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 2018-09-24T03:51:26+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com 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/?id=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>

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<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>

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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/?id=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, City government 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, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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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/?id=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>

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<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>

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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/?id=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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
While Waiting on the State, Steps on Marijuana for the Mayor and NYPD 2018-05-29T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-29T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7697:while-waiting-on-the-state-steps-on-marijuana-for-the-mayor-and-nypd Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayorsoffice-stats.jpg" alt="mayorsoffice stats" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Smoking marijuana in public will only be legalized if the New York State Assembly and Senate – huffing and puffing – change the penal law.</p> <p>With no change, the real problem in New York City is the collateral consequences – past, present, and future – arrests for marijuana cause thousands of black and Hispanic New Yorkers disproportionately impacted by the NYPD’s approach. These consequences include issues when applying for a license or job, or leading to deportation proceedings as mandated by President Trump’s onerous immigration executive order. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>These consequences could start to be mitigated if Mayor Bill de Blasio will “tell” – actually order – his police commissioner not to make misdemeanor marijuana arrests and instead directs the NYPD to issue a non-criminal summons when marijuana is smoked publicly. Additionally, de Blasio must enlist all five of the city’s district attorneys to decline criminal marijuana prosecutions – only the Manhattan and Brooklyn D.A.s have taken up this policy. &nbsp;</p> <p>If the NYPD submits, a misdemeanor marijuana arrest will virtually be eliminated as a criminal charge, fingerprints will not be taken, nor sent to the FBI. For a non-criminal summons a fine can be paid by mail. This process would in essence decriminalize marijuana. &nbsp;</p> <p>The proposed mayoral no-arrest policy – guaranteed to cause consternation at the NYPD’s highest level – will generate a reflex response that not making marijuana misdemeanor arrests is inconsistent with enforcing the law and it is Albany’s responsibility to change the law. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>As he assigned a 30-day review of marijuana enforcement, de Blasio’s hopeful statement, “I respect the NYPD, which has proven the ability to innovate to come up with the how. I have a mandate for them, I’m convinced they will figure out how to act on it,” is unrealistic.</p> <p>The mayor cannot really believe that the NYPD will voluntarily recommend “innovative” ideas – in 30 days – or significantly change its crime strategies of stopping, frisking, seizing marijuana, and arresting a person for smoking it in public, after 50-plus years of no progressive ideas for how to effectively address this issue. &nbsp;</p> <p>The NYPD’s hazy and quick response after de Blasio’s announcement is hardly encouraging, “The (NYPD) 30-day Working Group on marijuana enforcement is underway, and this issue is certainly part of that review. &nbsp;The Working Group is reviewing possession and public smoking of marijuana to ensure enforcement is consistent with the values of fairness and trust, while also promoting public safety and addressing community concerns.”</p> <p>There was a sleight of hand NYPD “reform” concerning marijuana arrests to ease the public pressure when stop-and-frisks were at all-time highs.</p> <p>Since 2013, the NYPD, instead of criminally processing a person arrested, has often given a Desk Appearance Ticket – a misdemeanor criminal summons for public smoking – after a person is arrested, photographed, and fingerprinted, if there is no outstanding warrant for that person’s arrest. &nbsp;The only real DAT benefit is the person is not incarcerated for 10 or 20 or more hours waiting for a criminal court arraignment.</p> <p>Annually, more than 15,000 individuals were arrested and charged with a misdemeanor, overwhelmingly receiving a DAT for smoking pot in public, and approximately 30,000 non-criminal summonses were issued for pot possession. &nbsp;</p> <p>For these 45,000 New Yorkers and the hundreds of thousands before and after them, the collateral consequences for arrests and even for non-criminal summonses continue.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>While legalization is debated the Legislature and the Governor must immediately enact an exemption to state law that currently mandates fingerprinting a person arrested for criminal possession of marijuana.</p> <p>The Legislature and the Governor must specifically exclude from disclosure any pending or adjudicated marijuana arrest or non-criminal summons issued or asked about in any employment application for public service, a license or to obtain any public benefit.</p> <p>While the mayor, the governor, and the Legislature dither about the legalization of marijuana, it is time for the mayor, after four-and-a-half years in office, to lead – and drag the NYPD along – to eliminate marijuana arrests, which will start to end the collateral consequences. &nbsp;</p> <p>***<br /> Arnold Kriss is a Manhattan attorney who formerly served as a Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney and Deputy Commissioner of Trials in the NYPD.</p> <p>

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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-stats.jpg" alt="mayorsoffice stats" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Smoking marijuana in public will only be legalized if the New York State Assembly and Senate – huffing and puffing – change the penal law.</p> <p>With no change, the real problem in New York City is the collateral consequences – past, present, and future – arrests for marijuana cause thousands of black and Hispanic New Yorkers disproportionately impacted by the NYPD’s approach. These consequences include issues when applying for a license or job, or leading to deportation proceedings as mandated by President Trump’s onerous immigration executive order. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>These consequences could start to be mitigated if Mayor Bill de Blasio will “tell” – actually order – his police commissioner not to make misdemeanor marijuana arrests and instead directs the NYPD to issue a non-criminal summons when marijuana is smoked publicly. Additionally, de Blasio must enlist all five of the city’s district attorneys to decline criminal marijuana prosecutions – only the Manhattan and Brooklyn D.A.s have taken up this policy. &nbsp;</p> <p>If the NYPD submits, a misdemeanor marijuana arrest will virtually be eliminated as a criminal charge, fingerprints will not be taken, nor sent to the FBI. For a non-criminal summons a fine can be paid by mail. This process would in essence decriminalize marijuana. &nbsp;</p> <p>The proposed mayoral no-arrest policy – guaranteed to cause consternation at the NYPD’s highest level – will generate a reflex response that not making marijuana misdemeanor arrests is inconsistent with enforcing the law and it is Albany’s responsibility to change the law. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>As he assigned a 30-day review of marijuana enforcement, de Blasio’s hopeful statement, “I respect the NYPD, which has proven the ability to innovate to come up with the how. I have a mandate for them, I’m convinced they will figure out how to act on it,” is unrealistic.</p> <p>The mayor cannot really believe that the NYPD will voluntarily recommend “innovative” ideas – in 30 days – or significantly change its crime strategies of stopping, frisking, seizing marijuana, and arresting a person for smoking it in public, after 50-plus years of no progressive ideas for how to effectively address this issue. &nbsp;</p> <p>The NYPD’s hazy and quick response after de Blasio’s announcement is hardly encouraging, “The (NYPD) 30-day Working Group on marijuana enforcement is underway, and this issue is certainly part of that review. &nbsp;The Working Group is reviewing possession and public smoking of marijuana to ensure enforcement is consistent with the values of fairness and trust, while also promoting public safety and addressing community concerns.”</p> <p>There was a sleight of hand NYPD “reform” concerning marijuana arrests to ease the public pressure when stop-and-frisks were at all-time highs.</p> <p>Since 2013, the NYPD, instead of criminally processing a person arrested, has often given a Desk Appearance Ticket – a misdemeanor criminal summons for public smoking – after a person is arrested, photographed, and fingerprinted, if there is no outstanding warrant for that person’s arrest. &nbsp;The only real DAT benefit is the person is not incarcerated for 10 or 20 or more hours waiting for a criminal court arraignment.</p> <p>Annually, more than 15,000 individuals were arrested and charged with a misdemeanor, overwhelmingly receiving a DAT for smoking pot in public, and approximately 30,000 non-criminal summonses were issued for pot possession. &nbsp;</p> <p>For these 45,000 New Yorkers and the hundreds of thousands before and after them, the collateral consequences for arrests and even for non-criminal summonses continue.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>While legalization is debated the Legislature and the Governor must immediately enact an exemption to state law that currently mandates fingerprinting a person arrested for criminal possession of marijuana.</p> <p>The Legislature and the Governor must specifically exclude from disclosure any pending or adjudicated marijuana arrest or non-criminal summons issued or asked about in any employment application for public service, a license or to obtain any public benefit.</p> <p>While the mayor, the governor, and the Legislature dither about the legalization of marijuana, it is time for the mayor, after four-and-a-half years in office, to lead – and drag the NYPD along – to eliminate marijuana arrests, which will start to end the collateral consequences. &nbsp;</p> <p>***<br /> Arnold Kriss is a Manhattan attorney who formerly served as a Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney and Deputy Commissioner of Trials in the NYPD.</p> <p>

