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 2017-11-21T13:48:41+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com City Council Evaluates Progress of NYPD Inspector General 2017-11-15T05:00:00+00:00 2017-11-15T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7325:city-council-examines-progress-under-nypd-inspector-general Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/12290361665_bbcd7ca26d_z.jpg" alt="Mark Peters DOI City Council" width="600" height="414" /></p> <p>DOI Commissioner Mark Peters (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Four years ago, over the veto of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the City Council passed the Community Safety Act, a landmark piece of legislation relating to policing in New York City. One of the law’s most prominent planks was the creation of the NYPD Inspector General, an independent police department watchdog that would audit NYPD practices and operations and make recommendations on improvements.</p> <p>With the nation on edge over widely disseminated videos of black men being shot by officers and reform activists continuously criticizing the NYPD’s broken windows policing model and the use of stop-and-frisk as racist, the Community Safety Act aimed to increase the department’s accountability to the public and increase the public’s confidence in the department. In 2014, after Mayor Bill de Blasio took office, the city’s Department of Investigation (DOI) appointed Philip Eure, the former head of Washington D.C.’s Office of Police Complaints, to be the first NYPD Inspector General.</p> <p>On Wednesday, the City Council’s Committees on Public Safety and Oversight and Investigations held a joint oversight hearing to see how, nearly four years down the line, the NYPD Inspector General is accomplishing its stated goals.</p> <p>The IG’s goals for improving the NYPD were repeated several times throughout the hearing, which saw initial testimony from Eure and his supervisor, DOI Commissioner Mark Peters. Among those doing the questioning were City Council Members Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams, who were the lead sponsors of the Community Safety Act.</p> <p>“The IG’s mission is to enhance the effectiveness of the police department, increase public safety, protect civil liberties and civil rights, and increase the public’s confidence in the police force, thereby building stronger police-community relations,” Eure said at the hearing. “We believe that we have made important strides towards accomplishing all of these goals in the last four years, and we look forward to continuing to build upon that work in the years to come.”</p> <p>Since its first publicly released report in January 2015, concerning police chokeholds, the IG has released nine reports on various NYPD practices that have resulted in some significant policy changes, but have also occasionally resulted in no changes. When the IG releases recommendations, the NYPD is pressured but not required to adopt reforms to operations and practices; if the NYPD refuses to take up a reform voluntarily, the City Council can pass legislation to mandate it.</p> <p>The IG has released reports on NYPD practices such as chokeholds, de-escalation and use of force, quality of life summonses, responding to emotionally disturbed people, body camera use, investigations of political activity, and, most recently, handling of U visa requests for undocumented immigrants who were the victims of a crime.</p> <p>Although the NYPD has often refused to implement recommended policies, some significant reforms have been voluntarily taken up by the department. For instance, the NYPD's Intelligence Bureau has formalized tracking measures for investigations into political activity, particularly with regard to investigative deadlines that were often ignored by the department's investigators.</p> <p>However, in a large number of areas, the NYPD has simply ignored the recommendations of the IG, at times displaying open hostility toward the IG’s office. In January, IG’s office released a report showing that the NYPD is not adequately coordinating Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for officers, crucial when responding to calls involving an emotionally disturbed person (EDP).</p> <p>At Wednesday’s hearing, Council Member Lander asked Eure and Peters what could be done to ensure NYPD compliance with recommendations, highlighting the NYPD’s refusal to streamline and improve its coordination of trained officers responding to the scene of calls regarding EDPs.</p> <p>Peters urged the Council to step up efforts to codify into law certain recommendations that the NYPD refuses to implement.</p> <p>“The NYPD has accepted far more recommendations than they have not,” Peters said. “And that’s great. And then the job for us, the DOI, is to follow up and to make sure that they’re implementing that.”</p> <p>Peters later said that instances where the NYPD refuses to comply are the most crucial places that the IG’s office and the Council must partner.</p> <p>“At the end of the day, that is the place where it’s most important for us to be partnering with the Council,” Peters said. “Because you have that report, we present that report to the mayor, we present that to the Council. And so the Council has the opportunity to read that report if you have questions.”</p> <p>Council Member Williams, who represents the district where an NYPD officer recently shot and killed Dwayne Jeune, an emotionally disturbed man, questioned when a task force would be created to investigate and determine best practices for the NYPD in responding to EDP calls. Four officers responded to the Jeune call; Jeune was killed by the only responding officer who did not receive CIT training.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio initially refused to set up a task force after Jeune’s death in July, but relented after prodding from the Council, according to Williams.</p> <p>Although Eure and Peters had earlier said that they shared reports with the NYPD and City Hall before releasing them to the public in order to glean potentially overlooked facts, Peters said that IG is not involved with the task force.</p> <p>"I think, obviously, it is an important idea. What I would say, the task force is important, but I believe there are already some things that we know need to be done," Peters said.</p> <p>The IG’s office will also soon be releasing its first report related to Williams’ recently passed bill, Intro 119, requiring compilation of litigation data against officers and for the IG to use that to develop recommendations. The IG will be releasing the report in April, which Williams said he looks forward to.</p> <p>Williams proudly proclaimed that things are going well, despite the NYPD and pundits saying that the creation of the NYPD Inspector General would "destroy the city, the sky would literally crack open, and brown and black young people were gonna wreak havoc on this city, and the inspector general in particular was going to confuse all police officers, they would have no idea who to listen to: the inspector general or the commissioner."</p> <p>Crime has continued to fall while the NYPD has adopted some, but not all, of the reforms proposed by the IG. All 23,000 foot patrol officers are scheduled to do their jobs with body cameras on their person by 2019.</p> <p>And, according to Eure, the NYPD has issued tighter guidelines on use of force as a result of the Inspector General's reports.</p> <p>"Approximately eight months after this office published its first report on use of force by NYPD, the department released a set of revised policies that more precisely define the use of force, as well as a more detailed tracking form," Eure said. "All uniformed officers are now required to use a 'Threat, Resistance, or Injury Form" (TRI) whenever they use force or witness another officer using force at the scene." Last year, the City Council passed a law requiring the NYPD to publicly report use of force metrics derived from TRI data, and Eure stated that the IG’s office will soon release a report on the NYPD’s compliance with TRI.</p> <p>Eure also boasted of a 2016 report that found no increase in felony crime concurrent with a dramatic decrease in enforcement of quality-of-life offenses, better known as broken windows offenses. While the NYPD continues to utilize broken windows policing that data shows disproportionately impacts communities of color, arrests and summonses have continued to drop, as has crime.</p> <p>After Peters and Eure, advocates and service providers testified, offering some ideas for further scrutiny by the IG. According to testimony from Brooklyn Defender Services’ Debora Silberman, 86% of the almost 61,000 low-level marijuana arrests in New York City were of African-Americans or Latinos, despite whites using marijuana at an approximately equivalent rate.</p> <p>Silberman also criticized the common NYPD practice of “testilying,” better known as police perjury, and the NYPD IG’s failure to address an apparent culture of officers lying on the stand. Recently, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/17/nyregion/brooklyn-judge-police-perjury-nypd.html?_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The New York Times reported</a> that a Brooklyn judge warned the city that a court hearing on police perjury was imminent.</p> <p>“As a public defender, I can assure you that such lying is prevalent and the NYPD has made no recognizable efforts to meaningfully address it,” Silberman said. “Likewise, the imbalance of power in the criminal legal system that pressures defendants to accept plea deals rather than go to trial also enables prosecutors to provide cover for police perjury, or ‘testilying,’ by making offers that defendants all-but-cannot refuse.”</p> <p>Although the NYPD has decided not to comply with many recommendations, the department has not been outright dismissive of the IG. Peters said that, to date, the Inspector General has not had to issue a subpoena to the NYPD for documents related to an investigation.