that it’s coming to fruition,” Council Member Torres said outside City Hall on Wednesday as he rushed to attend a Wednesday meeting of the full Council.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayorsoffice-gradu.jpg" alt="mayorsoffice gradu" width="600" /></p> <p>(Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The Right to Know Act, a significant piece of police reform legislation passed by the City Council last December, is set to go into effect Friday and advocates who hoped it would transform street interactions between New Yorkers and police officers are worried that the NYPD may not fully comply with the new law.</p> <p>The Right to Know Act comprises two laws with requirements for how officers conduct themselves in street stops. The first, sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Democrat, mandates that officers identify themselves when questioning individuals, provide a valid reason for doing so, and provide a business card with their name and rank to the individual. The second law, sponsored by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, a Brooklyn Democrat, requires officers with no probable cause to obtain verbal consent before searching an individual or their property while informing people of their right to refuse a search. The police department will also have to compile and report data on the number of such encounters.</p> <p>Developed as a response to the NYPD’s controversial use of stop-and-frisk policing, the Right to Know legislation travelled a bumpy years-long road to passage. In 2016, former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito refused to allow the bills to come to a vote and instead struck a deal with the NYPD to implement certain provisions administratively. The move was protested by criminal justice advocates who believed Mark-Viverito had kowtowed to opposition by the police department and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Then, in 2017, when the two bills were on the verge of being approved, Torres’ bill was amended in ways that police reform advocates said diluted and betrayed its original intent by removing certain categories of interactions from its jurisdiction. The CPR coalition pulled its support for that bill before it passed, as did some of the Council Members who co-sponsored it. Nonetheless, the enactment of the legislative package was mostly celebrated as a victory for criminal justice reform efforts in the city.</p> <p>Advocates and the bill sponsors have since been eagerly awaiting and preparing for the two laws to go into effect on Friday, though there have been questions raised about the NYPD’s readiness to change its ways -- concerns the NYPD is pushing back against, promising full compliance with the new laws and asserting its outreach efforts as “unprecedented.”</p> <p>“We’re gearing up to see how the NYPD implements the reforms mandated in the law,” said Michael Sisitzky, lead policy counsel in the advocacy department at the New York Civil Liberties Union, in a phone interview on Tuesday. NYCLU is a member of the Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) coalition, which spearheaded advocacy for the Right to Know bills for years. Sisitzky said his organization has been conducting internal education sessions about the two laws as they await its implementation.</p> <p>But he noted that the NYPD has failed to significantly engage with advocates or solicit enough community input on changing its policies to adhere to the laws, which was explicitly required by Reynoso’s bill.</p> <p>“That consultation didn’t happen in any meaningful way,” Sisitzky said. “The NYPD really decided to not follow the spirit and requirements of the law and consult with communities despite these communities being involved in this for the last five years.” He said it was a “missed opportunity” to reimagine policing tactics and that more so than other reforms related to greater reporting on enforcement or the creation of outside monitors, its success depends on how it is executed on the ground. “This was an easy chance for them to work with communities to create new policies,” he said.</p> <p>On Wednesday, Joo-Hyun Kang, director of CPR, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-right-to-know-act-obstruction-20181017-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told the New York Daily News</a> that the coalition had only one meeting with the NYPD in September and that it’s recommendations were not taken into account in new guidance issued to officers. Drafted guidance in the NYPD patrol guide, which dictates officer conduct and protocols, that was seen by Kang seemed to fall short of the requirements in the law, the News reported, and Kang worried that officers were not being properly trained.</p> <p>Council Member Reynoso echoed the sentiments of the advocates. On Wednesday morning, Reynoso visited the offices of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which handles complaints of NYPD officer misconduct and abuse of power, to speak with more than 60 CCRB staffers about the Right to Know Act, what inspired it and how it will improve policing, particularly communities of color, where the overuse of stop-and-frisk was damaging to police-community relations and ruled unconstitutional by a judge.</p> <p>Emphasizing the need for the Right to Know Act, Reynoso recounted his own personal experience with stop-and-frisk from his high school days, when he and his cousins were abruptly stopped and searched by police officers as they walked down the street. “That experience was very life-changing for me. I felt like I lost all dignity,” he said.</p> <p>Speaking to reporters after the meeting, he noted that the NYPD should have been more collaborative as they prepare to adapt to the new laws. “I think the NYPD does want to follow through with the bills,” he said, while conceding that they have “done a very poor job” of communicating with reform advocates. “While I do believe that they haven’t done enough at this moment to engage communities the way they’re supposed to by law, moving forward I do feel comfortable that they’ll be able to engage,” he said. “But, because we’ve lost all this time, without communicating to the advocates, there are some things that they could have done better or might have overlooked that could have been addressed before implementation. Now we have to wait till after implementation to address a lot of these issues.”</p> <p>Reynoso stressed that the new laws would be a valuable tool in the pockets of public defenders and New Yorkers who feel that their civil rights have been violated, and that the department’s compliance would also be ensured by the full implementation of its body camera program. De Blasio announced in January that all patrol officers would be outfitted with cameras by the end of the year.</p> <p>There are concerns, however, about how closely officers will follow the new laws. “Unfortunately, the NYPD doesn’t have the best track record complying with legal mandates,” NYCLU’s Sisitzky said. The NYPD has in recent months come under fire for refusing to abide by a City Council law mandating disclosure of data on subway fare evasion arrests. And de Blasio has repeatedly chosen to defer to the department’s leadership, which cited public safety concerns, instead of ordering compliance.</p> <p>Asked if the NYPD could be trusted to follow the Right to Know, which the department fought, and if the mayor could be relied upon to enforce it, Reynoso seemed to harbor some doubts. “I absolutely believe that the mayor should be on the front lines...but the mayor has shown that he cares deeply about his relationship with the NYPD.” Even when certain pieces of police reform legislation are justified, Reynoso said, “[The mayor] would err on the side of the police [rather] than the people of the City of New York.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for the mayor did not respond to a request for comment. An NYPD spokesperson, asked about the concerns expressed by advocates, said in a statement, “The NYPD will fully comply with the Right to Know Act when it takes effect this Friday. As the Department developed its policies, it heard numerous recommendations from the advocacy community through discussions with the Federal Monitor. The Department also provided advocates unprecedented access to NYPD policies, forms, and trainings prior to the law taking effect. And the NYPD will of course continue to talk to advocates to fine tune the policy as it is implemented and we can assess what’s working and what might be improved.”</p> <p>Advocates and the City Council say they will be keeping an eagle eye on the police adherence. “The City Council is proud of its efforts in this area and we will be watching the roll out to ensure the Right To Know is being followed,” said Jennifer Fermino, City Council communications director, in a statement.</p> <p>On Thursday afternoon, the CPR coalition rallied with several City Council Members outside City Hall, celebrating the Right to Know Act but also airing their complaints about the NYPD's lacklustre engagement and promising to hold the department and the de Blasio administration accountable. "And, on Friday morning, Reynoso and members of the CCRB will hit the streets of Brooklyn and the Bronx to inform New Yorkers about their new rights under the Act.</p> <p>“I think [the new laws] offer New Yorkers a real sense of control and knowledge over their encounters with the police department,” said Jonathan Darche, CCRB executive director, in a phone interview. “And we’ve been working hard with the department in order to make sure that we’re on the same page with them about how they are training members of service so that we can hold members accountable to the standard that is being demanded of them by the department.”</p> <p>“I’m excited that it’s coming to fruition,” Council Member Torres said outside City Hall on Wednesday as he rushed to attend a Wednesday meeting of the full Council.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