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

</p>
What's The [Data] Point? 402, with Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters 2018-05-17T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-17T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7676:what-s-the-data-point-402-with-mark-peters Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The [Data] Point? Episode 41</strong><strong> -- 402,&nbsp;with DOI Commissioner Mark Peters [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</strong></p> <!--<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/wtdp-w-cbrecher-120.jpg" alt="wtdp w cbrecher 120" width="440" height="120" style="display: block; margin: 10px auto;" /></p>--> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mark-peters-podcast-277px.jpg" alt="mark peters podcast 277px" width="277" height="208" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters is one of the most feared officials in New York City. The power of his office has few limits as it investigates waste, fraud, and abuse in and around city government. DOI issues reports, makes arrests, and really gets under the hood of city agencies.</p> <p>Under Peters, who took office in 2014, DOI has issued bombshell reports about the NYPD, NYCHA, the Department of Correction, and other city agencies and entities. Peters joined the podcast to discuss the work of the office, which has grown substantially during his tenure, his relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who nominated him to the position but has criticized his work on several occasions, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Maria Doulis of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MariaDoulis</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/445390995&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The [Data] Point? Episode 41</strong><strong> -- 402,&nbsp;with DOI Commissioner Mark Peters [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</strong></p> <!--<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/wtdp-w-cbrecher-120.jpg" alt="wtdp w cbrecher 120" width="440" height="120" style="display: block; margin: 10px auto;" /></p>--> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mark-peters-podcast-277px.jpg" alt="mark peters podcast 277px" width="277" height="208" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters is one of the most feared officials in New York City. The power of his office has few limits as it investigates waste, fraud, and abuse in and around city government. DOI issues reports, makes arrests, and really gets under the hood of city agencies.</p> <p>Under Peters, who took office in 2014, DOI has issued bombshell reports about the NYPD, NYCHA, the Department of Correction, and other city agencies and entities. Peters joined the podcast to discuss the work of the office, which has grown substantially during his tenure, his relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who nominated him to the position but has criticized his work on several occasions, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Maria Doulis of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MariaDoulis</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/445390995&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
City Council Progressive Caucus Calls for Crisis Intervention Reforms 2018-04-18T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7622:city-council-progressive-caucus-calls-for-crisis-intervention-reforms Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayornyc-james-o-neil.jpg" alt="mayornyc james o neil" width="640" height="428" /></p> <p>(Credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council Progressive Caucus is stepping up calls for Mayor Bill de Blasio to reconstitute a citywide task force to examine how emergency responders help people suffering from mental illness, and are insisting that the mayor consider creating a parallel response force of social workers and therapists that can answer calls rather than police officers.</p> <p>In a letter sent to the mayor last Wednesday, the 21 members of the Progressive Caucus said the mayor should act by the end of the month to revive the Mayoral Task Force on Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice, which was set up, and concluded its work, in 2014, or create a similar body.</p> <p>“As we’ve seen once again in the last week, the tragic costs of not acting in a sustained and focused manner are too high,” the members wrote, referring to the shooting death of Crown Heights resident Shaheed Vassell by NYPD officers who were not trained to respond to situations involving “emotionally disturbed persons.” The letter noted that since the last task force’s recommendations were put in place, in the summer of 2016, ten people in emotional crisis were killed by police.</p> <p>Late last year, City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a progressive caucus member, had led an effort calling on the mayor to do the same. He was among those who <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7603-council-members-renew-call-for-task-force-on-nypd-response-to-emotionally-disturbed-persons" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reiterated that request</a> after the death of Vassell. But though the NYPD says it is on board, the mayor continues to drag his feet. “It’s really a City Hall conversation,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner Susan Herman said at a Council hearing last month.</p> <p>The Progressive Caucus members’ latest request differs slightly from what has been previously sought.</p> <p>Rather than directing efforts at improving NYPD officer behavior, which they nonetheless hope the task force will do, they are calling for the mayor to support a new system that prioritizes professional mental health providers in emergency situations, where 911 operators can divert calls to social workers or therapists instead of the police and where therapists or trained peers can join police at the scene of an emergency. They also call for an expansion of mobile crisis teams and co-response teams that include mental health professionals paired with officers that have received Crisis Intervention Training. Just over 8,000 officers in the 36,000-strong police force have gone through CIT.&nbsp;</p> <p>"Too often, individuals with behavioral and mental health conditions are wrongly introduced to the criminal justice system. In order to improve their safety, we must consider comprehensive strategies that will prioritize preventive care and response tactics by mental health professionals,” said Council Member Diana Ayala, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus and chair of the Council’s Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction, in a statement.</p> <p>The Progressive Caucus includes nearly half the 51 members of the City Council, and counts Council Speaker Corey Johnson among its ranks. Council Member Ben Kallos is co-chair with Ayala.</p> <p>Although the Council members praised the administration’s efforts that resulted from the recommendation of the previous task force, they noted that many initiatives stalled and also pointed to the weaknesses in the NYPD’s approach to CIT training as evidenced by a January 2017 report by the Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD.</p> <p>“The deaths of Dwayne Jeune, Saheed Vassell, and too many others have shown that there are fundamental flaws in the way our city handles EDP emergencies,” said Council Member Williams, in a statement.</p> <p>Steve Coe, CEO of Community Access, decried the “lack of leadership around this issue” despite the action plan put in place based on the 2014 task force’s recommendations. He commended the Progressive Caucus’ efforts, stressing that bringing stakeholders such as district attorneys, the city’s health department, NYPD officials, mental health experts and advocates was necessary “to assess what’s working, what’s not working, and develop diversion and treatment strategies that are effective and sustainable.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note- This article has been updated.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayornyc-james-o-neil.jpg" alt="mayornyc james o neil" width="640" height="428" /></p> <p>(Credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council Progressive Caucus is stepping up calls for Mayor Bill de Blasio to reconstitute a citywide task force to examine how emergency responders help people suffering from mental illness, and are insisting that the mayor consider creating a parallel response force of social workers and therapists that can answer calls rather than police officers.</p> <p>In a letter sent to the mayor last Wednesday, the 21 members of the Progressive Caucus said the mayor should act by the end of the month to revive the Mayoral Task Force on Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice, which was set up, and concluded its work, in 2014, or create a similar body.