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/12290361665_bbcd7ca26d_z.jpg" alt="Mark Peters DOI City Council" width="600" height="414" /></p> <p>DOI Commissioner Mark Peters (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Four years ago, over the veto of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the City Council passed the Community Safety Act, a landmark piece of legislation relating to policing in New York City. One of the law’s most prominent planks was the creation of the NYPD Inspector General, an independent police department watchdog that would audit NYPD practices and operations and make recommendations on improvements.</p> <p>With the nation on edge over widely disseminated videos of black men being shot by officers and reform activists continuously criticizing the NYPD’s broken windows policing model and the use of stop-and-frisk as racist, the Community Safety Act aimed to increase the department’s accountability to the public and increase the public’s confidence in the department. In 2014, after Mayor Bill de Blasio took office, the city’s Department of Investigation (DOI) appointed Philip Eure, the former head of Washington D.C.’s Office of Police Complaints, to be the first NYPD Inspector General.</p> <p>On Wednesday, the City Council’s Committees on Public Safety and Oversight and Investigations held a joint oversight hearing to see how, nearly four years down the line, the NYPD Inspector General is accomplishing its stated goals.</p> <p>The IG’s goals for improving the NYPD were repeated several times throughout the hearing, which saw initial testimony from Eure and his supervisor, DOI Commissioner Mark Peters. Among those doing the questioning were City Council Members Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams, who were the lead sponsors of the Community Safety Act.</p> <p>“The IG’s mission is to enhance the effectiveness of the police department, increase public safety, protect civil liberties and civil rights, and increase the public’s confidence in the police force, thereby building stronger police-community relations,” Eure said at the hearing. “We believe that we have made important strides towards accomplishing all of these goals in the last four years, and we look forward to continuing to build upon that work in the years to come.”</p> <p>Since its first publicly released report in January 2015, concerning police chokeholds, the IG has released nine reports on various NYPD practices that have resulted in some significant policy changes, but have also occasionally resulted in no changes. When the IG releases recommendations, the NYPD is pressured but not required to adopt reforms to operations and practices; if the NYPD refuses to take up a reform voluntarily, the City Council can pass legislation to mandate it.</p> <p>The IG has released reports on NYPD practices such as chokeholds, de-escalation and use of force, quality of life summonses, responding to emotionally disturbed people, body camera use, investigations of political activity, and, most recently, handling of U visa requests for undocumented immigrants who were the victims of a crime.</p> <p>Although the NYPD has often refused to implement recommended policies, some significant reforms have been voluntarily taken up by the department. For instance, the NYPD's Intelligence Bureau has formalized tracking measures for investigations into political activity, particularly with regard to investigative deadlines that were often ignored by the department's investigators.</p> <p>However, in a large number of areas, the NYPD has simply ignored the recommendations of the IG, at times displaying open hostility toward the IG’s office. In January, IG’s office released a report showing that the NYPD is not adequately coordinating Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for officers, crucial when responding to calls involving an emotionally disturbed person (EDP).</p> <p>At Wednesday’s hearing, Council Member Lander asked Eure and Peters what could be done to ensure NYPD compliance with recommendations, highlighting the NYPD’s refusal to streamline and improve its coordination of trained officers responding to the scene of calls regarding EDPs.</p> <p>Peters urged the Council to step up efforts to codify into law certain recommendations that the NYPD refuses to implement.</p> <p>“The NYPD has accepted far more recommendations than they have not,” Peters said. “And that’s great. And then the job for us, the DOI, is to follow up and to make sure that they’re implementing that.”</p> <p>Peters later said that instances where the NYPD refuses to comply are the most crucial places that the IG’s office and the Council must partner.</p> <p>“At the end of the day, that is the place where it’s most important for us to be partnering with the Council,” Peters said. “Because you have that report, we present that report to the mayor, we present that to the Council. And so the Council has the opportunity to read that report if you have questions.”</p> <p>Council Member Williams, who represents the district where an NYPD officer recently shot and killed Dwayne Jeune, an emotionally disturbed man, questioned when a task force would be created to investigate and determine best practices for the NYPD in responding to EDP calls. Four officers responded to the Jeune call; Jeune was killed by the only responding officer who did not receive CIT training.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio initially refused to set up a task force after Jeune’s death in July, but relented after prodding from the Council, according to Williams.</p> <p>Although Eure and Peters had earlier said that they shared reports with the NYPD and City Hall before releasing them to the public in order to glean potentially overlooked facts, Peters said that IG is not involved with the task force.</p> <p>"I think, obviously, it is an important idea. What I would say, the task force is important, but I believe there are already some things that we know need to be done," Peters said.</p> <p>The IG’s office will also soon be releasing its first report related to Williams’ recently passed bill, Intro 119, requiring compilation of litigation data against officers and for the IG to use that to develop recommendations. The IG will be releasing the report in April, which Williams said he looks forward to.</p> <p>Williams proudly proclaimed that things are going well, despite the NYPD and pundits saying that the creation of the NYPD Inspector General would "destroy the city, the sky would literally crack open, and brown and black young people were gonna wreak havoc on this city, and the inspector general in particular was going to confuse all police officers, they would have no idea who to listen to: the inspector general or the commissioner."</p> <p>Crime has continued to fall while the NYPD has adopted some, but not all, of the reforms proposed by the IG. All 23,000 foot patrol officers are scheduled to do their jobs with body cameras on their person by 2019.</p> <p>And, according to Eure, the NYPD has issued tighter guidelines on use of force as a result of the Inspector General's reports.</p> <p>"Approximately eight months after this office published its first report on use of force by NYPD, the department released a set of revised policies that more precisely define the use of force, as well as a more detailed tracking form," Eure said. "All uniformed officers are now required to use a 'Threat, Resistance, or Injury Form" (TRI) whenever they use force or witness another officer using force at the scene." Last year, the City Council passed a law requiring the NYPD to publicly report use of force metrics derived from TRI data, and Eure stated that the IG’s office will soon release a report on the NYPD’s compliance with TRI.</p> <p>Eure also boasted of a 2016 report that found no increase in felony crime concurrent with a dramatic decrease in enforcement of quality-of-life offenses, better known as broken windows offenses. While the NYPD continues to utilize broken windows policing that data shows disproportionately impacts communities of color, arrests and summonses have continued to drop, as has crime.</p> <p>After Peters and Eure, advocates and service providers testified, offering some ideas for further scrutiny by the IG. According to testimony from Brooklyn Defender Services’ Debora Silberman, 86% of the almost 61,000 low-level marijuana arrests in New York City were of African-Americans or Latinos, despite whites using marijuana at an approximately equivalent rate.</p> <p>Silberman also criticized the common NYPD practice of “testilying,” better known as police perjury, and the NYPD IG’s failure to address an apparent culture of officers lying on the stand. Recently, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/17/nyregion/brooklyn-judge-police-perjury-nypd.html?_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The New York Times reported</a> that a Brooklyn judge warned the city that a court hearing on police perjury was imminent.</p> <p>“As a public defender, I can assure you that such lying is prevalent and the NYPD has made no recognizable efforts to meaningfully address it,” Silberman said. “Likewise, the imbalance of power in the criminal legal system that pressures defendants to accept plea deals rather than go to trial also enables prosecutors to provide cover for police perjury, or ‘testilying,’ by making offers that defendants all-but-cannot refuse.”</p> <p>Although the NYPD has decided not to comply with many recommendations, the department has not been outright dismissive of the IG. Peters said that, to date, the Inspector General has not had to issue a subpoena to the NYPD for documents related to an investigation.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