At ‘Museum of Broken Windows,’ NYCLU Exhibits Case for Reform 2018-09-24T04:00:00+00:00 2018-09-24T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7952-at-museum-of-broken-windows-nyclu-exhibits-case-for-reform Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/broken-windows-museum.jpg" alt="broken windows museum" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: @NYCLU)</p> <hr /> <p>The windshield of the NYPD car is shattered, with glass debris all over the ground. The inside of the patrol vehicle is full of greenery, indicating it’s been there a while. Still intact is the side door that reads “Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect.”</p> <p>This is the centerpiece of the <a href="https://www.nyclu.org/en/events/museum-broken-windows" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Museum of Broken Windows</a>, a new pop-up exhibit on West 8th Street hosted by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and open for one week beginning this past Saturday through Sunday, September 30. The museum, which features work by roughly 25 artists and will host several evening discussion events over the course of the week, “showcases the ineffectiveness of broken windows policing, which criminalizes our most vulnerable communities,” according to its website. “The strategy of broken windows policing is outdated and has never been proven to be effective at reducing crime,” it continues. “For decades, communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by broken windows policing.”</p> <p>Artwork at the museum is by people who have felt the effects of broken windows policing, about topics ranging from police shootings of civilians to the use of stop-and-frisk to the War on Drugs. Forms include interactive pieces, photographs of significant historical civil rights events, and paintings.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/lr_convo_broken_windows_museum.jpg" alt="lr convo broken windows museum" width="400" height="240" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>One piece, done by formerly-incarcerated <a href="http://www.designingthewe.com/new-page-27/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Russell Craig</a>, uses papers the artist received throughout his seven-year journey throughout the criminal justice system — halfway house notes, bail receipts, processing papers — to create his own self portrait. By painting his portrait onto these papers, Craig says that he is sending a message that the system that tried to define him did not succeed in doing so.</p> <p>The layout of the museum starts with a small hallway containing art on either side, eventually leading to a wider space. This is where the NYCLU will host discussion events on broken windows, police accountability, and the “school to prison pipeline.” Throughout the exhibit, interactive prompts encourage visitors to think about and answer questions while consuming the art on display.</p> <p>The NYCLU has long-decried the policing approach made popular in New York City in the 1990s by former two-time police commissioner Bill Bratton, which is centered on strict enforcement of low-level crimes such as turnstile jumping or drinking alcohol in public in the belief that such law-breaking and “disorder” erodes quality of life and leads to more serious and violent crimes.</p> <p>Bratton first began implementing the strategy, which focuses on prevention of as opposed to only reaction to major crimes, under Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani. It remained in place in the city as Bratton moved elsewhere, only to resume his NYPD command in 2014 under Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who has repeatedly called broken windows policing “the right approach.”</p> <p>Though its effectiveness has been extolled regularly by some and questioned repeatedly by others, namely around causation between its use and the drop in major crimes that has occurred over decades, but also in terms of the racial disparities in enforcement, it has remained the guiding NYPD strategy. Implementation has changed over time and the city has in recent years under de Blasio, Bratton, and Bratton’s successor, Commissioner James O’Neill, significantly reduced arrests for low-level crimes, though racial disparities persist. Legislation pushed by former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito created a framework for enforcing low-level offenses as civil, not criminal, violations. Bratton has called the relaxing of some aspects of broken windows a “peace dividend” possible due to the dropping numbers of major crimes like murder. He has compared the use of stricter enforcement to medicine given by a doctor to a very sick patient.</p> <p>Activists and advocates like those at the NYCLU have seen things very differently. “People of color report being surveilled, harassed, abused and punished by police all over New York City,” the NYCLU reports in its <a href="https://www.nyclu.org/en/press-releases/groundbreaking-nyclu-survey-reveals-vast-disparities-how-new-yorkers-are-policed" target="_blank" rel="noopener">most recent survey</a>. “This is felt most intensely in particular neighborhoods, most of which are home to disproportionate numbers of black New Yorkers.”</p> <p>“It is time for a change,” the new pop-up museum’s website states. “New Yorkers are coming together for important conversations on policing and what it means to feel and be safe. Using art and creativity, the Museum of Broken Windows will provide a powerful and emotional experience that critically looks at the system of policing in New York.”</p> <p>Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, described the principles of broken windows theory as a being instrumental in the creation of policies that began the War on Drugs and <a href="http://www.nylslawreview.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2012/04/56-4.Criminalizing-the-Classroom.Ofer_.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">increased</a> police presence in schools.</p> <p>“The ideology of broken windows policing quite logically and devastatingly morphed into the school-to-prison pipeline,” Lieberman said. “It went hand-in-hand with a dramatic increase in suspensions, kicking kids out of school instead of helping them figure out how to solve problems related to this behavior.”</p> <p>Proponents of broken windows often cite the steady decrease in serious crime rates New York City has seen over the years as evidence that it is working, but the NYCLU claims that these crime rates, and their drops, have been the same in areas where broken windows policing is really employed, namely communities of color, and in areas where it is not.</p> <p>“It’s 16 for 100,000 and 18 for 100,000,” said Johanna Miller, advocacy director of the NYCLU. “So rates of serious crime are exactly the same if there’s broken windows policing happening or not happening. Which for us is evidence that even if there was more urgent crime-fighting strategy in the 90s, that doesn’t exist anymore, we’re living in a different New York.”</p> <p>In addition to ending broken windows policing, the NYCLU is pressing for the passage of the <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/S147" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Police-STAT Act</a>, which would override section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Law and allow public release of police personnel records. Though Mayor de Blasio has been <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/820-16/mayor-de-blasio-outlines-core-principles-legislation-make-disciplinary-records-law" target="_blank" rel="noopener">outspoken</a> about his belief that it is problematic, he has supported the NYPD’s relatively recent change to adhering to it, which errs to the side of secrecy. De Blasio and NYPD officials have said they have no choice and want to see a state law change, though the department had revealed much more information for many years, a court decision resulting from a suit by the NYCLU has allowed to the city to shield the records.</p> <p>In 2016, the NYCLU brought a suit against the city after its Freedom of Information Act request for 10 years of NYPD personnel records had been denied. In the past, the redaction process offered by the FOIA was seen as enough to allow the city to balance an officer’s privacy and a citizen’s right to information. This may be why a lower court ruled in favor of the NYCLU, a decision that was <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/30/nyregion/civil-rights-law-section-50-a-police-disciplinary-records.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">overturned</a> by the First Judicial Department appeals court. Ruling that the request would pose a violation of section 50-a, a precedent was set.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/chokehold_broken_windows_museum.jpg" alt="chokehold broken windows museum" width="300" height="303" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" />The Museum of Broken Windows may help move public sentiment behind what the NYCLU is advocating. Daveen Trentman, co-founder of the Soze Agency and executive producer of the museum, hopes the art will compel New Yorkers to rally to their side.</p> <p>“What the art can do is open our hearts, make us think more compassionately, and really draw a connection to the statistics and to the policy,” Trentman said.</p> <p>Using artists who have gone through the criminal justice system, the museum is designed to help others empathize with the cause and be spurred to action.</p> <p>“[The artists] are experts of their own experience, and that makes their work tremendously authentic,” Trentman said, going on to emphasize that she sees the work as saying, “We’re not hopeless. We aren’t stuck in this set of policies and we don’t have to accept it. What we can do is end broken windows policing.”</p> <p>“Ultimately, whether or not the NYPD continues on the path of broken windows policing is up to the mayor,” said Miller. “Our mayor has done so much great work to end stop-and-frisk, to change police practices and to invest in neighborhood policing, but he continues to say publicly that he believes in and adheres to the principles of broken windows. It’s time to let that go.”</p> <p>The mayor’s press office declined to comment for this story.</p> <p>

***
by Victor Porcelli, Gotham Gazette

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/broken-windows-museum.jpg" alt="broken windows museum" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: @NYCLU)</p> <hr /> <p>The windshield of the NYPD car is shattered, with glass debris all over the ground. The inside of the patrol vehicle is full of greenery, indicating it’s been there a while. Still intact is the side door that reads “Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect.”</p> <p>This is the centerpiece of the <a href="https://www.nyclu.org/en/events/museum-broken-windows" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Museum of Broken Windows</a>, a new pop-up exhibit on West 8th Street hosted by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and open for one week beginning this past Saturday through Sunday, September 30. The museum, which features work by roughly 25 artists and will host several evening discussion events over the course of the week, “showcases the ineffectiveness of broken windows policing, which criminalizes our most vulnerable communities,” according to its website. “The strategy of broken windows policing is outdated and has never been proven to be effective at reducing crime,” it continues. “For decades, communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by broken windows policing.”</p> <p>Artwork at the museum is by people who have felt the effects of broken windows policing, about topics ranging from police shootings of civilians to the use of stop-and-frisk to the War on Drugs. Forms include interactive pieces, photographs of significant historical civil rights events, and paintings.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/lr_convo_broken_windows_museum.jpg" alt="lr convo broken windows museum" width="400" height="240" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>One piece, done by formerly-incarcerated <a href="http://www.designingthewe.com/new-page-27/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Russell Craig</a>, uses papers the artist received throughout his seven-year journey throughout the criminal justice system — halfway house notes, bail receipts, processing papers — to create his own self portrait. By painting his portrait onto these papers, Craig says that he is sending a message that the system that tried to define him did not succeed in doing so.