</p> <p>“As we’ve seen once again in the last week, the tragic costs of not acting in a sustained and focused manner are too high,” the members wrote, referring to the shooting death of Crown Heights resident Shaheed Vassell by NYPD officers who were not trained to respond to situations involving “emotionally disturbed persons.” The letter noted that since the last task force’s recommendations were put in place, in the summer of 2016, ten people in emotional crisis were killed by police.</p> <p>Late last year, City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a progressive caucus member, had led an effort calling on the mayor to do the same. He was among those who <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7603-council-members-renew-call-for-task-force-on-nypd-response-to-emotionally-disturbed-persons" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reiterated that request</a> after the death of Vassell. But though the NYPD says it is on board, the mayor continues to drag his feet. “It’s really a City Hall conversation,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner Susan Herman said at a Council hearing last month.</p> <p>The Progressive Caucus members’ latest request differs slightly from what has been previously sought.</p> <p>Rather than directing efforts at improving NYPD officer behavior, which they nonetheless hope the task force will do, they are calling for the mayor to support a new system that prioritizes professional mental health providers in emergency situations, where 911 operators can divert calls to social workers or therapists instead of the police and where therapists or trained peers can join police at the scene of an emergency. They also call for an expansion of mobile crisis teams and co-response teams that include mental health professionals paired with officers that have received Crisis Intervention Training. Just over 8,000 officers in the 36,000-strong police force have gone through CIT.&nbsp;</p> <p>"Too often, individuals with behavioral and mental health conditions are wrongly introduced to the criminal justice system. In order to improve their safety, we must consider comprehensive strategies that will prioritize preventive care and response tactics by mental health professionals,” said Council Member Diana Ayala, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus and chair of the Council’s Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction, in a statement.</p> <p>The Progressive Caucus includes nearly half the 51 members of the City Council, and counts Council Speaker Corey Johnson among its ranks. Council Member Ben Kallos is co-chair with Ayala.</p> <p>Although the Council members praised the administration’s efforts that resulted from the recommendation of the previous task force, they noted that many initiatives stalled and also pointed to the weaknesses in the NYPD’s approach to CIT training as evidenced by a January 2017 report by the Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD.</p> <p>“The deaths of Dwayne Jeune, Saheed Vassell, and too many others have shown that there are fundamental flaws in the way our city handles EDP emergencies,” said Council Member Williams, in a statement.</p> <p>Steve Coe, CEO of Community Access, decried the “lack of leadership around this issue” despite the action plan put in place based on the 2014 task force’s recommendations. He commended the Progressive Caucus’ efforts, stressing that bringing stakeholders such as district attorneys, the city’s health department, NYPD officials, mental health experts and advocates was necessary “to assess what’s working, what’s not working, and develop diversion and treatment strategies that are effective and sustainable.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note- This article has been updated.&nbsp;</p>
NYPD Pushes Back Against Calls to Reform Special Victims Division 2018-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7602:nypd-pushes-back-against-calls-to-reform-special-victims-division Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/nypd_council_hearing_rape.jpg" alt="nypd council hearing rape" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>NYPD reps at Monday's hearing (photo: @NYCCouncil)</p> <hr /> <p>At a tense oversight hearing examining the NYPD's response to sex crimes on Monday, the NYPD opposed all four bills introduced by the City Council in response to a Department of Investigation report released two weeks earlier.</p> <p>The bills seek to require evidence-based models to determine staffing levels for the Special Victims Division, more training for sex crimes detectives, and a digital, searchable case management system for the SVD.</p> <p>On March 27, following a year-long investigation, the DOI released <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doi/reports/pdf/2018/Mar/SVDReport_32718.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a report</a> stating that the NYPD's Special Victims Division has been chronically understaffed for years, with only 67 detectives available to investigate roughly 5,600 sex crimes per year (ranging from rape to groping).</p> <p>As a result, “a full exhaustive work effort [for every sex crime investigation] has not been possible," wrote Michael Osgood, Deputy Chief of the Special Victims Division, in one of the many internal correspondences Osgood sent to NYPD higher-ups asking for more investigators and included in the DOI report.</p> <p>Osgood did not testify at the hearing.</p> <p>Advocates, sexual assault survivors, a former Special Victims sergeant, and other members of the NYPD testified before the City Council regarding the NYPD's handling of sex crimes. While survivors, advocates, and the former Special Victims sergeant say the NYPD needs to act to improve the experience of victims who report their assaults, the NYPD claims no need for improvement.</p> <p>The hearing was led by Council Members Donovan Richards, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, and Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Committee on Women.</p> <p>Officially, the NYPD has 90 days to respond to the DOI's findings, which NYPD officials repeated several times at the hearing when asked specific questions.</p> <p>But in an informal response issued on&nbsp;<a href="http://nypdnews.com/2018/03/nypd-response-office-inspector-generals-report-special-victims-division/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">its website</a>, the NYPD rebutted the DOI's findings, calling its report "an investigation in name only" and stating there are 85 detectives available to investigate adult sex crimes, not 67.</p> <p>"The number of detectives assigned to actively investigate adult sex crimes is 67 (not 85) and the NYPD did not dispute that number last Friday when we discussed the report with NYPD officials," the DOI said in a statement issued in response.</p> <p>By Monday morning, the NYPD had added another 20 detectives to the Special Victims Division, 15 from patrol, five from detectives squads. Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said that brought the total number of detectives assigned to investigate adult sex crimes to 100 (but did not account for the 100 being less than the 20 he said they added and the 85 the NYPD previously asserted).</p> <p>Boyce’s testimony indicates the city now has 100 detectives to investigate 5,600 sex crimes annually.</p> <p>For comparison, homicide investigations are similar in length and complexity to sexual assault investigations, and the city's homicide squads had 101 detectives to investigate 282 homicides in 2017, according to the DOI report.</p> <p>The DOI made 12 recommendations, including that the NYPD hire 73 additional detectives "to meet the minimum investigative capacity required by an evidence-backed and nationally-accepted staffing analysis model" known as the Prummel model.</p> <p>The DOI also said the NYPD should increase training for adult sex crimes detectives, invest in a new case management system, and renovate or relocate the facilities of all the special victims units that handle adult sex crimes.</p> <p>"Investigators are not properly trained, facilities are not suitable, and wait times are extensive. It is no wonder that victims don’t report more often," said Council Member Richards at Monday’s hearing. "And it seems that NYPD leadership is just fine with victims of sex crimes being ignored."</p> <p>Chief of Patrol Terrence Monahan, Deputy Commissioner of Collaborative Policing Susan Herman, and Director of Legislative Affairs Oleg Chernyavsky testified before the Council. Chief of Detectives Boyce, who is on the verge of retirement from the NYPD, was also seated at the table and fielded questions. Though Council members said they wanted to hear from Chief Osgood as head of the Special Victims Division, the four NYPD officials seated at the table took virtually all of the questions, along with some terse interjections from Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters Larry Byrne.</p> <p>By and large, NYPD officials asserted that the department takes rape seriously, that both staffing and training are adequate, and that their electronic case management system is sufficient.</p> <p>Chernyavsky said that the bills requiring additional training would "dilute the police commissioner’s authority by dictating a particular method and duration of training."</p> <p>In response to Council Member Debi Rose's bill requiring the NYPD to use evidence-based models to determine appropriate staffing levels for the Special Victims Division, Chernyavsky said, "The requirements of this bill, however, erode and encroach upon the most basic responsibilities of the police commissioner to manage this agency and its personnel."</p> <p>However, Chernyavsky's response ignores the fact that the head of the Special Victims Division requested additional staffing from multiple commissioners over the course of years. The DOI report includes dozens of pages of internal NYPD communications wherein Osgood repeatedly requests additional investigators to be added to the division.