The Right to Know Act and the City Council Speaker Race 2017-11-08T05:00:00+00:00 2017-11-08T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7310:the-right-to-know-act-and-the-council-speaker-race Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/jumaane-williams-rtkar.jpg" alt="jumaane williams rtkar" /></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jumaane Williams at a Right to Know Act rally (Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</span></p> <hr /> <p>In less than two months, the current class of the New York City Council ends its term, and eight incumbents who won reelection on Tuesday are running to lead the 51-member legislative body as its next speaker. It is an internal race influenced by county party affiliates, labor unions, Mayor Bill de Blasio, himself newly reelected, and others.</p> <p>As the clock ticks on this term and the speakership of Melissa Mark-Viverito, a de Blasio ally who is term-limited out of office, a particular package of controversial legislation offers an especially delicate situation for Mark-Viverito, de Blasio, and the speaker candidates, most notably the one, Ritchie Torres, who is a prime sponsor of the bills.</p> <p>Each of the eight speaker candidates -- Council Members Torres, Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, Donovan Richards, Jimmy Van Bramer, Robert Cornegy, Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams -- is a co-sponsor on the two police reform bills, collectively called the Right to Know Act, which puts them at odds with the mayor, who has ardently opposed the legislation, and with Mark-Viverito, who has refused to allow it to come to a vote. Instead, Mark-Viverito and the NYPD announced an agreement on administrative changes whereby the police department agreed to implement pieces of the bills, but without the power of law.</p> <p>As the Council readies for an expected end-of-term legislative blitz, supporters of the bills from inside and outside the Council are pushing for passage, potentially setting up the next speaker, the second-most powerful elected official in the city, to take office having already courted conflict with the mayor and potentially establishing a new dynamic between the heads of the executive and legislative branches of city government. It puts Torres in a particularly awkward position of having to possibly decide whether to buck advocates and co-sponsors or the mayor and the speaker and those members who would rather not have to vote on the measure.</p> <p>De Blasio has yet to use a veto during his four years as mayor, with virtually every contentious piece of legislation either being negotiated to agreement between the mayor and the Council or scuttled.</p> <p>The bills in question include <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1681129&amp;GUID=F650527A-AA60-49DB-8A02-97E9C4A0CBDE&amp;Options=ID%7CText%7C&amp;Search=int+182" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intro. 182</a>, sponsored by Council Member Torres, putting him in unique position among the speaker candidates, which requires police officers to identify themselves during a street stop, and <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2015555&amp;GUID=652280A4-40A6-44C4-A6AF-8EF4717BD8D6&amp;Options=ID%7cText%7c&amp;Search=nypd" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intro. 541</a>, sponsored by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, mandating that officers inform individuals of their right to refuse consent to a search in cases that it is required and to provide audio or written proof if an individual consents to a search. Unsurprisingly, the legislation was met with strong resistance from the NYPD, whose leadership has often been critical of the City Council’s attempts to legislate its practices and believes the bills would hamper officers’ abilities to do their jobs.</p> <p>In July last year, Mark-Viverito struck a compromise with the police department to implement certain provisions of the bills, foregoing a vote, despite the fact that the bills had and continue to have support from a majority of the Council. Police reform advocates were incensed by what they saw as a backroom deal and questioned the speaker’s willingness to stand up to de Blasio.</p> <p>Six of the eight speaker candidates -- Johnson and Cornegy did not respond to requests for comment for this article -- said the speaker’s race would not affect their support for the Right to Know Act and that the legislation would likely not affect the speaker’s race. But they also agreed that any speaker must demonstrate their independence from the mayor, and supporting these police reforms can do just that.</p> <p>“I can assure you that the speaker’s race has no bearing on how I will conduct myself on the subject of the Right to Know,” said Torres, in a phone interview. “One has nothing to do with the other.” Torres and Reynoso have held off on using a discharge through committee, a procedural tool that would allow them to bypass a committee vote and bring their bills directly to the floor of the Council, despite the urging of police reform advocacy groups such as Communities United for Police Reform (CPR).</p> <p>“I never shy away from challenging authority but for me it’s more about finding the right solution,” Torres said, insisting that he would rather negotiate with the police department to amend the bills and get them passed. “There’s greater value in passing legislation with the buy-in of an agency than doing so in the face of hysterical opposition. In the end, if one side refuses to negotiate in good faith, then of course I reserve the right to discharge and I have no hesitation about exercising that right. But I will do so only when necessary.”</p> <p>When asked if, in the context of Right to Know, Speaker Mark-Viverito had been sufficiently independent of the mayor and whether the next speaker should be more independent, Torres bluntly said, “‘No’ to your first question and ‘yes’ to your second question.”</p> <p>The other speaker candidates, even as they stood for the virtues of the Right to Know Act, did not criticize Mark-Viverito, who has been noncommittal on whether the two bills are moving closer to a vote. She has insisted that the Council is continuing internal conversations with the bill sponsors and the NYPD, and that the body has been assessing the implementation of the administrative changes agreed to last year. “We have been in dialogue, very recent dialogue with advocates, with the police department, with the sponsors of the bill,” she said at a recent news conference. “There’s been a lot of conversation, so we’re still going through our process.”</p> <p>Asked if she’d encourage Torres and Reynoso to exercise their prerogative to discharge the bills, she simply said, “We’re going through the process with those bills.”</p> <p>When asked repeatedly at that press conference what specifically she and the Council were doing to monitor the administrative implementation, Mark-Viverito gave vague answers about ongoing conversations.</p> <p><a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2017/11/01/council-members-could-push-right-to-know-over-objections-from-de-blasio-115423" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Politico New York</a> reported last week that supporters of the bills are hoping to bring them to a vote by November 16, since a vote after that would leave insufficient time to override a veto by the mayor. Police reform groups have also called on the bill sponsors, Torres and Reynoso, to ensure passage or discharge the bills through committee by that deadline.</p> <p>“Our primary concern with the [next] speaker is really making sure that they’re going to be a person who supports these reforms and future reforms and make sure that New Yorkers are having interactions with police that make sense and don’t violate their rights,” said Anthonine Pierre, deputy director of the Brooklyn Movement Center, a nonprofit that is a member of the Communities United for Police Reform coalition. Advocates have been supportive of Torres and Reynoso, but appear to be reaching a point of frustration.</p> <p>As was the case with police reform advocates, many on the Council were disappointed by the speaker’s decision to strike a bargain with the NYPD in lieu of a legislative solution. But, besides Torres, most other speaker candidates defended Mark-Viverito’s record of being independent, while yet others spoke of how they would handle the speakership themselves.</p> <p>Council Member Levine believes the bills will hardly play a role in the speaker race as he expects they’ll be resolved before the end of the year. “I believe that there will be a way for the bills to move forward with buy-in from the people that will be implementing it, the [police department], and that that will be settled before we have a new speaker,” he said in a phone interview. &nbsp;</p> <p>He defended Mark-Viverito’s leadership over the process involving the Right to Know. “I think she should be given credit for working very very hard on this issue, both on the policy and legislative front,” Levine said.</p> <p>He emphasized that the Council has been independent of the mayor, pushing him on issues such as funding for 1,300 new police officers and free legal assistance in housing court, which he championed. And he noted that the speaker will be chosen only by the 51 members of the Council. “It’s just so important that the Council emerge as a totally independent body, a co-equal branch of government, and that’s definitely my vision for the speakership,” he said.</p> <p>Council Member Rodriguez hopes to see movement on the bills but would only comment on “who I would be as speaker,” briefly mentioning that he would expand the oversight role of committee chairs. “The speaker should be a person that defends the independent voice of the Council,” he said.</p> <p>Council Member Van Bramer said the speaker race “is an opportunity to elevate the conversation” around Right to Know, which he said should pass on its merits regardless of the race. He said he would move the bills to a vote, given he is elected speaker, if they do not pass this year. “I think that it’s really important that the speaker be a counter-balance to the mayor,” he said. “I think the body is looking for an independent and forceful speaker who’s gonna be able to represent the members and represent the interests of the members and I think I’ve demonstrated in the past that while we certainly work together, when I disagree with the mayor, I’m not afraid to disagree with the mayor and disagree strongly.”