</p> <p>The layout of the museum starts with a small hallway containing art on either side, eventually leading to a wider space. This is where the NYCLU will host discussion events on broken windows, police accountability, and the “school to prison pipeline.” Throughout the exhibit, interactive prompts encourage visitors to think about and answer questions while consuming the art on display.</p> <p>The NYCLU has long-decried the policing approach made popular in New York City in the 1990s by former two-time police commissioner Bill Bratton, which is centered on strict enforcement of low-level crimes such as turnstile jumping or drinking alcohol in public in the belief that such law-breaking and “disorder” erodes quality of life and leads to more serious and violent crimes.</p> <p>Bratton first began implementing the strategy, which focuses on prevention of as opposed to only reaction to major crimes, under Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani. It remained in place in the city as Bratton moved elsewhere, only to resume his NYPD command in 2014 under Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who has repeatedly called broken windows policing “the right approach.”</p> <p>Though its effectiveness has been extolled regularly by some and questioned repeatedly by others, namely around causation between its use and the drop in major crimes that has occurred over decades, but also in terms of the racial disparities in enforcement, it has remained the guiding NYPD strategy. Implementation has changed over time and the city has in recent years under de Blasio, Bratton, and Bratton’s successor, Commissioner James O’Neill, significantly reduced arrests for low-level crimes, though racial disparities persist. Legislation pushed by former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito created a framework for enforcing low-level offenses as civil, not criminal, violations. Bratton has called the relaxing of some aspects of broken windows a “peace dividend” possible due to the dropping numbers of major crimes like murder. He has compared the use of stricter enforcement to medicine given by a doctor to a very sick patient.</p> <p>Activists and advocates like those at the NYCLU have seen things very differently. “People of color report being surveilled, harassed, abused and punished by police all over New York City,” the NYCLU reports in its <a href="https://www.nyclu.org/en/press-releases/groundbreaking-nyclu-survey-reveals-vast-disparities-how-new-yorkers-are-policed" target="_blank" rel="noopener">most recent survey</a>. “This is felt most intensely in particular neighborhoods, most of which are home to disproportionate numbers of black New Yorkers.”</p> <p>“It is time for a change,” the new pop-up museum’s website states. “New Yorkers are coming together for important conversations on policing and what it means to feel and be safe. Using art and creativity, the Museum of Broken Windows will provide a powerful and emotional experience that critically looks at the system of policing in New York.”</p> <p>Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, described the principles of broken windows theory as a being instrumental in the creation of policies that began the War on Drugs and <a href="http://www.nylslawreview.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2012/04/56-4.Criminalizing-the-Classroom.Ofer_.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">increased</a> police presence in schools.</p> <p>“The ideology of broken windows policing quite logically and devastatingly morphed into the school-to-prison pipeline,” Lieberman said. “It went hand-in-hand with a dramatic increase in suspensions, kicking kids out of school instead of helping them figure out how to solve problems related to this behavior.”</p> <p>Proponents of broken windows often cite the steady decrease in serious crime rates New York City has seen over the years as evidence that it is working, but the NYCLU claims that these crime rates, and their drops, have been the same in areas where broken windows policing is really employed, namely communities of color, and in areas where it is not.</p> <p>“It’s 16 for 100,000 and 18 for 100,000,” said Johanna Miller, advocacy director of the NYCLU. “So rates of serious crime are exactly the same if there’s broken windows policing happening or not happening. Which for us is evidence that even if there was more urgent crime-fighting strategy in the 90s, that doesn’t exist anymore, we’re living in a different New York.”</p> <p>In addition to ending broken windows policing, the NYCLU is pressing for the passage of the <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/S147" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Police-STAT Act</a>, which would override section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Law and allow public release of police personnel records. Though Mayor de Blasio has been <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/820-16/mayor-de-blasio-outlines-core-principles-legislation-make-disciplinary-records-law" target="_blank" rel="noopener">outspoken</a> about his belief that it is problematic, he has supported the NYPD’s relatively recent change to adhering to it, which errs to the side of secrecy. De Blasio and NYPD officials have said they have no choice and want to see a state law change, though the department had revealed much more information for many years, a court decision resulting from a suit by the NYCLU has allowed to the city to shield the records.</p> <p>In 2016, the NYCLU brought a suit against the city after its Freedom of Information Act request for 10 years of NYPD personnel records had been denied. In the past, the redaction process offered by the FOIA was seen as enough to allow the city to balance an officer’s privacy and a citizen’s right to information. This may be why a lower court ruled in favor of the NYCLU, a decision that was <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/30/nyregion/civil-rights-law-section-50-a-police-disciplinary-records.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">overturned</a> by the First Judicial Department appeals court. Ruling that the request would pose a violation of section 50-a, a precedent was set.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/chokehold_broken_windows_museum.jpg" alt="chokehold broken windows museum" width="300" height="303" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" />The Museum of Broken Windows may help move public sentiment behind what the NYCLU is advocating. Daveen Trentman, co-founder of the Soze Agency and executive producer of the museum, hopes the art will compel New Yorkers to rally to their side.</p> <p>“What the art can do is open our hearts, make us think more compassionately, and really draw a connection to the statistics and to the policy,” Trentman said.</p> <p>Using artists who have gone through the criminal justice system, the museum is designed to help others empathize with the cause and be spurred to action.</p> <p>“[The artists] are experts of their own experience, and that makes their work tremendously authentic,” Trentman said, going on to emphasize that she sees the work as saying, “We’re not hopeless. We aren’t stuck in this set of policies and we don’t have to accept it. What we can do is end broken windows policing.”</p> <p>“Ultimately, whether or not the NYPD continues on the path of broken windows policing is up to the mayor,” said Miller. “Our mayor has done so much great work to end stop-and-frisk, to change police practices and to invest in neighborhood policing, but he continues to say publicly that he believes in and adheres to the principles of broken windows. It’s time to let that go.”</p> <p>The mayor’s press office declined to comment for this story.</p> <p>

***
by Victor Porcelli, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
New Approach to Low-Level Offenses is Working 2018-09-04T04:00:00+00:00 2018-09-04T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7911-new-approach-to-low-level-offenses-is-working Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayorsoffice-police.jpg" alt="mayorsoffice police" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>How should police respond when someone is drinking a beer in the street, dropping litter, or engaging in other minor offenses? Up until a year ago, a criminal summons was the only answer, and if the person didn’t show up in court, he or she could be arrested on a warrant.<br /> <br />As a result, New Yorkers had as much contact with the system for low-level offenses as for serious crimes.<br /> <br />Consider that in the first half of 2017, there were 112,000 criminal summonses compared to 98,000 misdemeanor arrests and 50,000 felony arrests. The summonses practice had a snowballing effect on the justice system: over its history of this practice, many people failed to take a day off of work or find the time to settle the criminal summons.<br /> <br />More than a million warrants accumulated.<br /> <br />Last year, that all changed.<br /> <br />In city legislation called the Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA)—passed by the City Council under then-Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio—police now have the option to issue a civil summons instead of a criminal summons, which can be handled like a ticket in the city’s administrative law court, the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, known as OATH.<br /> <br />Under the CJRA, if the summons is filed at OATH for the hearing, the punishment is a fine. If a court date is missed, it does not result in a warrant and arrest like it could in criminal court.<br /> <br />And if found in violation after a hearing, the option is available to pay the fine or do community service. Community service at OATH is instructive and aimed at preventing future offenses instead of solely requiring the performance of menial tasks. <br /> <br />The effect of the law has been dramatic.<br /> <br />Since June 2017, criminal summonses and warrants for CJRA-eligible offenses are down 89 and 94 percent, respectively. Over the same period, serious crime fell 13 percent.<br /> <br />Warrants issued for failure to appear in court for a small set of low-level offenses—for example, drinking in public, entering a park after dark, unreasonable noise, and public urination—could reach as high as 5,000 in a single month. Now they are around a few hundred.<br /> <br />During this time, the Mayor's Office and the City Council also worked with the NYPD, district attorneys, the courts and other partners to clear more than 644,000 warrants for minor, non-violent offenses that were 10 years old or older.<br /> <br />There are, of course, exceptions to the new enforcement option for low-level offenses. Someone may still be directed to criminal court if he or she has two or more felony arrests in the past two years, has three or more unanswered OATH summonses in the past eight years, is on probation or parole, or if there is another legitimate law enforcement reason.