</p> <p>As the DOI report notes, the caseload of the city's adult sex crimes detectives has increased by 65.3 percent since 2009, when there were 72 detectives.</p> <p>"I cannot understand how anyone can argue with these recommendations," said retired Special Victims Sergeant Michael Bock, who worked with the division for years. "None will be detrimental to investigations. What are we afraid of?"</p> <p>Bock appeared before the Council after the NYPD representatives, none of whom stayed to hear his testimony. The department left behind two people to monitor the rest of the hearing.</p> <p>Despite assurances from the NYPD that the SVD is adequately staffed, that training is sufficient, and that the division's electronic case management system is adequate, the testimonies of many sexual assault victims and advocates indicate otherwise.</p> <p>As one woman, Desdemona Meck, testified, "Two months after moving to New York City, two men attempted to rape me in the Bronx." A few hours after the assault, she received a rape kit and reported the rape to the precinct.</p> <p>"The detective told me I have to learn to be smarter in New York City, that I should toughen up, and in the future not be so nice to strangers. She went on to ask me if I was positive I hadn't somehow made it seem as though the sex was something I had wanted."</p> <p>Meck said the detective's reaction made her feel "shameful." Meck went on to identify both of the assailants through mugshots. The detective deterred Meck from bringing the case to trial. "She seemed confident in her belief that spending more time on the case would be a waste."</p> <p>Advocates who testified at the hearing like Mary Haviland, Jane Manning, Christopher Bromson, and Angela Fernandez have worked very closely with both the NYPD and sexual assault victims for years. Some attend private meetings with NYPD officials, have attended trainings for Special Victims detectives and have likewise had those detectives attend their advocate trainings.</p> <p>Haviland, executive director of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, is currently involved in an audit of closed sex crimes cases. Bromson, the executive director of the Crime Victims Treatment Center, and Manning, head of Women's Justice NOW, have assisted many sexual assault victims who have come to their organizations for help, often after reporting their rape to the NYPD goes awry.</p> <p>"The fact that Chief Boyce could sit without a smile on his face and say that the SVD could follow up with victims is just not the reality," Haviland said. "They are not able to follow up with victims who come in. They are not able to give explanations for dropped cases or the results of rape kits."</p> <p>"This issue of inadequate staff and inadequate training is something that advocates have been bringing up to the NYPD for years, we've been pleading for those things for years," said Manning.</p> <p>Fernandez represents a different group of advocates who were largely not present at the hearing -- ones who work in hospitals running programs for sexual assault survivors. As the DOI report notes, sexual assault victims often have to wait hours to see a detective after reporting their assault and getting a rape kit done in a hospital. Detectives are supposed to come to the victim in the hospital, but that doesn't always happen.</p> <p>"One service provider described how a client spent the entire night at a hospital waiting for an SVD detective to arrive," DOI investigators wrote in their report. "When no detective showed up, the victim, thoroughly discouraged, decided against reporting the crime to the police and went home."</p> <p>Over the weekend, the NYPD rolled out a public awareness campaign aimed at increasing reporting of sex crimes.</p> <p>Yet without more detectives assigned to investigate reported sex crimes, some victims who report their assaults will continue to suffer in the ways advocates and victims described at the hearing.</p> <p>Both Council Members Rosenthal and Rose expressed concern over the NYPD's mixed messages -- at the same time they have put out a public awareness campaign to get more people to report their sexual assault, they have also been reluctant to add more staff to the division responsible for investigating those sexual assaults.</p> <p>"With the increase in reporting, will there be enough personnel to handle these cases?" Rose asked. "It is imperative that they have enough staff to investigate these cases, to avoid the re-victimization of the people who step forward."</p> <p>The NYPD's refusal to allocate adequate resources to the Special Victims Division has far-reaching consequences for victims of sexual assault and discourages victims of sexual assault from coming forward to report what happened to them. NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill did say recently that when he names a replacement for the retiring Boyce as chief of detectives, that person will do a full review of the SVD.</p> <p>While the NYPD currently maintains that they have an adequate number of investigators staffing the SVD, Bock, the recently retired Special Victims sergeant, says otherwise.</p> <p>"I really believe the DOI report nailed it. The NYPD's denial is upsetting," Bock said. "For a long time, the running joke in the [Special Victims] office was, 'Can I have another cinder block as I'm swimming in the pool?'...Having 20 open cases on your screen doesn't feel good."</p> <p>

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by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/nypd_council_hearing_rape.jpg" alt="nypd council hearing rape" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>NYPD reps at Monday's hearing (photo: @NYCCouncil)</p> <hr /> <p>At a tense oversight hearing examining the NYPD's response to sex crimes on Monday, the NYPD opposed all four bills introduced by the City Council in response to a Department of Investigation report released two weeks earlier.</p> <p>The bills seek to require evidence-based models to determine staffing levels for the Special Victims Division, more training for sex crimes detectives, and a digital, searchable case management system for the SVD.</p> <p>On March 27, following a year-long investigation, the DOI released <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doi/reports/pdf/2018/Mar/SVDReport_32718.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a report</a> stating that the NYPD's Special Victims Division has been chronically understaffed for years, with only 67 detectives available to investigate roughly 5,600 sex crimes per year (ranging from rape to groping).</p> <p>As a result, “a full exhaustive work effort [for every sex crime investigation] has not been possible," wrote Michael Osgood, Deputy Chief of the Special Victims Division, in one of the many internal correspondences Osgood sent to NYPD higher-ups asking for more investigators and included in the DOI report.</p> <p>Osgood did not testify at the hearing.</p> <p>Advocates, sexual assault survivors, a former Special Victims sergeant, and other members of the NYPD testified before the City Council regarding the NYPD's handling of sex crimes. While survivors, advocates, and the former Special Victims sergeant say the NYPD needs to act to improve the experience of victims who report their assaults, the NYPD claims no need for improvement.</p> <p>The hearing was led by Council Members Donovan Richards, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, and Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Committee on Women.</p> <p>Officially, the NYPD has 90 days to respond to the DOI's findings, which NYPD officials repeated several times at the hearing when asked specific questions.</p> <p>But in an informal response issued on&nbsp;<a href="http://nypdnews.com/2018/03/nypd-response-office-inspector-generals-report-special-victims-division/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">its website</a>, the NYPD rebutted the DOI's findings, calling its report "an investigation in name only" and stating there are 85 detectives available to investigate adult sex crimes, not 67.</p> <p>"The number of detectives assigned to actively investigate adult sex crimes is 67 (not 85) and the NYPD did not dispute that number last Friday when we discussed the report with NYPD officials," the DOI said in a statement issued in response.</p> <p>By Monday morning, the NYPD had added another 20 detectives to the Special Victims Division, 15 from patrol, five from detectives squads. Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said that brought the total number of detectives assigned to investigate adult sex crimes to 100 (but did not account for the 100 being less than the 20 he said they added and the 85 the NYPD previously asserted).</p> <p>Boyce’s testimony indicates the city now has 100 detectives to investigate 5,600 sex crimes annually.</p> <p>For comparison, homicide investigations are similar in length and complexity to sexual assault investigations, and the city's homicide squads had 101 detectives to investigate 282 homicides in 2017, according to the DOI report.</p> <p>The DOI made 12 recommendations, including that the NYPD hire 73 additional detectives "to meet the minimum investigative capacity required by an evidence-backed and nationally-accepted staffing analysis model" known as the Prummel model.</p> <p>The DOI also said the NYPD should increase training for adult sex crimes detectives, invest in a new case management system, and renovate or relocate the facilities of all the special victims units that handle adult sex crimes.</p> <p>"Investigators are not properly trained, facilities are not suitable, and wait times are extensive. It is no wonder that victims don’t report more often," said Council Member Richards at Monday’s hearing. "And it seems that NYPD leadership is just fine with victims of sex crimes being ignored."