</p> <p>Council Member Williams spoke briefly with Gotham Gazette at City Hall and only said that he was following the lead of the Right to Know sponsors. “I continue to support it, I hope it gets passed,” he said.</p> <p>Council Member Richards said Right to Know is part of a criminal justice reform discussion that would continue over the next four years, no matter who becomes the Council’s leader. “You know even as Melissa leaves, as we continue to move forward over the next four years, this issue does not die,” he said. “The need for reform is gonna be something continuous.”</p> <p>He also stressed that Right to Know has not languished because of a lack of independence either by the speaker or the Council. “I think it’s a question of trying to shape and get something done. And the Council has the ability to pass legislation whether the mayor supports it or not, but we also want to make sure that we’re doing it in a responsible fashion and we’re trying to reach a medium that is doable,” Richards said, “to make sure that, one, our community is getting the greatest benefit of transparency, but secondly also in a way that ensures that we’re not also going to harm officers’ ability to do their job as well.”</p> <p>Council Member Rory Lancman, a vocal critic of the de Blasio administration on criminal justice issues, is also a co-sponsor of the Right to Know Act which, he said, “is a good lens through which to evaluate the speaker candidates,” and their ability to stand up to the mayor.</p> <p>“The issue of are you for or against the Right to Know Act isn’t a factor in the speaker’s race because everybody’s for it,” he said. “What is an issue is whether or not you as a speaker will allow bills that make you or the administration uncomfortable come to the floor for a vote. That is an important test of the speaker candidates and I think it is the main issue that each speaker candidate has to address because philosophically, ideologically, substantively there’s not much of a difference among the eight of them in terms of what they stand for.”</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/2017/jumaane-williams-rtkar.jpg" alt="jumaane williams rtkar" /></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jumaane Williams at a Right to Know Act rally (Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</span></p> <hr /> <p>In less than two months, the current class of the New York City Council ends its term, and eight incumbents who won reelection on Tuesday are running to lead the 51-member legislative body as its next speaker. It is an internal race influenced by county party affiliates, labor unions, Mayor Bill de Blasio, himself newly reelected, and others.</p> <p>As the clock ticks on this term and the speakership of Melissa Mark-Viverito, a de Blasio ally who is term-limited out of office, a particular package of controversial legislation offers an especially delicate situation for Mark-Viverito, de Blasio, and the speaker candidates, most notably the one, Ritchie Torres, who is a prime sponsor of the bills.</p> <p>Each of the eight speaker candidates -- Council Members Torres, Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, Donovan Richards, Jimmy Van Bramer, Robert Cornegy, Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams -- is a co-sponsor on the two police reform bills, collectively called the Right to Know Act, which puts them at odds with the mayor, who has ardently opposed the legislation, and with Mark-Viverito, who has refused to allow it to come to a vote. Instead, Mark-Viverito and the NYPD announced an agreement on administrative changes whereby the police department agreed to implement pieces of the bills, but without the power of law.</p> <p>As the Council readies for an expected end-of-term legislative blitz, supporters of the bills from inside and outside the Council are pushing for passage, potentially setting up the next speaker, the second-most powerful elected official in the city, to take office having already courted conflict with the mayor and potentially establishing a new dynamic between the heads of the executive and legislative branches of city government. It puts Torres in a particularly awkward position of having to possibly decide whether to buck advocates and co-sponsors or the mayor and the speaker and those members who would rather not have to vote on the measure.</p> <p>De Blasio has yet to use a veto during his four years as mayor, with virtually every contentious piece of legislation either being negotiated to agreement between the mayor and the Council or scuttled.</p> <p>The bills in question include <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1681129&amp;GUID=F650527A-AA60-49DB-8A02-97E9C4A0CBDE&amp;Options=ID%7CText%7C&amp;Search=int+182" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intro. 182</a>, sponsored by Council Member Torres, putting him in unique position among the speaker candidates, which requires police officers to identify themselves during a street stop, and <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2015555&amp;GUID=652280A4-40A6-44C4-A6AF-8EF4717BD8D6&amp;Options=ID%7cText%7c&amp;Search=nypd" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intro. 541</a>, sponsored by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, mandating that officers inform individuals of their right to refuse consent to a search in cases that it is required and to provide audio or written proof if an individual consents to a search. Unsurprisingly, the legislation was met with strong resistance from the NYPD, whose leadership has often been critical of the City Council’s attempts to legislate its practices and believes the bills would hamper officers’ abilities to do their jobs.</p> <p>In July last year, Mark-Viverito struck a compromise with the police department to implement certain provisions of the bills, foregoing a vote, despite the fact that the bills had and continue to have support from a majority of the Council. Police reform advocates were incensed by what they saw as a backroom deal and questioned the speaker’s willingness to stand up to de Blasio.</p> <p>Six of the eight speaker candidates -- Johnson and Cornegy did not respond to requests for comment for this article -- said the speaker’s race would not affect their support for the Right to Know Act and that the legislation would likely not affect the speaker’s race. But they also agreed that any speaker must demonstrate their independence from the mayor, and supporting these police reforms can do just that.</p> <p>“I can assure you that the speaker’s race has no bearing on how I will conduct myself on the subject of the Right to Know,” said Torres, in a phone interview. “One has nothing to do with the other.” Torres and Reynoso have held off on using a discharge through committee, a procedural tool that would allow them to bypass a committee vote and bring their bills directly to the floor of the Council, despite the urging of police reform advocacy groups such as Communities United for Police Reform (CPR).</p> <p>“I never shy away from challenging authority but for me it’s more about finding the right solution,” Torres said, insisting that he would rather negotiate with the police department to amend the bills and get them passed. “There’s greater value in passing legislation with the buy-in of an agency than doing so in the face of hysterical opposition. In the end, if one side refuses to negotiate in good faith, then of course I reserve the right to discharge and I have no hesitation about exercising that right. But I will do so only when necessary.”</p> <p>When asked if, in the context of Right to Know, Speaker Mark-Viverito had been sufficiently independent of the mayor and whether the next speaker should be more independent, Torres bluntly said, “‘No’ to your first question and ‘yes’ to your second question.”</p> <p>The other speaker candidates, even as they stood for the virtues of the Right to Know Act, did not criticize Mark-Viverito, who has been noncommittal on whether the two bills are moving closer to a vote. She has insisted that the Council is continuing internal conversations with the bill sponsors and the NYPD, and that the body has been assessing the implementation of the administrative changes agreed to last year. “We have been in dialogue, very recent dialogue with advocates, with the police department, with the sponsors of the bill,” she said at a recent news conference. “There’s been a lot of conversation, so we’re still going through our process.”</p> <p>Asked if she’d encourage Torres and Reynoso to exercise their prerogative to discharge the bills, she simply said, “We’re going through the process with those bills.”</p> <p>When asked repeatedly at that press conference what specifically she and the Council were doing to monitor the administrative implementation, Mark-Viverito gave vague answers about ongoing conversations.</p> <p><a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2017/11/01/council-members-could-push-right-to-know-over-objections-from-de-blasio-115423" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Politico New York</a> reported last week that supporters of the bills are hoping to bring them to a vote by November 16, since a vote after that would leave insufficient time to override a veto by the mayor. Police reform groups have also called on the bill sponsors, Torres and Reynoso, to ensure passage or discharge the bills through committee by that deadline.</p> <p>“Our primary concern with the [next] speaker is really making sure that they’re going to be a person who supports these reforms and future reforms and make sure that New Yorkers are having interactions with police that make sense and don’t violate their rights,” said Anthonine Pierre, deputy director of the Brooklyn Movement Center, a nonprofit that is a member of the Communities United for Police Reform coalition. Advocates have been supportive of Torres and Reynoso, but appear to be reaching a point of frustration.