<br /> <br />The success of CJRA is not just that police now have more options. Nor is it just that there is more proportionality in how we enforce the laws, though that is important. It is also that more people are attending to their summonses.<br /> <br />In May of 2017 appearance rates on criminal summonses were at 64 percent. In April of 2018 that number had risen to 71 percent—which is also a credit to the multiple partners, courts, police, district attorneys, and others who helped develop a redesigned summons form, to make directions more clear, and sending text message reminders that alert people of their upcoming court dates.<br /> <br />Enhanced appearance rates are not happenstance. One thing we know well, both from research and from everyday experience, is that people are more likely to obey the law when they believe that they are treated fairly and that the system is responding appropriately. When the punishment for low-level offenses is out of step with the seriousness of the offense, New Yorkers lose confidence in the fairness of the system as a whole and are less likely to comply.<br /> <br />It is one reason why the NYPD had already been issuing fewer criminal summonses even before the CJRA, considering new approaches to low-level offenses, and has expanded neighborhood policing, which emphasizes building partnerships with the community.<br /> <br />We do not know for sure whether this is the dynamic that is changing behavior but we have asked the Misdemeanor Justice Project at John Jay College of Criminal Justice to do an evaluation of the effects of the CJRA and hope to learn more in the year ahead.<br /> <br />We know this will not fix everything. Racial disparity still persists and we have work to do. However, this dramatically lightens the volume and weight of the system’s touches on New Yorkers who commit low-level offenses.<br /> <br />We are hopeful that this approach that relies on residents to live cooperatively with their neighbors while ensuring compliance through proportionate measures will create a virtuous cycle in which rules are followed because they are fair and just.</p> <p>***<br />Elizabeth Glazer is the Director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/crimjusticenyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CrimJusticeNYC</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayorsoffice-police.jpg" alt="mayorsoffice police" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>How should police respond when someone is drinking a beer in the street, dropping litter, or engaging in other minor offenses? Up until a year ago, a criminal summons was the only answer, and if the person didn’t show up in court, he or she could be arrested on a warrant.<br /> <br />As a result, New Yorkers had as much contact with the system for low-level offenses as for serious crimes.<br /> <br />Consider that in the first half of 2017, there were 112,000 criminal summonses compared to 98,000 misdemeanor arrests and 50,000 felony arrests. The summonses practice had a snowballing effect on the justice system: over its history of this practice, many people failed to take a day off of work or find the time to settle the criminal summons.<br /> <br />More than a million warrants accumulated.<br /> <br />Last year, that all changed.<br /> <br />In city legislation called the Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA)—passed by the City Council under then-Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio—police now have the option to issue a civil summons instead of a criminal summons, which can be handled like a ticket in the city’s administrative law court, the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, known as OATH.<br /> <br />Under the CJRA, if the summons is filed at OATH for the hearing, the punishment is a fine. If a court date is missed, it does not result in a warrant and arrest like it could in criminal court.<br /> <br />And if found in violation after a hearing, the option is available to pay the fine or do community service. Community service at OATH is instructive and aimed at preventing future offenses instead of solely requiring the performance of menial tasks. <br /> <br />The effect of the law has been dramatic.<br /> <br />Since June 2017, criminal summonses and warrants for CJRA-eligible offenses are down 89 and 94 percent, respectively. Over the same period, serious crime fell 13 percent.<br /> <br />Warrants issued for failure to appear in court for a small set of low-level offenses—for example, drinking in public, entering a park after dark, unreasonable noise, and public urination—could reach as high as 5,000 in a single month. Now they are around a few hundred.<br /> <br />During this time, the Mayor's Office and the City Council also worked with the NYPD, district attorneys, the courts and other partners to clear more than 644,000 warrants for minor, non-violent offenses that were 10 years old or older.<br /> <br />There are, of course, exceptions to the new enforcement option for low-level offenses. Someone may still be directed to criminal court if he or she has two or more felony arrests in the past two years, has three or more unanswered OATH summonses in the past eight years, is on probation or parole, or if there is another legitimate law enforcement reason.<br /> <br />The success of CJRA is not just that police now have more options. Nor is it just that there is more proportionality in how we enforce the laws, though that is important. It is also that more people are attending to their summonses.<br /> <br />In May of 2017 appearance rates on criminal summonses were at 64 percent. In April of 2018 that number had risen to 71 percent—which is also a credit to the multiple partners, courts, police, district attorneys, and others who helped develop a redesigned summons form, to make directions more clear, and sending text message reminders that alert people of their upcoming court dates.<br /> <br />Enhanced appearance rates are not happenstance. One thing we know well, both from research and from everyday experience, is that people are more likely to obey the law when they believe that they are treated fairly and that the system is responding appropriately. When the punishment for low-level offenses is out of step with the seriousness of the offense, New Yorkers lose confidence in the fairness of the system as a whole and are less likely to comply.<br /> <br />It is one reason why the NYPD had already been issuing fewer criminal summonses even before the CJRA, considering new approaches to low-level offenses, and has expanded neighborhood policing, which emphasizes building partnerships with the community.<br /> <br />We do not know for sure whether this is the dynamic that is changing behavior but we have asked the Misdemeanor Justice Project at John Jay College of Criminal Justice to do an evaluation of the effects of the CJRA and hope to learn more in the year ahead.<br /> <br />We know this will not fix everything. Racial disparity still persists and we have work to do. However, this dramatically lightens the volume and weight of the system’s touches on New Yorkers who commit low-level offenses.<br /> <br />We are hopeful that this approach that relies on residents to live cooperatively with their neighbors while ensuring compliance through proportionate measures will create a virtuous cycle in which rules are followed because they are fair and just.</p> <p>***<br />Elizabeth Glazer is the Director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/crimjusticenyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CrimJusticeNYC</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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NYPD Watchdog Seeks Sharper Teeth Through Charter Revision 2018-07-30T04:00:00+00:00 2018-07-30T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7835-nypd-watchdog-seeks-sharper-teeth-through-charter-revision Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/ccrb-exec-director-twiter2.jpg" alt="ccrb exec director twiter2" width="600" height="524" /></p> <p>CCRB reps, including Jonathan Darche, middle (photo: @CCRB_NYC)</p> <hr /> <p>When the NYPD decided earlier this month to move ahead with its departmental trial against two officers involved in the 2014 death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner, it tasked the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent watchdog agency, with prosecuting the charges. But that prosecutorial authority has yet to be codified into the City Charter, the city’s central governing document, a change that CCRB officials are seeking through Mayor Bill de Blasio’s charter revision commission.</p> <p>In testimony last week before the charter revision commission, which will propose charter amendments to voters on the November Election Day ballot, the CCRB’s executive director, Jonathan Darche, urged commission members to consider expanding the board’s powers and solidifying its place in the city’s constitution.</p> <p>A 13-member body composed entirely of civilians, the CCRB investigates, and prosecutes, allegations of police misconduct, including complaints about use of force and abuse of power. The current iteration of the agency dates back to 1993 when the body was given subpoena power and the ability to make disciplinary recommendations after substantiating complaints against police officers.</p> <p>It was the CCRB last year that substantiated the complaints against Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who held Eric Garner in a banned chokehold that led to his death. The CCRB recommended the highest possible penalty it can against Pantaleo -- charges and specifications, which are then prosecuted by CCRB lawyers in an administrative trial. Ultimately, the CCRB issues its recommendations to the police commissioner, who makes the final determination on a disciplinary proceeding.</p> <p>With the mayor’s charter revision commission close to concluding its work and announcing its proposals in early September, Darche testified at one of the commission’s hearings across the boroughs, on July 26 in Queens. Darche’s testimony follows on a letter sent by the CCRB to the charter commission in May, which enumerated the four proposed changes, which include codifying the Board’s Administrative Prosecution Unit (APU), which is handling the Pantaleo trial; enabling the board to give subpoena signatory power to the agency’s highest ranking staff; clarifying and expanding the NYPD’s duty to cooperate with CCRB requests for documentation and data; and amending the agency’s budget to equal one percent of the NYPD’s budget.</p> <p>Eric Phillips, a spokesperson for the mayor, declined to comment for this article. The NYPD did not respond to emails seeking comment. When Mayor de Blasio announced the charter revision commission in February he said he wanted it to focus on election and campaign finance reform, but it has heard testimony on a wide range of matters and is considering, as is its right, focus areas beyond the mayoral mandate.</p> <p>The most significant proposal put forward by the CCRB relates to the Administrative Prosecution Unit, which was created in 2012 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg through a <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ccrb/downloads/pdf/about_pdf/apu_mou.