</p> <p>Chief of Patrol Terrence Monahan, Deputy Commissioner of Collaborative Policing Susan Herman, and Director of Legislative Affairs Oleg Chernyavsky testified before the Council. Chief of Detectives Boyce, who is on the verge of retirement from the NYPD, was also seated at the table and fielded questions. Though Council members said they wanted to hear from Chief Osgood as head of the Special Victims Division, the four NYPD officials seated at the table took virtually all of the questions, along with some terse interjections from Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters Larry Byrne.</p> <p>By and large, NYPD officials asserted that the department takes rape seriously, that both staffing and training are adequate, and that their electronic case management system is sufficient.</p> <p>Chernyavsky said that the bills requiring additional training would "dilute the police commissioner’s authority by dictating a particular method and duration of training."</p> <p>In response to Council Member Debi Rose's bill requiring the NYPD to use evidence-based models to determine appropriate staffing levels for the Special Victims Division, Chernyavsky said, "The requirements of this bill, however, erode and encroach upon the most basic responsibilities of the police commissioner to manage this agency and its personnel."</p> <p>However, Chernyavsky's response ignores the fact that the head of the Special Victims Division requested additional staffing from multiple commissioners over the course of years. The DOI report includes dozens of pages of internal NYPD communications wherein Osgood repeatedly requests additional investigators to be added to the division.</p> <p>As the DOI report notes, the caseload of the city's adult sex crimes detectives has increased by 65.3 percent since 2009, when there were 72 detectives.</p> <p>"I cannot understand how anyone can argue with these recommendations," said retired Special Victims Sergeant Michael Bock, who worked with the division for years. "None will be detrimental to investigations. What are we afraid of?"</p> <p>Bock appeared before the Council after the NYPD representatives, none of whom stayed to hear his testimony. The department left behind two people to monitor the rest of the hearing.</p> <p>Despite assurances from the NYPD that the SVD is adequately staffed, that training is sufficient, and that the division's electronic case management system is adequate, the testimonies of many sexual assault victims and advocates indicate otherwise.</p> <p>As one woman, Desdemona Meck, testified, "Two months after moving to New York City, two men attempted to rape me in the Bronx." A few hours after the assault, she received a rape kit and reported the rape to the precinct.</p> <p>"The detective told me I have to learn to be smarter in New York City, that I should toughen up, and in the future not be so nice to strangers. She went on to ask me if I was positive I hadn't somehow made it seem as though the sex was something I had wanted."</p> <p>Meck said the detective's reaction made her feel "shameful." Meck went on to identify both of the assailants through mugshots. The detective deterred Meck from bringing the case to trial. "She seemed confident in her belief that spending more time on the case would be a waste."</p> <p>Advocates who testified at the hearing like Mary Haviland, Jane Manning, Christopher Bromson, and Angela Fernandez have worked very closely with both the NYPD and sexual assault victims for years. Some attend private meetings with NYPD officials, have attended trainings for Special Victims detectives and have likewise had those detectives attend their advocate trainings.</p> <p>Haviland, executive director of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, is currently involved in an audit of closed sex crimes cases. Bromson, the executive director of the Crime Victims Treatment Center, and Manning, head of Women's Justice NOW, have assisted many sexual assault victims who have come to their organizations for help, often after reporting their rape to the NYPD goes awry.</p> <p>"The fact that Chief Boyce could sit without a smile on his face and say that the SVD could follow up with victims is just not the reality," Haviland said. "They are not able to follow up with victims who come in. They are not able to give explanations for dropped cases or the results of rape kits."</p> <p>"This issue of inadequate staff and inadequate training is something that advocates have been bringing up to the NYPD for years, we've been pleading for those things for years," said Manning.</p> <p>Fernandez represents a different group of advocates who were largely not present at the hearing -- ones who work in hospitals running programs for sexual assault survivors. As the DOI report notes, sexual assault victims often have to wait hours to see a detective after reporting their assault and getting a rape kit done in a hospital. Detectives are supposed to come to the victim in the hospital, but that doesn't always happen.</p> <p>"One service provider described how a client spent the entire night at a hospital waiting for an SVD detective to arrive," DOI investigators wrote in their report. "When no detective showed up, the victim, thoroughly discouraged, decided against reporting the crime to the police and went home."</p> <p>Over the weekend, the NYPD rolled out a public awareness campaign aimed at increasing reporting of sex crimes.</p> <p>Yet without more detectives assigned to investigate reported sex crimes, some victims who report their assaults will continue to suffer in the ways advocates and victims described at the hearing.</p> <p>Both Council Members Rosenthal and Rose expressed concern over the NYPD's mixed messages -- at the same time they have put out a public awareness campaign to get more people to report their sexual assault, they have also been reluctant to add more staff to the division responsible for investigating those sexual assaults.</p> <p>"With the increase in reporting, will there be enough personnel to handle these cases?" Rose asked. "It is imperative that they have enough staff to investigate these cases, to avoid the re-victimization of the people who step forward."</p> <p>The NYPD's refusal to allocate adequate resources to the Special Victims Division has far-reaching consequences for victims of sexual assault and discourages victims of sexual assault from coming forward to report what happened to them. NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill did say recently that when he names a replacement for the retiring Boyce as chief of detectives, that person will do a full review of the SVD.</p> <p>While the NYPD currently maintains that they have an adequate number of investigators staffing the SVD, Bock, the recently retired Special Victims sergeant, says otherwise.</p> <p>"I really believe the DOI report nailed it. The NYPD's denial is upsetting," Bock said. "For a long time, the running joke in the [Special Victims] office was, 'Can I have another cinder block as I'm swimming in the pool?'...Having 20 open cases on your screen doesn't feel good."</p> <p>

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by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Council Members Renew Call for Task Force on NYPD Response to Emotionally Disturbed Persons 2018-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7603:council-members-renew-call-for-task-force-on-nypd-response-to-emotionally-disturbed-persons Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/41194192502_5bec2c68c3_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio NYPD" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; top NYPD officials (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In August of last year, shortly after NYPD officers shot to death an emotionally disturbed man in his apartment, City Council Member Jumaane Williams led an effort calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to set up a task force to conduct a wholesale review of the police department’s protocols in dealing with “emotionally disturbed persons,” or EDPs. Almost eight months later, with many in the city again reeling from the fatal shooting of an emotionally disturbed man at the hands of the NYPD, the mayor has continued to vacillate on the request.</p> <p>“It seems to me that there’s systemic failure there,” said Williams in a phone interview. The initial request was made in a letter dated August 11 and co-signed by Council Members Ritchie Torres and Robert Cornegy representing the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Ben Kallos representing the Progressive Caucus, and Council Member Andrew Cohen, who was then chair of the Council’s mental health committee.</p> <p>The letter was sent shortly after the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/nyregion/police-fatally-shoot-man-in-brooklyn.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">shooting death of Dwayne Jeune</a>, a 32-year-old resident of East Flatbush, Brooklyn, in Williams’ district. Jeune was tazed and then shot by officers, who responded to a 911 call from his mother, when he advanced on them with a knife. Jeune’s mother had told a 911 caller that her son was mentally ill and was not acting violently. In January, the Jeune family <a href="http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2018/01/24/dwayne-jeune-family-lawsuit/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">filed</a> a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, seeking $20 million in damages.</p> <p>Since then, even though police officials have signaled support for the task force proposal, there has been little action.</p> <p>The letter called for a task force to be convened and for it to complete its work within 60 days, conducting a top-to-bottom review of NYPD protocols; the department’s implementation of recommendations made last year by the NYPD Inspector General; and a look at how the administration’s much-touted Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) can be integrated with the 911 system. The Council members insisted that the task force include the chairs of the Council’s Committees on Mental Health and on Public Safety, mental health and police reform advocates, and people directly affected by officer-involved shootings.