</p> <p>As was the case with police reform advocates, many on the Council were disappointed by the speaker’s decision to strike a bargain with the NYPD in lieu of a legislative solution. But, besides Torres, most other speaker candidates defended Mark-Viverito’s record of being independent, while yet others spoke of how they would handle the speakership themselves.</p> <p>Council Member Levine believes the bills will hardly play a role in the speaker race as he expects they’ll be resolved before the end of the year. “I believe that there will be a way for the bills to move forward with buy-in from the people that will be implementing it, the [police department], and that that will be settled before we have a new speaker,” he said in a phone interview. &nbsp;</p> <p>He defended Mark-Viverito’s leadership over the process involving the Right to Know. “I think she should be given credit for working very very hard on this issue, both on the policy and legislative front,” Levine said.</p> <p>He emphasized that the Council has been independent of the mayor, pushing him on issues such as funding for 1,300 new police officers and free legal assistance in housing court, which he championed. And he noted that the speaker will be chosen only by the 51 members of the Council. “It’s just so important that the Council emerge as a totally independent body, a co-equal branch of government, and that’s definitely my vision for the speakership,” he said.</p> <p>Council Member Rodriguez hopes to see movement on the bills but would only comment on “who I would be as speaker,” briefly mentioning that he would expand the oversight role of committee chairs. “The speaker should be a person that defends the independent voice of the Council,” he said.</p> <p>Council Member Van Bramer said the speaker race “is an opportunity to elevate the conversation” around Right to Know, which he said should pass on its merits regardless of the race. He said he would move the bills to a vote, given he is elected speaker, if they do not pass this year. “I think that it’s really important that the speaker be a counter-balance to the mayor,” he said. “I think the body is looking for an independent and forceful speaker who’s gonna be able to represent the members and represent the interests of the members and I think I’ve demonstrated in the past that while we certainly work together, when I disagree with the mayor, I’m not afraid to disagree with the mayor and disagree strongly.”</p> <p>Council Member Williams spoke briefly with Gotham Gazette at City Hall and only said that he was following the lead of the Right to Know sponsors. “I continue to support it, I hope it gets passed,” he said.</p> <p>Council Member Richards said Right to Know is part of a criminal justice reform discussion that would continue over the next four years, no matter who becomes the Council’s leader. “You know even as Melissa leaves, as we continue to move forward over the next four years, this issue does not die,” he said. “The need for reform is gonna be something continuous.”</p> <p>He also stressed that Right to Know has not languished because of a lack of independence either by the speaker or the Council. “I think it’s a question of trying to shape and get something done. And the Council has the ability to pass legislation whether the mayor supports it or not, but we also want to make sure that we’re doing it in a responsible fashion and we’re trying to reach a medium that is doable,” Richards said, “to make sure that, one, our community is getting the greatest benefit of transparency, but secondly also in a way that ensures that we’re not also going to harm officers’ ability to do their job as well.”</p> <p>Council Member Rory Lancman, a vocal critic of the de Blasio administration on criminal justice issues, is also a co-sponsor of the Right to Know Act which, he said, “is a good lens through which to evaluate the speaker candidates,” and their ability to stand up to the mayor.</p> <p>“The issue of are you for or against the Right to Know Act isn’t a factor in the speaker’s race because everybody’s for it,” he said. “What is an issue is whether or not you as a speaker will allow bills that make you or the administration uncomfortable come to the floor for a vote. That is an important test of the speaker candidates and I think it is the main issue that each speaker candidate has to address because philosophically, ideologically, substantively there’s not much of a difference among the eight of them in terms of what they stand for.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
As Deaths Mount, Scrutiny of NYPD Response to ‘Emotionally Disturbed Persons’ 2017-09-26T04:00:00+00:00 2017-09-26T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7216:as-deaths-mount-scrutiny-of-nypd-response-to-emotionally-disturbed-persons Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/36864941556_6bc2affeda_z.jpg" alt="NYPD de Blasio " width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; law enforcement officials (photo: Edwin J. Torres/ Mayor’s Office)</p> <hr /> <p>At a recent hearing, New York City Council members discussed the effectiveness of NYPD responses to “emotionally disturbed person” (EDP) calls, the slow pace of implementation for new NYPD crisis intervention training, and the tragic outcomes of several recent interactions between NYPD officers and emotionally disturbed individuals.</p> <p>At the hearing, held Sept. 6 jointly by the Council’s Committee on Public Safety and Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services, members called for clarity on recent interactions ending in lethal force and stressed their support for the proposed mayoral working group to assess the city’s overall response to individuals in crisis.</p> <p>The hearing, which received little attention at the time given the city’s primary elections were occurring just six days later, on September 12, occurred in the wake of the deaths of six mentally ill individuals killed by NYPD officers responding to EDP calls over the past 11 months, and just before another such incident would unfold.</p> <p>The introduction of crisis intervention training at the NYPD in the summer of 2015, a program designed to help officers respond to individuals in the midst of such crises, was intended to better equip officers to handle such circumstances without use of force, but has been rolled out slowly due to class size requirements and competing training demands. Of the department’s approximately 34,000 officers, fewer than 6,400 had been trained at the time of the hearing, according to NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Collaborative Policing Susan Herman.</p> <p>While there is increased scrutiny of how the NYPD handles EDP calls and its deadly encounters with individuals in crisis, some also believe that reforms must be put into place whereby NYPD officers are not the first ones at such scenes; that unarmed counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals are better suited to diffuse EDP situations.</p> <p>In the July shooting of Dwayne Jeune, an emotionally disturbed Brooklyn man, Jeune charged cops with a bread knife and was shot after a Taser shock appeared to have little effect. Three of the four patrol officers on the scene had participated in CIT while the fourth, the only one lacking a CIT background, was the one to fire, according to the department. &nbsp;In instances of EDP calls, supervisors must make the decision to call the Emergency Service Unit (ESU), whose members complete Emergency Psychological Technician’s training and are equipped to identify and interact with those suffering from mental illnesses. Jeune’s situation was characterized as nonviolent and ESU was not brought in.</p> <p>Council members and a family member of Jeune questioned whether CIT officers should be given control when responding to EDP calls.</p> <p>Herman pointed to a department preference for an officer who develops rapport with an individual to take control of the response. “It’s great to have a CIT trained officer and we want to train everyone, but we’re not at the point where we’re saying whoever is CIT trained commands the situation,” she said.</p> <p>Council members also stressed a desire to see officers trained at a faster clip. The NYPD is presently training 90 officers a week; dividing training into classes of lieutenants, supervisors, and patrol officers. Based loosely on a model developed by the Memphis Police Department and in conjunction with the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the program requires a class maximum of 30, which plays a primary role in the department’s delayed implementation. The department expects to train all supervisors and lieutenants by 2018, at which point it will return to training recruits.</p> <p>Herman also noted the Memphis model’s stipulation that training 25 to 30 percent of the force will allow other patrol officers to learn through experience and observation. Council Member Vanessa Gibson, chair of the public safety committee, interjected, reiterating the city’s desire to move beyond the Memphis baseline. “In a city of such great diversity and challenge, that’s a bare minimum for us,” Gibson said.</p> <p>The officer who shot and killed Jeune was involved in a similar shooting in October of last year, when a bipolar man lunged at officers with a knife, according to the NYPD. Council members grilled Herman on the department’s policy for re-evaluating the training needs of officers with a history of force used during EDP calls. “It seems to me if there is an officer who was involved in an EDP that ended in deadly force, that might be a prompt to get them CIT training so that won’t happen again,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams.</p> <p>Herman pointed to the overall low number of use of force instances, citing a 1 percent rate for use of any level of force during the 150,000 EDP calls the NYPD receives each year. This total of 15,000 instances includes use of force cases ranging from wrestling the individual to the ground to the use of a Taser, as well as shootings. The deputy commissioner cited the NYPD’s general policy for reviewing use of force, but did not specifically reference department policy in cases specific to EDP calls. “After any use of lethal force or shooting, there’s a very comprehensive review,” said Herman. “When an officer needs instruction on tactics, they get that.”</p> <p>The New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), the union representing more than 20,000 patrol officers, declined to comment on the hearing when Gotham Gazette inquired. The Lieutenant’s Benevolent Association and Sergeant’s Benevolent Association did not respond to requests for comment. None of the unions sent representatives to testify at the hearing.</p> <p>For some advocates, the discussion of how to improve NYPD responses to mental health crises has ignored the larger issue at hand. “I don’t want to try to fine tune a police response, I want to end it,” said Alex Vitale, professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and senior adviser to the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP), in an interview. “The city has to be willing to pay for mental health services instead of police services.”</p> <p>To this end, City Council members sought answers on how to assist individuals displaying escalating levels of violence before reaching a situation in which an EDP call is necessary.</p> <p>One such answer are the co-response teams established under the mayor’s “NYC Safe” program, intended to reach mentally ill individuals and those with substance abuse issues before they enter a mental health crisis. The program provides ongoing treatment and support to individuals identified as displaying increasing levels of violence by a number of sources including government agencies, community-based health care providers, and precinct commanding officers.</p> <p>“This is somebody who’s on someone’s radar because their actions were calling out to us. It’s not just somebody who’s off their meds, it’s somebody who’s maybe in a shelter, who one week has loudly cursed at someone and another week has thrown a chair,” said Deputy Commissioner Herman.</p> <p>Critics have pointed out that there are still far too many individuals on the streets of the city in mental health or substance abuse crises who are not getting the help they need or being moved into care facilities, which often necessitates <a href="http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2098044,00.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the use of Kendra’s Law</a>, legislation that provides court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment for those whose mental illnesses.</p> <p>A critical component of the city’s ongoing partnership between law enforcement officers and health care providers are two diversion centers, offering stabilizing services for those with mental illnesses and substance abuse issues that otherwise would have been arrested on low-level charges. Two such centers will likely be operating by the end of 2018 and will house 2,500 individuals per year, according to Dr. Gary Belkin, executive deputy commissioner of mental hygiene at the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), who testified at the Council hearing.</p> <p>For advocates, however, this timeline falls short of addressing the city’s needs. “When we hear that the drop-in centers are not going to be available until the end of 2018, that’s not an acceptable response for the City of New York,” said Joshua Goldfein, an attorney for The Legal Aid Society, which often represents individuals unable to afford attorneys, at the hearing.</p> <p>Hours after the City Council Hearing concluded on September 6, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/14/nyregion/police-body-camera-footage-new-york.html?mcubz=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">officers fatally shot a mentally ill Bronx man</a> when responding to a call for a “wellness check” from the landlord. The man, Miguel Richards, ignored orders to drop a knife and gun, later found to be a toy gun. The ESU unit had arrived by the time of the shooting, but had not yet entered the apartment.</p> <p>In the eyes of Carla Rabinowitz, advocacy coordinator for Community Access, the officers’ repeated shouts of “Put that knife down” and “What’s in your other hand?” pointed to a failure to engage on the part of officers not trained in CIT. “The incident is just calling out for more CIT officers,” said Rabinowitz. “You can’t shout commands at a person in emotional distress, you need other solutions.”</p> <p>

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by Grace Dixon for Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/36864941556_6bc2affeda_z.jpg" alt="NYPD de Blasio " width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; law enforcement officials (photo: Edwin J. Torres/ Mayor’s Office)</p> <hr /> <p>At a recent hearing, New York City Council members discussed the effectiveness of NYPD responses to “emotionally disturbed person” (EDP) calls, the slow pace of implementation for new NYPD crisis intervention training, and the tragic outcomes of several recent interactions between NYPD officers and emotionally disturbed individuals.</p> <p>At the hearing, held Sept. 6 jointly by the Council’s Committee on Public Safety and Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services, members called for clarity on recent interactions ending in lethal force and stressed their support for the proposed mayoral working group to assess the city’s overall response to individuals in crisis.</p> <p>The hearing, which received little attention at the time given the city’s primary elections were occurring just six days later, on September 12, occurred in the wake of the deaths of six mentally ill individuals killed by NYPD officers responding to EDP calls over the past 11 months, and just before another such incident would unfold.</p> <p>The introduction of crisis intervention training at the NYPD in the summer of 2015, a program designed to help officers respond to individuals in the midst of such crises, was intended to better equip officers to handle such circumstances without use of force, but has been rolled out slowly due to class size requirements and competing training demands. Of the department’s approximately 34,000 officers, fewer than 6,400 had been trained at the time of the hearing, according to NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Collaborative Policing Susan Herman.</p> <p>While there is increased scrutiny of how the NYPD handles EDP calls and its deadly encounters with individuals in crisis, some also believe that reforms must be put into place whereby NYPD officers are not the first ones at such scenes; that unarmed counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals are better suited to diffuse EDP situations.</p> <p>In the July shooting of Dwayne Jeune, an emotionally disturbed Brooklyn man, Jeune charged cops with a bread knife and was shot after a Taser shock appeared to have little effect. Three of the four patrol officers on the scene had participated in CIT while the fourth, the only one lacking a CIT background, was the one to fire, according to the department. &nbsp;In instances of EDP calls, supervisors must make the decision to call the Emergency Service Unit (ESU), whose members complete Emergency Psychological Technician’s training and are equipped to identify and interact with those suffering from mental illnesses. Jeune’s situation was characterized as nonviolent and ESU was not brought in.</p> <p>Council members and a family member of Jeune questioned whether CIT officers should be given control when responding to EDP calls.</p> <p>Herman pointed to a department preference for an officer who develops rapport with an individual to take control of the response. “It’s great to have a CIT trained officer and we want to train everyone, but we’re not at the point where we’re saying whoever is CIT trained commands the situation,” she said.</p> <p>Council members also stressed a desire to see officers trained at a faster clip. The NYPD is presently training 90 officers a week; dividing training into classes of lieutenants, supervisors, and patrol officers. Based loosely on a model developed by the Memphis Police Department and in conjunction with the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the program requires a class maximum of 30, which plays a primary role in the department’s delayed implementation. The department expects to train all supervisors and lieutenants by 2018, at which point it will return to training recruits.</p> <p>Herman also noted the Memphis model’s stipulation that training 25 to 30 percent of the force will allow other patrol officers to learn through experience and observation. Council Member Vanessa Gibson, chair of the public safety committee, interjected, reiterating the city’s desire to move beyond the Memphis baseline. “In a city of such great diversity and challenge, that’s a bare minimum for us,” Gibson said.</p> <p>The officer who shot and killed Jeune was involved in a similar shooting in October of last year, when a bipolar man lunged at officers with a knife, according to the NYPD. Council members grilled Herman on the department’s policy for re-evaluating the training needs of officers with a history of force used during EDP calls. “It seems to me if there is an officer who was involved in an EDP that ended in deadly force, that might be a prompt to get them CIT training so that won’t happen again,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams.</p> <p>Herman pointed to the overall low number of use of force instances, citing a 1 percent rate for use of any level of force during the 150,000 EDP calls the NYPD receives each year. This total of 15,000 instances includes use of force cases ranging from wrestling the individual to the ground to the use of a Taser, as well as shootings. The deputy commissioner cited the NYPD’s general policy for reviewing use of force, but did not specifically reference department policy in cases specific to EDP calls. “After any use of lethal force or shooting, there’s a very comprehensive review,” said Herman. “When an officer needs instruction on tactics, they get that.”