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)</a> with the NYPD. As is the case with Pantaleo, the APU handles prosecutions in cases with the strongest disciplinary recommendation. According to the CCRB, the unit has prosecuted officers in 367 trials since its creation.&nbsp;</p> <p>“As evidenced by the APU’s prosecution in the Garner case, the APU is a vital part of the disciplinary process for officers who commit misconduct,” Darche said during his testimony. “Amending the City Charter to codify the APU will ensure that this independent and effective tool for civilian oversight will continue.”</p> <p>Carolyn Martinez-Class, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, a broad coalition of police reform advocates, welcomed the CCRB recommendations as “important initial proposals to improve police accountability and transparency generally,” in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “In order to be effective, the proposed change to codify the Administrative Prosecution Unit must also codify the original MOU's intent to make transparent instances when the Police Commissioner disagrees with CCRB recommendations so that those instances and rationale are made public as originally intended,” she added.</p> <p>Though the commission members asked no questions of Darche at the hearing in Queens, and police oversight has not been one of the main issues the commission is exploring, Darche will have another opportunity to push those proposals.</p> <p>The mayor’s commission is expected to put out its final report within weeks and will propose ballot measures for the November general election, but the New York City Council has created a separate charter revision commission, which convened for the first time earlier this month. That second commission -- which includes commissioners appointed by the mayor, comptroller, public advocate, City Council, and borough presidents -- is working with a longer timeline, aiming to put its proposals on the ballot in November 2019, allowing it ample time for a more holistic review of the charter.</p> <p>City Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the public safety committee, said in a statement that he was “absolutely in support” of the CCRB’s proposals to the charter commission. “Increased transparency and accountability are essential to improving police-community relations and the CCRB should absolutely have a stronger presence in that process moving forward,” he said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/ccrb-exec-director-twiter2.jpg" alt="ccrb exec director twiter2" width="600" height="524" /></p> <p>CCRB reps, including Jonathan Darche, middle (photo: @CCRB_NYC)</p> <hr /> <p>When the NYPD decided earlier this month to move ahead with its departmental trial against two officers involved in the 2014 death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner, it tasked the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent watchdog agency, with prosecuting the charges. But that prosecutorial authority has yet to be codified into the City Charter, the city’s central governing document, a change that CCRB officials are seeking through Mayor Bill de Blasio’s charter revision commission.</p> <p>In testimony last week before the charter revision commission, which will propose charter amendments to voters on the November Election Day ballot, the CCRB’s executive director, Jonathan Darche, urged commission members to consider expanding the board’s powers and solidifying its place in the city’s constitution.</p> <p>A 13-member body composed entirely of civilians, the CCRB investigates, and prosecutes, allegations of police misconduct, including complaints about use of force and abuse of power. The current iteration of the agency dates back to 1993 when the body was given subpoena power and the ability to make disciplinary recommendations after substantiating complaints against police officers.</p> <p>It was the CCRB last year that substantiated the complaints against Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who held Eric Garner in a banned chokehold that led to his death. The CCRB recommended the highest possible penalty it can against Pantaleo -- charges and specifications, which are then prosecuted by CCRB lawyers in an administrative trial. Ultimately, the CCRB issues its recommendations to the police commissioner, who makes the final determination on a disciplinary proceeding.</p> <p>With the mayor’s charter revision commission close to concluding its work and announcing its proposals in early September, Darche testified at one of the commission’s hearings across the boroughs, on July 26 in Queens. Darche’s testimony follows on a letter sent by the CCRB to the charter commission in May, which enumerated the four proposed changes, which include codifying the Board’s Administrative Prosecution Unit (APU), which is handling the Pantaleo trial; enabling the board to give subpoena signatory power to the agency’s highest ranking staff; clarifying and expanding the NYPD’s duty to cooperate with CCRB requests for documentation and data; and amending the agency’s budget to equal one percent of the NYPD’s budget.</p> <p>Eric Phillips, a spokesperson for the mayor, declined to comment for this article. The NYPD did not respond to emails seeking comment. When Mayor de Blasio announced the charter revision commission in February he said he wanted it to focus on election and campaign finance reform, but it has heard testimony on a wide range of matters and is considering, as is its right, focus areas beyond the mayoral mandate.</p> <p>The most significant proposal put forward by the CCRB relates to the Administrative Prosecution Unit, which was created in 2012 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg through a <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ccrb/downloads/pdf/about_pdf/apu_mou.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)</a> with the NYPD. As is the case with Pantaleo, the APU handles prosecutions in cases with the strongest disciplinary recommendation. According to the CCRB, the unit has prosecuted officers in 367 trials since its creation.&nbsp;</p> <p>“As evidenced by the APU’s prosecution in the Garner case, the APU is a vital part of the disciplinary process for officers who commit misconduct,” Darche said during his testimony. “Amending the City Charter to codify the APU will ensure that this independent and effective tool for civilian oversight will continue.”</p> <p>Carolyn Martinez-Class, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, a broad coalition of police reform advocates, welcomed the CCRB recommendations as “important initial proposals to improve police accountability and transparency generally,” in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “In order to be effective, the proposed change to codify the Administrative Prosecution Unit must also codify the original MOU's intent to make transparent instances when the Police Commissioner disagrees with CCRB recommendations so that those instances and rationale are made public as originally intended,” she added.</p> <p>Though the commission members asked no questions of Darche at the hearing in Queens, and police oversight has not been one of the main issues the commission is exploring, Darche will have another opportunity to push those proposals.</p> <p>The mayor’s commission is expected to put out its final report within weeks and will propose ballot measures for the November general election, but the New York City Council has created a separate charter revision commission, which convened for the first time earlier this month. That second commission -- which includes commissioners appointed by the mayor, comptroller, public advocate, City Council, and borough presidents -- is working with a longer timeline, aiming to put its proposals on the ballot in November 2019, allowing it ample time for a more holistic review of the charter.</p> <p>City Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the public safety committee, said in a statement that he was “absolutely in support” of the CCRB’s proposals to the charter commission. “Increased transparency and accountability are essential to improving police-community relations and the CCRB should absolutely have a stronger presence in that process moving forward,” he said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Leaders Say They Stand with Muslims & Immigrants, But Do They Mean it? 2018-07-03T04:00:00+00:00 2018-07-03T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7786-city-leaders-say-they-stand-with-muslims-immigrants-but-do-they-mean-it Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cojo-pablo.jpg" alt="cojo pablo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City’s leaders have recently been protesting with Muslim and immigrant New Yorkers, but these same leaders are often missing once the cameras are gone. After last week’s stunning Supreme Court setback, the time finally has come for these same leaders to ditch New York City’s anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant police policies.</p> <p>We clearly say we’re a sanctuary city, but the facts on the ground are unclear. No, city workers can’t ask about immigration status, but NYPD officers continue to use dragnet surveillance on immigrant communities. Most importantly, they continue to share that data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which the Trump administration is using to intensify its deportation efforts.</p> <p>Every day, license plate readers all across New York City monitor cars in real-time. These cameras create a massive database of our movements across the city. But instead of using this database just to do police work, the NYPD shares the data with private, for-profit firms like Vigilant Solutions, a company that struck a deal to share New York data with ICE earlier this year.</p> <p>But the license plate readers aren’t even the worst part. At least the City told us about them. All-too-often, we only find out about spy tools after they’ve been used for years. Tools like stingrays, fake cell towers that can suck-up all the phone data for miles around. To target one suspect, stingrays often need to track thousands of phones. Worst of all, the NYPD has even used these devices without a warrant. Wondering if your texts or calls were copied before? There’s no way to tell.</p> <p>The City Council knows about the problem now – we told them about it – but for years this spying went on in secret. How? The NYPD has a slush fund: millions in federal and private dollars that can be spent without any oversight by the City Council. The mayor could end this tomorrow; Mr. de Blasio could require the NYPD to disclose how its spy data is shared with ICE with the stroke of a pen. But I’m not holding my breath.</p> <p>Instead, we need the City Council to act. For years, CAIR-NY, NYCLU, and other advocates have pushed the POST Act, a commonsense bill that would require the NYPD to tell our lawmakers what military-grade spy gear they’re buying with private and federal dollars and how they’re keeping that information safe. The NYPD could continue surveillance, but the cowboy-era of buying whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted would be over. More importantly, the NYPD would finally enact policies to make sure our city’s resources won’t help ICE deport our neighbors.