</p> <p>“We keep having people who simply need help end up dead because they reached out in times of emergency,” the letter reads. “The natural consequence of this will be those New Yorkers suffering from episodes of poor mental health, as well as their loved ones, hesitating to ask for help from emergency services.”</p> <p>The mayor himself showed initial reluctance to agree to the proposal. At an unrelated news conference on August 3, after Williams had first floated the idea, de Blasio said, “I don’t personally see the need for a specific task force because I think it’s an area of tremendous concern right now both at City Hall and at the NYPD to continue to improve the NYPD’s ability to address situations involving emotionally disturbed people.”</p> <p>The number of 911 calls regarding EDPs, de Blasio noted, were “staggering,” about 150,000 the prior year. “[I] would say given the intense concern at City Hall related to mental health and the focus the NYPD has put on it, the right ideas are in place. We now have to just continue to deepen our implementation of those ideas,” he said, touting the ThriveNYC mental health program and the NYPD’s Crisis Intervention Training for officers to handle situations involving people with mental illness.</p> <p>But the city hasn’t gone far enough, say the Council members who signed the August letter and who, in the aftermath of the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/nyregion/police-shooting-brooklyn-crown-heights.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">shooting death of Saheed Vassell</a> in Crown Heights, Brooklyn last week, are renewing their push for the task force. “It’s seven months later and nothing’s happened,” said Williams. “It’s concerning. The NYPD is ready and willing but now it’s on City Hall.”</p> <p>“You have to look at what’s happening from a bird’s-eye view,” he added, “because we can’t just keep going along with the status quo where people in crisis, who need mental health treatment, are being killed.”</p> <p>The Daily News <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/families-mentally-ill-fear-calling-police-turn-deadly-article-1.3917552" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently reported</a> that only about 8,200 of the NYPD's 36,000-member force have gone through the CIT training.</p> <p>As far back as September, the NYPD expressed support for the task force. At a <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=594668&amp;GUID=A2F70681-F3CB-4047-B66D-E86578DF6F34&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">hearing</a> of the public safety committee last month, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Susan Herman reiterated that support, for either a new working group or reconstituting the mayor’s 2014 Task Force on Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice. “[W]e have been continuing to work even as that hasn’t yet happened,” Herman said. “We did a pretty substantial review within the police department of our response to people who are mentally ill quite recently and are in the process of implementing several recommendations. So the work has continued.”</p> <p>When could they expect to hear news of the task force, Williams asked.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“It’s really a City Hall conversation,” Herman responded. &nbsp;</p> <p>Mayoral spokesperson Eric Phillips did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article.</p> <p>“Obviously the most recent tragedies kind of highlight the fact that we need that task force,” said Council Member Cornegy, at City Hall on Monday, saying he would directly reach out to the mayor’s office to see if there has been movement on the request. He did say that he had “heard through the grapevine” that the NYPD is in the process of setting up the unit but that there had been no official word of how far along it was.</p> <p>Cornegy said he is proposing a bill that would create a separate crisis hotline for EDPs, similar to 911 and 311. “NYPD should not necessarily be required to come out and be the first line of defense when you have mental health situations, whether they are egregious or whether they’re mid-level,” he said, noting that Saheed Vassell had past encounters with the police because of the lack of an alternate system. “I believe and the [Vassell] family believes that if that step had been available to them early on then they may have had a better treatment plan for his success as a person living with mental illness in the community.”</p> <p>Council Member Cohen, similarly, introduced a number of bills late last year (which were reintroduced this year) that would require the NYPD to provide more data regarding interactions with people suffering from mental illness.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7375-bills-seek-to-examine-nypd-interactions-with-emotionally-disturbed-persons-prevent-tragedies" target="_blank">Bills Seek to Examine NYPD Interactions with ‘Emotionally Disturbed Persons,’ Prevent Tragedies</a>]</p> <p>“I think that there’s more information needed about EDP calls,” Cohen said outside the Council chambers on Monday. “It seems to me...the people who are getting shot by the NYPD seem to be disproportionately EDPs…These tragedies are mounting so time is of the essence. I’m not sure why it’s taken so long to get a response. That’s something you’re going to have ask the other side of the building.”</p> <p>Police reform advocates have long criticized the mayor and his administration for not acting urgently enough, particularly at a time when a national conversation is happening around the killing of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers and the lack of accountability by police departments. “I think absolutely the mayor has show he’s not giving real credit to these calls from the Council members for a task force,” said Yul-san Liem, a representative of Communities United for Police Reform and co-director of the Justice Committee. “At the same time, people in distress, people who are mentally ill, are still being brutalized and killed...We need a complete overhaul of how we treat people in emotional distress or with psychological disabilities.</p> <p>Liem noted that after each incident in the recent past involving use of force against mentally ill people, the administration has fallen back on the argument that they are continually training and retraining officers to handle such situations. “But that’s really rhetoric to shield the police force from accountability and making substantial changes.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/41194192502_5bec2c68c3_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio NYPD" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; top NYPD officials (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In August of last year, shortly after NYPD officers shot to death an emotionally disturbed man in his apartment, City Council Member Jumaane Williams led an effort calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to set up a task force to conduct a wholesale review of the police department’s protocols in dealing with “emotionally disturbed persons,” or EDPs. Almost eight months later, with many in the city again reeling from the fatal shooting of an emotionally disturbed man at the hands of the NYPD, the mayor has continued to vacillate on the request.</p> <p>“It seems to me that there’s systemic failure there,” said Williams in a phone interview. The initial request was made in a letter dated August 11 and co-signed by Council Members Ritchie Torres and Robert Cornegy representing the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Ben Kallos representing the Progressive Caucus, and Council Member Andrew Cohen, who was then chair of the Council’s mental health committee.</p> <p>The letter was sent shortly after the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/nyregion/police-fatally-shoot-man-in-brooklyn.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">shooting death of Dwayne Jeune</a>, a 32-year-old resident of East Flatbush, Brooklyn, in Williams’ district. Jeune was tazed and then shot by officers, who responded to a 911 call from his mother, when he advanced on them with a knife. Jeune’s mother had told a 911 caller that her son was mentally ill and was not acting violently. In January, the Jeune family <a href="http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2018/01/24/dwayne-jeune-family-lawsuit/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">filed</a> a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, seeking $20 million in damages.</p> <p>Since then, even though police officials have signaled support for the task force proposal, there has been little action.</p> <p>The letter called for a task force to be convened and for it to complete its work within 60 days, conducting a top-to-bottom review of NYPD protocols; the department’s implementation of recommendations made last year by the NYPD Inspector General; and a look at how the administration’s much-touted Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) can be integrated with the 911 system. The Council members insisted that the task force include the chairs of the Council’s Committees on Mental Health and on Public Safety, mental health and police reform advocates, and people directly affected by officer-involved shootings.</p> <p>“We keep having people who simply need help end up dead because they reached out in times of emergency,” the letter reads. “The natural consequence of this will be those New Yorkers suffering from episodes of poor mental health, as well as their loved ones, hesitating to ask for help from emergency services.”