</p> <p>The New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), the union representing more than 20,000 patrol officers, declined to comment on the hearing when Gotham Gazette inquired. The Lieutenant’s Benevolent Association and Sergeant’s Benevolent Association did not respond to requests for comment. None of the unions sent representatives to testify at the hearing.</p> <p>For some advocates, the discussion of how to improve NYPD responses to mental health crises has ignored the larger issue at hand. “I don’t want to try to fine tune a police response, I want to end it,” said Alex Vitale, professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and senior adviser to the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP), in an interview. “The city has to be willing to pay for mental health services instead of police services.”</p> <p>To this end, City Council members sought answers on how to assist individuals displaying escalating levels of violence before reaching a situation in which an EDP call is necessary.</p> <p>One such answer are the co-response teams established under the mayor’s “NYC Safe” program, intended to reach mentally ill individuals and those with substance abuse issues before they enter a mental health crisis. The program provides ongoing treatment and support to individuals identified as displaying increasing levels of violence by a number of sources including government agencies, community-based health care providers, and precinct commanding officers.</p> <p>“This is somebody who’s on someone’s radar because their actions were calling out to us. It’s not just somebody who’s off their meds, it’s somebody who’s maybe in a shelter, who one week has loudly cursed at someone and another week has thrown a chair,” said Deputy Commissioner Herman.</p> <p>Critics have pointed out that there are still far too many individuals on the streets of the city in mental health or substance abuse crises who are not getting the help they need or being moved into care facilities, which often necessitates <a href="http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2098044,00.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the use of Kendra’s Law</a>, legislation that provides court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment for those whose mental illnesses.</p> <p>A critical component of the city’s ongoing partnership between law enforcement officers and health care providers are two diversion centers, offering stabilizing services for those with mental illnesses and substance abuse issues that otherwise would have been arrested on low-level charges. Two such centers will likely be operating by the end of 2018 and will house 2,500 individuals per year, according to Dr. Gary Belkin, executive deputy commissioner of mental hygiene at the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), who testified at the Council hearing.</p> <p>For advocates, however, this timeline falls short of addressing the city’s needs. “When we hear that the drop-in centers are not going to be available until the end of 2018, that’s not an acceptable response for the City of New York,” said Joshua Goldfein, an attorney for The Legal Aid Society, which often represents individuals unable to afford attorneys, at the hearing.</p> <p>Hours after the City Council Hearing concluded on September 6, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/14/nyregion/police-body-camera-footage-new-york.html?mcubz=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">officers fatally shot a mentally ill Bronx man</a> when responding to a call for a “wellness check” from the landlord. The man, Miguel Richards, ignored orders to drop a knife and gun, later found to be a toy gun. The ESU unit had arrived by the time of the shooting, but had not yet entered the apartment.</p> <p>In the eyes of Carla Rabinowitz, advocacy coordinator for Community Access, the officers’ repeated shouts of “Put that knife down” and “What’s in your other hand?” pointed to a failure to engage on the part of officers not trained in CIT. “The incident is just calling out for more CIT officers,” said Rabinowitz. “You can’t shout commands at a person in emotional distress, you need other solutions.”</p> <p>

***
by Grace Dixon for Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Oversight Bill Moves Ahead, with Police Union Opposition But De Blasio Support 2017-08-22T04:00:00+00:00 2017-08-22T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7148:police-oversight-bill-moves-ahead-with-police-union-opposition-but-de-blasio-support Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/26036014441_4eecf8af25_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Jumaane Williams NYPD" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; Council Member Williams (photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A police oversight bill sponsored by City Council Member Jumaane Williams unanimously sailed through the Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations on Tuesday, and is all but certain to be voted through the full City Council on Thursday. The legislation, which increases reporting requirements about and efforts to mitigate police misconduct, has the support of the de Blasio administration, but is being opposed and criticized by the city’s largest police union.</p> <p>The bill requires aggregation of public data regarding litigation in state and federal courts against the NYPD and individual officers into a report to the Comptroller, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the NYPD, and the Commission to Combat Police Corruption, after which the NYPD Inspector General must use the data to make recommendations regarding training and disciplining of officers and the department.</p> <p>Police misconduct has cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements. According to a <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/annual-claims-report/">report from the Comptroller’s Office</a>, the city paid out $100.6 million in Fiscal Year 2016 in settlements related to police misconduct.</p> <p>“The legislative process has been very valuable and very long,” said Williams in his opening statement at Tuesday’s committee vote, which was 4-0 (the other three members of the committee were absent). “But we received a lot of information. We got information about transparency issues. This is not about making police officers look bad. We are trying to find ways to make the department better.”</p> <p>Vincent Gentile, the committee chair, echoed Williams’ sentiments, stating that there was “no negative intent” to the bill despite what opponents might say. After passing committee, the bill is set for a vote of the full 51-seat City Council on Thursday.</p> <p>The legislation is seeing last minute opposition from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), the main union representing uniformed police officers in the city. In written testimony submitted to the committee in advance of Tuesday’s vote, the PBA questioned the intention of the bill and stated that the increased transparency would prove harmful to the department, individual officers, and the city overall.</p> <p>“The “evaluation” contemplated by this legislation is apparently designed to reach a&nbsp;foregone conclusion — that New York City police officers engage in widespread, willful&nbsp;violations New Yorkers’ rights, and that the NYPD’s leadership is incapable of performing the&nbsp;disciplinary and governance duties assigned to it by the City Charter — that is not supported by&nbsp;any available evidence,” reads the testimony. “In this effort, the legislation would do significant harm to police officers’ reputations and due process rights by substituting mere allegations of misconduct for proof of the same. Moreover, by highlighting and publicizing those allegations for the benefit of entities that profit from the harassment and denigration of police officers, this legislation would undermine the NYPD’s governance and operations and diminish public safety for the City as a whole.”</p> <p>The union also alleges that the legislation is explicitly designed to hurt police officers, and to serve an ideological agenda rather than to increase accountability, which it claims is already up to par.</p> <p>“Far from seeking correcting the injustices in the existing system, this legislation amounts&nbsp;to an indictment of the NYPD’s leadership and its disciplinary policies for failing to produce a&nbsp;desired or expected outcome: the punishment of as many police officers possible, as harshly as&nbsp;possible, regardless of the merits of the allegations they face.”</p> <p>The union also argues that the aggregation of public data into a single report “serves no purpose other than as a tool of convenience for the lucrative plaintiffs’ bar that profits from the filing of specious claims of police misconduct.”</p> <p>The PBA provided only written testimony; no one spoke gave oral testimony to the Council committee.</p> <p>Williams, who in an interview with Gotham Gazette for a previous article stated that the department has a woeful record on transparency and accountability, had choice words for the union at the hearing.</p> <p>“There have been two hearings on this bill, the PBA hasn’t come to either one,” said Williams. “They haven’t provided any testimony, except for right now. And I know many of my colleagues have received some calls from the PBA telling them to oppose this.”</p> <p>“I have never seen one piece of legislation that deals with policing that the PBA has supported,” he continued. “And they very rarely, if ever, engage in any discussion around these bills. They simply say no.”