</p> <p>But, the bill has stalled.</p> <p>Our city’s leaders have long promised to make New York a sanctuary for all—a symbol of inclusion at a moment of presidential prejudice. So far, action has fallen short of soaring rhetoric, but that can change. This is the moment for our city to practice what we preach. This is the moment to prove we can do more than just show up for the protest.</p> <p>***<br /> Albert Fox Cahn is the Legal Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, New York, a leading Muslim civil rights organization. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/CahnLawNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CahnLawNY</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/CAIRNewYork" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CAIRNewYork</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cojo-pablo.jpg" alt="cojo pablo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City’s leaders have recently been protesting with Muslim and immigrant New Yorkers, but these same leaders are often missing once the cameras are gone. After last week’s stunning Supreme Court setback, the time finally has come for these same leaders to ditch New York City’s anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant police policies.</p> <p>We clearly say we’re a sanctuary city, but the facts on the ground are unclear. No, city workers can’t ask about immigration status, but NYPD officers continue to use dragnet surveillance on immigrant communities. Most importantly, they continue to share that data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which the Trump administration is using to intensify its deportation efforts.</p> <p>Every day, license plate readers all across New York City monitor cars in real-time. These cameras create a massive database of our movements across the city. But instead of using this database just to do police work, the NYPD shares the data with private, for-profit firms like Vigilant Solutions, a company that struck a deal to share New York data with ICE earlier this year.</p> <p>But the license plate readers aren’t even the worst part. At least the City told us about them. All-too-often, we only find out about spy tools after they’ve been used for years. Tools like stingrays, fake cell towers that can suck-up all the phone data for miles around. To target one suspect, stingrays often need to track thousands of phones. Worst of all, the NYPD has even used these devices without a warrant. Wondering if your texts or calls were copied before? There’s no way to tell.</p> <p>The City Council knows about the problem now – we told them about it – but for years this spying went on in secret. How? The NYPD has a slush fund: millions in federal and private dollars that can be spent without any oversight by the City Council. The mayor could end this tomorrow; Mr. de Blasio could require the NYPD to disclose how its spy data is shared with ICE with the stroke of a pen. But I’m not holding my breath.</p> <p>Instead, we need the City Council to act. For years, CAIR-NY, NYCLU, and other advocates have pushed the POST Act, a commonsense bill that would require the NYPD to tell our lawmakers what military-grade spy gear they’re buying with private and federal dollars and how they’re keeping that information safe. The NYPD could continue surveillance, but the cowboy-era of buying whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted would be over. More importantly, the NYPD would finally enact policies to make sure our city’s resources won’t help ICE deport our neighbors.</p> <p>But, the bill has stalled.</p> <p>Our city’s leaders have long promised to make New York a sanctuary for all—a symbol of inclusion at a moment of presidential prejudice. So far, action has fallen short of soaring rhetoric, but that can change. This is the moment for our city to practice what we preach. This is the moment to prove we can do more than just show up for the protest.</p> <p>***<br /> Albert Fox Cahn is the Legal Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, New York, a leading Muslim civil rights organization. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/CahnLawNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CahnLawNY</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/CAIRNewYork" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CAIRNewYork</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
Investigation Commissioner on Examining NYPD, NYCHA and Correction 2018-06-04T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-04T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7710-investigation-commissioner-on-examining-nypd-nycha-and-correction Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/peters_vance_presser_doi.jpg" alt="Mark Peters DOI Cy Vance" width="600" height="364" /></p> <p>Commissioner Peters at a press conference (photo: @NYC_DOI)</p> <hr /> <p>It took Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Police Department two years to accept what the city’s Department of Investigation had uncovered in 2015, DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said recently: that quality-of-life crime enforcement, like marijuana arrests, does little to reduce violent crime and that these arrests disproportionately affect people of color.</p> <p>When the DOI came out with the report detailing these findings, it experienced pushback from the mayor, who publicly questioned the accuracy and methodology behind the data, as well as from then-NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. But, at a City Council hearing last month, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, who succeeded Bratton, not only agreed that marijuana arrests had little bearing on the reduction of violent crime but also acknowledged the need for a comprehensive study on why these arrests disproportionately affect communities of color -- something DOI’s 2015 report recommended.</p> <p>“Would it be better if everybody agreed on that two years earlier?,” asked Peters, the DOI commissioner since 2014, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7676-what-s-the-data-point-402-with-mark-peters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on a recent episode of the What’s The [Data] Point podcast</a> from Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission. “Sure. But the point is, two years later, the NYPD in fact has accepted the basic premise of our report [and] has agreed to do the thing we think needs to be done.”</p> <p>Since Peters took over DOI after being nominated by de Blasio and confirmed by the City Council, the department’s work – including investigations into the NYPD, the city’s public housing authority (NYCHA), the Department of Correction, and other city agencies – has made many waves, including by frustrating de Blasio on several occasions as it has uncovered waste, fraud and abuse in city government. It is a testimony to the agency’s cherished independence, according to Peters, which is critical to earning and increasing the public’s trust in government and its ability to tackle serious problems.</p> <p>Establishing a clear sense of independence at the department, however, was something Peters had to work early on to establish given that, as treasurer, he had been a key part of de Blasio’s mayoral campaign in 2013. But as DOI has released both incremental and bombshell reports over the past four-plus years, Peters has earned praise from skeptics. He has also overseen the doubling of personnel at DOI, in large part due to building out the new office of the Inspector General of the NYPD, which has produced some of the most controversial work of the Peters-de Blasio era, after its creation was enshrined into law by the City Council in 2013 over a veto by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.</p> <p><strong>The Role of DOI and its Commissioner</strong><br />“DOI’s role is to provide transparency,” Peters said, and, when necessary, “to demonstrate ‘what we have now is not working.’”</p> <p>His department is one of the oldest law enforcement entities in New York. It has jurisdiction to root out corruption, waste, and abuse throughout city government, as well as in companies that do business with or are regulated by the city, such as the construction industry. DOI has a unique ability and mandate, and looks at both specific instances of wrongdoing and larger systems that may be ineffective or corrupt.</p> <p>DOI is designed in the city charter to be largely independent from the mayor, though the mayor does nominate the commissioner, who must also be approved by the City Council.</p> <p>“I’d like to think that the mayor picked me because I’ve spent really the 20-odd years before in law enforcement and, in particular, doing both law enforcement and anti-corruption work,” said Peters, whose resumé includes titles like Chief of the Public Corruption Unit and Deputy Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau for the office of the New York State Attorney General. He also previously worked at various civil rights organizations, such as serving as the Senior Staff Attorney at Children’s Inc., a national organization helping abused children.</p> <p>Doubts about Peters’ potential independence dominated public discourse around the time of his confirmation hearings in 2014. Since then, however, contention among DOI, the mayor, and the agencies that DOI investigates – such as the aforementioned tension over the DOI’s 2015 report regarding quality-of-life, AKA broken windows, policing – have laid those doubts to rest. Of his progress so far, Peters said, “I’d like to believe that, four years on, people are reasonably comfortable that we’ve been independent and that we will continue to be independent.”</p> <p>One of the first things that Peters did as the newly appointed DOI commissioner, he said on the podcast, was talk to the mayor about increasing the department’s funding in order to acquire the appropriate amount of staff, especially in regards to overseeing the NYPD.</p> <p>Subsequently, since 2013 the headcount of personnel at DOI has doubled and its budget has similarly increased by 58 percent, rising from $30.6 million in 2013 to $48.2 million today.</p> <p>“Without that,” said Peters, “all the laws in the world saying ‘You’ve got the authority to do it’ are meaningless if you don’t have the troops to actually get the work done.”</p> <p><strong>Investigating the NYPD</strong><br />The city charter has always granted DOI the jurisdiction to create an inspector general for the NYPD, along with the rest of the city government, but while DOI serves as inspector general for all city government and launched specific inspectors for other agencies, one never materialized for the NYPD. “Institutions are governed by a series of laws, but they are also governed by a series of practices and traditions,” Peters said when asked why there hadn’t been an NYPD IG before the City Council legislation. “That’s just true.”</p> <p>The law passed by the Council in 2013 “essentially said, ‘You’ve always had the power to do this, now we are directing you that you must do this,’” Peters said.