</p> <p>The mayor himself showed initial reluctance to agree to the proposal. At an unrelated news conference on August 3, after Williams had first floated the idea, de Blasio said, “I don’t personally see the need for a specific task force because I think it’s an area of tremendous concern right now both at City Hall and at the NYPD to continue to improve the NYPD’s ability to address situations involving emotionally disturbed people.”</p> <p>The number of 911 calls regarding EDPs, de Blasio noted, were “staggering,” about 150,000 the prior year. “[I] would say given the intense concern at City Hall related to mental health and the focus the NYPD has put on it, the right ideas are in place. We now have to just continue to deepen our implementation of those ideas,” he said, touting the ThriveNYC mental health program and the NYPD’s Crisis Intervention Training for officers to handle situations involving people with mental illness.</p> <p>But the city hasn’t gone far enough, say the Council members who signed the August letter and who, in the aftermath of the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/nyregion/police-shooting-brooklyn-crown-heights.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">shooting death of Saheed Vassell</a> in Crown Heights, Brooklyn last week, are renewing their push for the task force. “It’s seven months later and nothing’s happened,” said Williams. “It’s concerning. The NYPD is ready and willing but now it’s on City Hall.”</p> <p>“You have to look at what’s happening from a bird’s-eye view,” he added, “because we can’t just keep going along with the status quo where people in crisis, who need mental health treatment, are being killed.”</p> <p>The Daily News <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/families-mentally-ill-fear-calling-police-turn-deadly-article-1.3917552" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently reported</a> that only about 8,200 of the NYPD's 36,000-member force have gone through the CIT training.</p> <p>As far back as September, the NYPD expressed support for the task force. At a <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=594668&amp;GUID=A2F70681-F3CB-4047-B66D-E86578DF6F34&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">hearing</a> of the public safety committee last month, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Susan Herman reiterated that support, for either a new working group or reconstituting the mayor’s 2014 Task Force on Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice. “[W]e have been continuing to work even as that hasn’t yet happened,” Herman said. “We did a pretty substantial review within the police department of our response to people who are mentally ill quite recently and are in the process of implementing several recommendations. So the work has continued.”</p> <p>When could they expect to hear news of the task force, Williams asked.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“It’s really a City Hall conversation,” Herman responded. &nbsp;</p> <p>Mayoral spokesperson Eric Phillips did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article.</p> <p>“Obviously the most recent tragedies kind of highlight the fact that we need that task force,” said Council Member Cornegy, at City Hall on Monday, saying he would directly reach out to the mayor’s office to see if there has been movement on the request. He did say that he had “heard through the grapevine” that the NYPD is in the process of setting up the unit but that there had been no official word of how far along it was.</p> <p>Cornegy said he is proposing a bill that would create a separate crisis hotline for EDPs, similar to 911 and 311. “NYPD should not necessarily be required to come out and be the first line of defense when you have mental health situations, whether they are egregious or whether they’re mid-level,” he said, noting that Saheed Vassell had past encounters with the police because of the lack of an alternate system. “I believe and the [Vassell] family believes that if that step had been available to them early on then they may have had a better treatment plan for his success as a person living with mental illness in the community.”</p> <p>Council Member Cohen, similarly, introduced a number of bills late last year (which were reintroduced this year) that would require the NYPD to provide more data regarding interactions with people suffering from mental illness.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7375-bills-seek-to-examine-nypd-interactions-with-emotionally-disturbed-persons-prevent-tragedies" target="_blank">Bills Seek to Examine NYPD Interactions with ‘Emotionally Disturbed Persons,’ Prevent Tragedies</a>]</p> <p>“I think that there’s more information needed about EDP calls,” Cohen said outside the Council chambers on Monday. “It seems to me...the people who are getting shot by the NYPD seem to be disproportionately EDPs…These tragedies are mounting so time is of the essence. I’m not sure why it’s taken so long to get a response. That’s something you’re going to have ask the other side of the building.”</p> <p>Police reform advocates have long criticized the mayor and his administration for not acting urgently enough, particularly at a time when a national conversation is happening around the killing of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers and the lack of accountability by police departments. “I think absolutely the mayor has show he’s not giving real credit to these calls from the Council members for a task force,” said Yul-san Liem, a representative of Communities United for Police Reform and co-director of the Justice Committee. “At the same time, people in distress, people who are mentally ill, are still being brutalized and killed...We need a complete overhaul of how we treat people in emotional distress or with psychological disabilities.</p> <p>Liem noted that after each incident in the recent past involving use of force against mentally ill people, the administration has fallen back on the argument that they are continually training and retraining officers to handle such situations. “But that’s really rhetoric to shield the police force from accountability and making substantial changes.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Savino Asks De Blasio for Help Passing ‘Subway Grinder’ Bill He Once Supported 2018-02-08T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-08T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7468:savino-asks-de-blasio-for-help-passing-subway-grinder-bill-he-once-supported Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/33612719150_865a66b78f_z.jpg" alt="Savino and de Blasio" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Senator Savino and Mayor de Blasio at lunch (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor’s Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/07/nyregion/farebeating-subway-enforcement-nyc.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fnyregion" target="_blank" rel="noopener">debate</a> rages over the appropriate law enforcement response to subway fare evasion, in Albany, a bill steepening the penalty for certain subway sex offenses is getting another look.</p> <p>During Mayor Bill de Blasio’s <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7460-in-albany-de-blasio-budget-testimony-centers-on-mta-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener">testimony at a joint legislative budget hearing on Monday</a>, Senator Diane Savino asked the mayor to put pressure on the Assembly to consider her legislation that would make certain lewd subway behavior a class B felony, resulting in up to a year in prison.</p> <p>Savino recalled that in 2012, de Blasio, then public advocate, stood with her and Assemblymember Michael Cusick at a Staten Island subway station to unveil the “subway grinding” bill, which would target unwanted sexually-motivated touching of someone who is “physically helpless or unable to move on public transit.”</p> <p>“We passed the legislation -- that you helped me draft -- in the Senate five times,” said Savino, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) who represents Staten Island’s North Shore and southern Brooklyn, at Monday’s hearing. “If you could use your considerable influence with the Assembly to try to get it out of the Assembly. It’s critically important to safety in the subways,” she said, before continuing on to other topics.</p> <p>While Savino’s bill has repeatedly passed the Senate, where Savino’s conference forms a ruling coalition with Senate Republicans, it has stalled in the downstate Democrat-dominated Assembly. De Blasio typically works closely with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to represent New York City’s interests in the legislative process.</p> <p>De Blasio did not specifically address the legislation <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7460-in-albany-de-blasio-budget-testimony-centers-on-mta-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener">during Monday’s hearing</a>. When Gotham Gazette followed up with the mayor’s office, a spokesperson said that Savino’s bill is currently under review.</p> <p>“We support the spirit of the legislation and look forward to working with Senator Savino to ensure it’s the most effective that it can be for New Yorkers,” said mayoral spokesperson Freddi Goldstein.</p> <p>A compromise bill <a href="https://nypost.com/2015/06/19/new-bill-makes-subway-grinding-and-groping-a-felony/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">passed by both houses in 2015</a> -- sponsored by Republican Senator Marty Golden of Brooklyn and Democratic Queens Assemblymember Aravella Simotas -- adds unwanted rubbing against bus or subway riders to the penal law definition of “forcible touching,” a class A misdemeanor, carrying a maximum sentence of a year in jail.</p> <p>Savino maintains that the 2015 bill has had no effect, since forcible touching is already a misdemeanor, though subway and bus offenses have not necessary been treated that way by the courts. Her legislation was motivated in part by <a href="http://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/Decisions/2012/Mar12/47mem12.