</p> <p>As a result, the DOI hired about 50 new staff members, including Philip K. Eure, the first and current Inspector General for the NYPD. Along with the 2015 report on broken windows policing, a philosophy and resulting practice supported by Bratton, O’Neill, and de Blasio, DOI has released other NYPD reports, including one this year that shed light on the NYPD’s handling of sexual assault cases.</p> <p>According to Peters, the report showed that while the number of sexual assault cases have increased by 65 percent in the last decade, staffing for the special victims division remained flat, with only 67 detectives assigned to work adult sex crimes. As a result of the understaffing, a policy relegated ‘acquaintance rape’ (as opposed to ‘stranger rape’) to be sent out from the investigation units to the precincts, where many officers may be unequipped to deal with such cases. The facilities in which the police interview sexual assault victims were additionally deemed inadequate given the sensitivity of the cases. And, perhaps most importantly, DOI obtained documents that revealed that even the top ranks of the NYPD knew about these problems and were not taking sufficient measures to remedy them.</p> <p>NYPD officials pushed back on the report and attacked DOI for not interviewing the then-chief of detectives. They, along with the mayor, urged caution about believing the findings of the report and said that it was being further examined and that the new chief of detectives would be reevaluating everything under his purview anyway.</p> <p>At a City Council hearing last month, NYPD officials acknowledged the poor state of interview facilities for the victims of sexual assault and said they would invest in fixing them. While the NYPD’s formal response to the report is expected at the end of June, Peters sees progress in how much attention and potential change is resulting from the DOI report.</p> <p>“I think what’s happened is you’ve seen we’ve sped up the process of getting at this problem without people having to go to court and use litigation,” Peters said, referring to the lawsuits brought against the NYPD in response to the high rates of stop-and-frisk, a practice deemed unconstitutional in terms of how the NYPD targeted people of color. “As an old civil rights lawyer, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with litigation, but it’s not the most efficient way of changing things.”</p> <p>Peters stressed the value of DOI’s work in terms of transparency. “The only way for the City Council to hold really good, thoughtful hearings is for them to have something like our reports,” said Peters. “Because that’s the baseline material that allows you to then ask questions of the NYPD. If you wanna have the NYPD come in and testify and you wanna ask them the hard questions...the first thing you need is all of DOI’s work telling you what’s going on.”</p> <p><strong>The Department of Correction and Closing Rikers</strong><br />Last summer, the de Blasio administration announced plans to lower the city’s incarcerated population and shut down the Rikers Island jails, while creating additional jail space in four borough-based facilities. While public policy is under the jurisdiction of the mayor and the City Council, it is the DOI’s job to make sure that policy and programs work.</p> <p>“Part of making it successful is pointing out that, in and of itself, taking Rikers and moving it to borough facilities...is not gonna solve the problems of violence and contraband smuggling that we’re seeing,” Peters said, discussing work DOI has done to examine problems at city jails, including those on Rikers.</p> <p>A report that the DOI issued earlier this year found that the problems of violence and contraband smuggling, which are rampant at Rikers, are happening at similar levels at the jail facilities in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Peters estimated that about 50 correction officers and facility staff have been arrested so far for involvement in contraband schemes, such as accepting bribes in exchange for smuggling. Additionally, undercover officers were also able to smuggle weapons and drugs into the borough-based jail facilities.</p> <p>“I don’t see any reason to believe that that level of arrests is necessarily gonna go down over the next year or so,” <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7676-what-s-the-data-point-402-with-mark-peters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Peters said</a>. “So we still have a huge amount of work that needs to be done to get at those problems.”</p> <p>As a result, Peters doesn’t see the plan to shutter Rikers as a silver bullet solution to the city’s jail problems. “As we plan for this, we need to continue planning for how do we deal with security and mental health and contraband smuggling,” he said.</p> <p><strong>Safety Violations at NYCHA</strong><br />When DOI investigated the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) late last year, it found that the public housing authority not only violated lead paint, smoke detector, and elevator safety procedures, but also falsified documents to the federal government that said it was complying with safety protocols.</p> <p>The report DOI produced based on NYCHA misconduct led to public discussion over the failings of the agency as well as to City Council hearings, where NYCHA officials committed to making internal changes based on the findings of the report. Peters believes that a recent leadership change at NYCHA is linked to the DOI investigation that outed the safety violations and false paperwork.</p> <p>“We said, ‘Look, NYCHA is failing to meet the standards that the city and the federal government have already set for lead safety,’” Peters said. “In other words, no, we’re not experts on how much lead exposure is safe, but the city and the federal government have said, ‘Here are the rules.’ What we then do is come along and say, ‘You’re not following the rules.’”</p> <p>In general, NYCHA is underfunded and lacks the proper resources to fix some major problems, Peters said. To get rid of the mold in NYCHA apartments, for example, the agency would have to fix the roofs, which is difficult to do without the federal funding NYCHA has historically relied upon. According to Peters, the federal government hasn’t paid its fair share to NYCHA over the past decade.</p> <p>“DOI has not spent a lot of time criticizing NYCHA or investigating issues of NYCHA that are related to that kind of funding,” Peters said, explaining, though, that NYCHA must still be organized, honest, and as efficient as possible, “because telling NYCHA that you need the money is true, but they know that. We all know that. And we do not have oversight authority over the federal government.”</p> <p>Simultaneously, other areas of NYCHA, such as following the standard safety protocols for lead paint or smoke detectors, are not related to federal government funding. Instead, it is a matter of management doing its job.</p> <p>Unearthing these problems of mismanagement and malfeasance at NYCHA, and throughout city government and beyond, is the crux of DOI’s mission.</p> <p>“Part of the reason I think it’s important to have a permanent independent inspector general is we’re not going anywhere,” Peters said. “Our investigations into NYCHA aren’t finished. We are continuing to look at this...so that if NYCHA, having said they’re going to deal with this, doesn’t, we’ll be back in six months and we’ll be able to say to the Council and the public and to journalists and to all of you, ‘Here’s what really happened.’”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Listen: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7676-what-s-the-data-point-402-with-mark-peters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">What's The [Data] Point? 402, with Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters</a>]</p> <p>

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by Chelsey Sanchez, Gotham Gazette
@chelseynsanchez  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/peters_vance_presser_doi.jpg" alt="Mark Peters DOI Cy Vance" width="600" height="364" /></p> <p>Commissioner Peters at a press conference (photo: @NYC_DOI)</p> <hr /> <p>It took Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Police Department two years to accept what the city’s Department of Investigation had uncovered in 2015, DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said recently: that quality-of-life crime enforcement, like marijuana arrests, does little to reduce violent crime and that these arrests disproportionately affect people of color.</p> <p>When the DOI came out with the report detailing these findings, it experienced pushback from the mayor, who publicly questioned the accuracy and methodology behind the data, as well as from then-NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. But, at a City Council hearing last month, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, who succeeded Bratton, not only agreed that marijuana arrests had little bearing on the reduction of violent crime but also acknowledged the need for a comprehensive study on why these arrests disproportionately affect communities of color -- something DOI’s 2015 report recommended.</p> <p>“Would it be better if everybody agreed on that two years earlier?,” asked Peters, the DOI commissioner since 2014, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7676-what-s-the-data-point-402-with-mark-peters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on a recent episode of the What’s The [Data] Point podcast</a> from Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission. “Sure. But the point is, two years later, the NYPD in fact has accepted the basic premise of our report [and] has agreed to do the thing we think needs to be done.”</p> <p>Since Peters took over DOI after being nominated by de Blasio and confirmed by the City Council, the department’s work – including investigations into the NYPD, the city’s public housing authority (NYCHA), the Department of Correction, and other city agencies – has made many waves, including by frustrating de Blasio on several occasions as it has uncovered waste, fraud and abuse in city government. It is a testimony to the agency’s cherished independence, according to Peters, which is critical to earning and increasing the public’s trust in government and its ability to tackle serious problems.</p> <p>Establishing a clear sense of independence at the department, however, was something Peters had to work early on to establish given that, as treasurer, he had been a key part of de Blasio’s mayoral campaign in 2013. But as DOI has released both incremental and bombshell reports over the past four-plus years, Peters has earned praise from skeptics. He has also overseen the doubling of personnel at DOI, in large part due to building out the new office of the Inspector General of the NYPD, which has produced some of the most controversial work of the Peters-de Blasio era, after its creation was enshrined into law by the City Council in 2013 over a veto by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.</p> <p><strong>The Role of DOI and its Commissioner</strong><br />“DOI’s role is to provide transparency,” Peters said, and, when necessary, “to demonstrate ‘what we have now is not working.’”</p> <p>His department is one of the oldest law enforcement entities in New York. It has jurisdiction to root out corruption, waste, and abuse throughout city government, as well as in companies that do business with or are regulated by the city, such as the construction industry. DOI has a unique ability and mandate, and looks at both specific instances of wrongdoing and larger systems that may be ineffective or corrupt.</p> <p>DOI is designed in the city charter to be largely independent from the mayor, though the mayor does nominate the commissioner, who must also be approved by the City Council.</p> <p>“I’d like to think that the mayor picked me because I’ve spent really the 20-odd years before in law enforcement and, in particular, doing both law enforcement and anti-corruption work,” said Peters, whose resumé includes titles like Chief of the Public Corruption Unit and Deputy Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau for the office of the New York State Attorney General. He also previously worked at various civil rights organizations, such as serving as the Senior Staff Attorney at Children’s Inc., a national organization helping abused children.</p> <p>Doubts about Peters’ potential independence dominated public discourse around the time of his confirmation hearings in 2014. Since then, however, contention among DOI, the mayor, and the agencies that DOI investigates – such as the aforementioned tension over the DOI’s 2015 report regarding quality-of-life, AKA broken windows, policing – have laid those doubts to rest. Of his progress so far, Peters said, “I’d like to believe that, four years on, people are reasonably comfortable that we’ve been independent and that we will continue to be independent.”</p> <p>One of the first things that Peters did as the newly appointed DOI commissioner, he said on the podcast, was talk to the mayor about increasing the department’s funding in order to acquire the appropriate amount of staff, especially in regards to overseeing the NYPD.</p> <p>Subsequently, since 2013 the headcount of personnel at DOI has doubled and its budget has similarly increased by 58 percent, rising from $30.6 million in 2013 to $48.2 million today.</p> <p>“Without that,” said Peters, “all the laws in the world saying ‘You’ve got the authority to do it’ are meaningless if you don’t have the troops to actually get the work done.”</p> <p><strong>Investigating the NYPD</strong><br />The city charter has always granted DOI the jurisdiction to create an inspector general for the NYPD, along with the rest of the city government, but while DOI serves as inspector general for all city government and launched specific inspectors for other agencies, one never materialized for the NYPD. “Institutions are governed by a series of laws, but they are also governed by a series of practices and traditions,” Peters said when asked why there hadn’t been an NYPD IG before the City Council legislation. “That’s just true.”</p> <p>The law passed by the Council in 2013 “essentially said, ‘You’ve always had the power to do this, now we are directing you that you must do this,’” Peters said.</p> <p>As a result, the DOI hired about 50 new staff members, including Philip K. Eure, the first and current Inspector General for the NYPD. Along with the 2015 report on broken windows policing, a philosophy and resulting practice supported by Bratton, O’Neill, and de Blasio, DOI has released other NYPD reports, including one this year that shed light on the NYPD’s handling of sexual assault cases.</p> <p>According to Peters, the report showed that while the number of sexual assault cases have increased by 65 percent in the last decade, staffing for the special victims division remained flat, with only 67 detectives assigned to work adult sex crimes. As a result of the understaffing, a policy relegated ‘acquaintance rape’ (as opposed to ‘stranger rape’) to be sent out from the investigation units to the precincts, where many officers may be unequipped to deal with such cases. The facilities in which the police interview sexual assault victims were additionally deemed inadequate given the sensitivity of the cases. And, perhaps most importantly, DOI obtained documents that revealed that even the top ranks of the NYPD knew about these problems and were not taking sufficient measures to remedy them.</p> <p>NYPD officials pushed back on the report and attacked DOI for not interviewing the then-chief of detectives. They, along with the mayor, urged caution about believing the findings of the report and said that it was being further examined and that the new chief of detectives would be reevaluating everything under his purview anyway.</p> <p>At a City Council hearing last month, NYPD officials acknowledged the poor state of interview facilities for the victims of sexual assault and said they would invest in fixing them. While the NYPD’s formal response to the report is expected at the end of June, Peters sees progress in how much attention and potential change is resulting from the DOI report.</p> <p>“I think what’s happened is you’ve seen we’ve sped up the process of getting at this problem without people having to go to court and use litigation,” Peters said, referring to the lawsuits brought against the NYPD in response to the high rates of stop-and-frisk, a practice deemed unconstitutional in terms of how the NYPD targeted people of color. “As an old civil rights lawyer, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with litigation, but it’s not the most efficient way of changing things.”</p> <p>Peters stressed the value of DOI’s work in terms of transparency. “The only way for the City Council to hold really good, thoughtful hearings is for them to have something like our reports,” said Peters. “Because that’s the baseline material that allows you to then ask questions of the NYPD. If you wanna have the NYPD come in and testify and you wanna ask them the hard questions...the first thing you need is all of DOI’s work telling you what’s going on.”</p> <p><strong>The Department of Correction and Closing Rikers</strong><br />Last summer, the de Blasio administration announced plans to lower the city’s incarcerated population and shut down the Rikers Island jails, while creating additional jail space in four borough-based facilities. While public policy is under the jurisdiction of the mayor and the City Council, it is the DOI’s job to make sure that policy and programs work.</p> <p>“Part of making it successful is pointing out that, in and of itself, taking Rikers and moving it to borough facilities...is not gonna solve the problems of violence and contraband smuggling that we’re seeing,” Peters said, discussing work DOI has done to examine problems at city jails, including those on Rikers.</p> <p>A report that the DOI issued earlier this year found that the problems of violence and contraband smuggling, which are rampant at Rikers, are happening at similar levels at the jail facilities in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Peters estimated that about 50 correction officers and facility staff have been arrested so far for involvement in contraband schemes, such as accepting bribes in exchange for smuggling. Additionally, undercover officers were also able to smuggle weapons and drugs into the borough-based jail facilities.</p> <p>“I don’t see any reason to believe that that level of arrests is necessarily gonna go down over the next year or so,” <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7676-what-s-the-data-point-402-with-mark-peters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Peters said</a>. “So we still have a huge amount of work that needs to be done to get at those problems.”</p> <p>As a result, Peters doesn’t see the plan to shutter Rikers as a silver bullet solution to the city’s jail problems. “As we plan for this, we need to continue planning for how do we deal with security and mental health and contraband smuggling,” he said.</p> <p><strong>Safety Violations at NYCHA</strong><br />When DOI investigated the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) late last year, it found that the public housing authority not only violated lead paint, smoke detector, and elevator safety procedures, but also falsified documents to the federal government that said it was complying with safety protocols.</p> <p>The report DOI produced based on NYCHA misconduct led to public discussion over the failings of the agency as well as to City Council hearings, where NYCHA officials committed to making internal changes based on the findings of the report. Peters believes that a recent leadership change at NYCHA is linked to the DOI investigation that outed the safety violations and false paperwork.</p> <p>“We said, ‘Look, NYCHA is failing to meet the standards that the city and the federal government have already set for lead safety,’” Peters said. “In other words, no, we’re not experts on how much lead exposure is safe, but the city and the federal government have said, ‘Here are the rules.’ What we then do is come along and say, ‘You’re not following the rules.’”</p> <p>In general, NYCHA is underfunded and lacks the proper resources to fix some major problems, Peters said. To get rid of the mold in NYCHA apartments, for example, the agency would have to fix the roofs, which is difficult to do without the federal funding NYCHA has historically relied upon. According to Peters, the federal government hasn’t paid its fair share to NYCHA over the past decade.</p> <p>“DOI has not spent a lot of time criticizing NYCHA or investigating issues of NYCHA that are related to that kind of funding,” Peters said, explaining, though, that NYCHA must still be organized, honest, and as efficient as possible, “because telling NYCHA that you need the money is true, but they know that. We all know that. And we do not have oversight authority over the federal government.”</p> <p>Simultaneously, other areas of NYCHA, such as following the standard safety protocols for lead paint or smoke detectors, are not related to federal government funding. Instead, it is a matter of management doing its job.</p> <p>Unearthing these problems of mismanagement and malfeasance at NYCHA, and throughout city government and beyond, is the crux of DOI’s mission.</p> <p>“Part of the reason I think it’s important to have a permanent independent inspector general is we’re not going anywhere,” Peters said. “Our investigations into NYCHA aren’t finished. We are continuing to look at this...so that if NYCHA, having said they’re going to deal with this, doesn’t, we’ll be back in six months and we’ll be able to say to the Council and the public and to journalists and to all of you, ‘Here’s what really happened.’”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Listen: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7676-what-s-the-data-point-402-with-mark-peters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">What's The [Data] Point? 402, with Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters</a>]</p> <p>

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by Chelsey Sanchez, Gotham Gazette
@chelseynsanchez  @GothamGazette

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