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a case</a> dating back to 2002, in which a “very large” man surreptitiously masturbated and ejaculated on the clothing of a teen girl while she was immobilized on a crowded train. An appeals court <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/punishments-subway-grinders-equal-gropers-court-appeals-article-1.1702034" target="_blank" rel="noopener">ruled</a> that this was not forcible touching, since the offender did not use physical force, but only a “stealth” action.</p> <p>When de Blasio backed the Savino-Cusick bill in 2012, he said <a href="http://archive.advocate.nyc.gov/news/2012-09-22/de-blasio-savino-and-cusick-announce-legislation-cracking-down-sexual-offenders" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in a statement</a>, “When the laws on the books aren’t enough to protect people, we have to make them tougher. ‘Grinding’ is a deeply personal and deeply offensive violation that no woman or straphanger should have to suffer. We need laws that match the seriousness of this crime.”</p> <p>In the Assembly, some question whether the reclassification is effective at deterring crime, since maximum sentences are rarely meted out.</p> <p>Brooklyn Assembly Member Joe Lentol, a Democrat who chairs the Assembly codes committee, said that an increased awareness around sexual harassment this year might spur the passage of Savino’s bill this year, but said it was worth investigating whether judges are enforcing the 2015 statute, and whether it has translated into actual jail sentences for offenders.</p> <p>“In this day and age, this might be baseline behavior that we want to go after -- maybe she’s right. I don’t know if a class B felony is appropriate, but maybe we should make it a felony,” said Lentol.</p> <p>“We have made it a crime; it was never a crime before,” added Lentol.</p> <p>In the meantime, reported “grinding” cases have jumped more than 50 percent in the last three years, according to an NYPD data <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/jeffrey-d-klein/senator-savino-exposes-shocking-statistics-subway-grinders" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a> compiled by Savino last year, though she acknowledges this inflated figure could be a result of more riders reporting the crimes rather than an increase in incidents.</p> <p>"I’m confident that we don’t have more sex crimes happening. We have more women who know that we care, who trust the system, and are willing to make that report," said NYPD Transit Chief Joseph Fox <a href="http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2016/11/08/subway-sex-crimes-3/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on CBS New York</a> in 2016.</p> <p>When asked for a comment on the outlook for her bill this year, Savino said, "For years, I have worked to elevate penalties on serial 'subway grinders' who prey on women commuting on our subways, and I have no doubt the Senate will pass my bill again. A felony penalty is necessary for egregious offenders who continue to violate women on mass transit and walk away with a slap on the wrist."</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/33612719150_865a66b78f_z.jpg" alt="Savino and de Blasio" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Senator Savino and Mayor de Blasio at lunch (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor’s Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/07/nyregion/farebeating-subway-enforcement-nyc.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fnyregion" target="_blank" rel="noopener">debate</a> rages over the appropriate law enforcement response to subway fare evasion, in Albany, a bill steepening the penalty for certain subway sex offenses is getting another look.</p> <p>During Mayor Bill de Blasio’s <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7460-in-albany-de-blasio-budget-testimony-centers-on-mta-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener">testimony at a joint legislative budget hearing on Monday</a>, Senator Diane Savino asked the mayor to put pressure on the Assembly to consider her legislation that would make certain lewd subway behavior a class B felony, resulting in up to a year in prison.</p> <p>Savino recalled that in 2012, de Blasio, then public advocate, stood with her and Assemblymember Michael Cusick at a Staten Island subway station to unveil the “subway grinding” bill, which would target unwanted sexually-motivated touching of someone who is “physically helpless or unable to move on public transit.”</p> <p>“We passed the legislation -- that you helped me draft -- in the Senate five times,” said Savino, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) who represents Staten Island’s North Shore and southern Brooklyn, at Monday’s hearing. “If you could use your considerable influence with the Assembly to try to get it out of the Assembly. It’s critically important to safety in the subways,” she said, before continuing on to other topics.</p> <p>While Savino’s bill has repeatedly passed the Senate, where Savino’s conference forms a ruling coalition with Senate Republicans, it has stalled in the downstate Democrat-dominated Assembly. De Blasio typically works closely with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to represent New York City’s interests in the legislative process.</p> <p>De Blasio did not specifically address the legislation <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7460-in-albany-de-blasio-budget-testimony-centers-on-mta-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener">during Monday’s hearing</a>. When Gotham Gazette followed up with the mayor’s office, a spokesperson said that Savino’s bill is currently under review.</p> <p>“We support the spirit of the legislation and look forward to working with Senator Savino to ensure it’s the most effective that it can be for New Yorkers,” said mayoral spokesperson Freddi Goldstein.</p> <p>A compromise bill <a href="https://nypost.com/2015/06/19/new-bill-makes-subway-grinding-and-groping-a-felony/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">passed by both houses in 2015</a> -- sponsored by Republican Senator Marty Golden of Brooklyn and Democratic Queens Assemblymember Aravella Simotas -- adds unwanted rubbing against bus or subway riders to the penal law definition of “forcible touching,” a class A misdemeanor, carrying a maximum sentence of a year in jail.</p> <p>Savino maintains that the 2015 bill has had no effect, since forcible touching is already a misdemeanor, though subway and bus offenses have not necessary been treated that way by the courts. Her legislation was motivated in part by <a href="http://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/Decisions/2012/Mar12/47mem12.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a case</a> dating back to 2002, in which a “very large” man surreptitiously masturbated and ejaculated on the clothing of a teen girl while she was immobilized on a crowded train. An appeals court <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/punishments-subway-grinders-equal-gropers-court-appeals-article-1.1702034" target="_blank" rel="noopener">ruled</a> that this was not forcible touching, since the offender did not use physical force, but only a “stealth” action.</p> <p>When de Blasio backed the Savino-Cusick bill in 2012, he said <a href="http://archive.advocate.nyc.gov/news/2012-09-22/de-blasio-savino-and-cusick-announce-legislation-cracking-down-sexual-offenders" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in a statement</a>, “When the laws on the books aren’t enough to protect people, we have to make them tougher. ‘Grinding’ is a deeply personal and deeply offensive violation that no woman or straphanger should have to suffer. We need laws that match the seriousness of this crime.”</p> <p>In the Assembly, some question whether the reclassification is effective at deterring crime, since maximum sentences are rarely meted out.</p> <p>Brooklyn Assembly Member Joe Lentol, a Democrat who chairs the Assembly codes committee, said that an increased awareness around sexual harassment this year might spur the passage of Savino’s bill this year, but said it was worth investigating whether judges are enforcing the 2015 statute, and whether it has translated into actual jail sentences for offenders.</p> <p>“In this day and age, this might be baseline behavior that we want to go after -- maybe she’s right. I don’t know if a class B felony is appropriate, but maybe we should make it a felony,” said Lentol.</p> <p>“We have made it a crime; it was never a crime before,” added Lentol.</p> <p>In the meantime, reported “grinding” cases have jumped more than 50 percent in the last three years, according to an NYPD data <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/jeffrey-d-klein/senator-savino-exposes-shocking-statistics-subway-grinders" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a> compiled by Savino last year, though she acknowledges this inflated figure could be a result of more riders reporting the crimes rather than an increase in incidents.</p> <p>"I’m confident that we don’t have more sex crimes happening. We have more women who know that we care, who trust the system, and are willing to make that report," said NYPD Transit Chief Joseph Fox <a href="http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2016/11/08/subway-sex-crimes-3/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on CBS New York</a> in 2016.</p> <p>When asked for a comment on the outlook for her bill this year, Savino said, "For years, I have worked to elevate penalties on serial 'subway grinders' who prey on women commuting on our subways, and I have no doubt the Senate will pass my bill again. A felony penalty is necessary for egregious offenders who continue to violate women on mass transit and walk away with a slap on the wrist."</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>