</p> <p>“I’ve never denied the PBA the opportunity to discuss issues with me,” he said. “I’ve never tried to deny them the opportunity to come talk before us.”</p> <p>Williams has bluntly criticized the PBA before. In 2014, he <a href="http://observer.com/2014/11/city-councilman-rails-against-police-unions-spreading-mass-hysteria/">accused</a> the union of lying to the public in order to foment “mass hysteria.” He has <a href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/2015/12/4/public-service-williams-pushes-new-new-deal-nyc">accused</a> the PBA of failing to engage in “productive discussion” with the Council and reform advocates regarding Williams most controversial policing-related legislation, the 2013 Community Safety Act that created the NYPD IG and new prohibitions around racial profiling. The legislation, in part a response to the NYPD’s excessive use of stop-and-frisk policing, was passed by the Council over a veto by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.</p> <p>PBA sources told Gotham Gazette that Williams wasn’t telling the whole story about the bill currently at hand. “This is a policing bill without the input of the police. They had a hearing 17 months ago and made no effort to contact us or get our feedback ever since that hearing.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, the legislation has moved ahead with the support from the de Blasio administration, which indicated it helped shape the final product of a bill that has been around for several years, since Williams first introduced it.</p> <p>"We're proud to have worked on this legislation with our partners in the Council as part of the Administration's broader effort to bring greater transparency to how our City is policed and continue to build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve and protect,” said Austin Finan, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio. Changes to the bill indicate that the administration reduced some of the reporting requirements in negotiations with the Council.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/26036014441_4eecf8af25_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Jumaane Williams NYPD" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; Council Member Williams (photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A police oversight bill sponsored by City Council Member Jumaane Williams unanimously sailed through the Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations on Tuesday, and is all but certain to be voted through the full City Council on Thursday. The legislation, which increases reporting requirements about and efforts to mitigate police misconduct, has the support of the de Blasio administration, but is being opposed and criticized by the city’s largest police union.</p> <p>The bill requires aggregation of public data regarding litigation in state and federal courts against the NYPD and individual officers into a report to the Comptroller, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the NYPD, and the Commission to Combat Police Corruption, after which the NYPD Inspector General must use the data to make recommendations regarding training and disciplining of officers and the department.</p> <p>Police misconduct has cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements. According to a <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/annual-claims-report/">report from the Comptroller’s Office</a>, the city paid out $100.6 million in Fiscal Year 2016 in settlements related to police misconduct.</p> <p>“The legislative process has been very valuable and very long,” said Williams in his opening statement at Tuesday’s committee vote, which was 4-0 (the other three members of the committee were absent). “But we received a lot of information. We got information about transparency issues. This is not about making police officers look bad. We are trying to find ways to make the department better.”</p> <p>Vincent Gentile, the committee chair, echoed Williams’ sentiments, stating that there was “no negative intent” to the bill despite what opponents might say. After passing committee, the bill is set for a vote of the full 51-seat City Council on Thursday.</p> <p>The legislation is seeing last minute opposition from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), the main union representing uniformed police officers in the city. In written testimony submitted to the committee in advance of Tuesday’s vote, the PBA questioned the intention of the bill and stated that the increased transparency would prove harmful to the department, individual officers, and the city overall.</p> <p>“The “evaluation” contemplated by this legislation is apparently designed to reach a&nbsp;foregone conclusion — that New York City police officers engage in widespread, willful&nbsp;violations New Yorkers’ rights, and that the NYPD’s leadership is incapable of performing the&nbsp;disciplinary and governance duties assigned to it by the City Charter — that is not supported by&nbsp;any available evidence,” reads the testimony. “In this effort, the legislation would do significant harm to police officers’ reputations and due process rights by substituting mere allegations of misconduct for proof of the same. Moreover, by highlighting and publicizing those allegations for the benefit of entities that profit from the harassment and denigration of police officers, this legislation would undermine the NYPD’s governance and operations and diminish public safety for the City as a whole.”</p> <p>The union also alleges that the legislation is explicitly designed to hurt police officers, and to serve an ideological agenda rather than to increase accountability, which it claims is already up to par.</p> <p>“Far from seeking correcting the injustices in the existing system, this legislation amounts&nbsp;to an indictment of the NYPD’s leadership and its disciplinary policies for failing to produce a&nbsp;desired or expected outcome: the punishment of as many police officers possible, as harshly as&nbsp;possible, regardless of the merits of the allegations they face.”</p> <p>The union also argues that the aggregation of public data into a single report “serves no purpose other than as a tool of convenience for the lucrative plaintiffs’ bar that profits from the filing of specious claims of police misconduct.”</p> <p>The PBA provided only written testimony; no one spoke gave oral testimony to the Council committee.</p> <p>Williams, who in an interview with Gotham Gazette for a previous article stated that the department has a woeful record on transparency and accountability, had choice words for the union at the hearing.</p> <p>“There have been two hearings on this bill, the PBA hasn’t come to either one,” said Williams. “They haven’t provided any testimony, except for right now. And I know many of my colleagues have received some calls from the PBA telling them to oppose this.”</p> <p>“I have never seen one piece of legislation that deals with policing that the PBA has supported,” he continued. “And they very rarely, if ever, engage in any discussion around these bills. They simply say no.”</p> <p>“I’ve never denied the PBA the opportunity to discuss issues with me,” he said. “I’ve never tried to deny them the opportunity to come talk before us.”</p> <p>Williams has bluntly criticized the PBA before. In 2014, he <a href="http://observer.com/2014/11/city-councilman-rails-against-police-unions-spreading-mass-hysteria/">accused</a> the union of lying to the public in order to foment “mass hysteria.” He has <a href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/2015/12/4/public-service-williams-pushes-new-new-deal-nyc">accused</a> the PBA of failing to engage in “productive discussion” with the Council and reform advocates regarding Williams most controversial policing-related legislation, the 2013 Community Safety Act that created the NYPD IG and new prohibitions around racial profiling. The legislation, in part a response to the NYPD’s excessive use of stop-and-frisk policing, was passed by the Council over a veto by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.</p> <p>PBA sources told Gotham Gazette that Williams wasn’t telling the whole story about the bill currently at hand. “This is a policing bill without the input of the police. They had a hearing 17 months ago and made no effort to contact us or get our feedback ever since that hearing.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, the legislation has moved ahead with the support from the de Blasio administration, which indicated it helped shape the final product of a bill that has been around for several years, since Williams first introduced it.</p> <p>"We're proud to have worked on this legislation with our partners in the Council as part of the Administration's broader effort to bring greater transparency to how our City is policed and continue to build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve and protect,” said Austin Finan, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio. Changes to the bill indicate that the administration reduced some of the reporting requirements in negotiations with the Council.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Police Misconduct Bill Set to Move Through City Council 2017-08-20T04:00:00+00:00 2017-08-20T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7141:police-misconduct-bill-set-to-move-through-city-council Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/jumaane_williams_pthny.jpg" alt="jumaane williams pthny" width="600" height="421" /></p> <p>Council Member Jumaane Williams (photo: @pthny)</p> <hr /> <p>After a lengthy legislative process, a bill regarding police misconduct is likely to move through the City Council this week, beginning with a Tuesday committee vote.</p> <p>The legislation (<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1672818&amp;GUID=0CA0B20D-5E48-45E4-B81C-07BB0630CADF" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intro. 119</a>), introduced in 2014 by City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat, would require the city’s Law Department to post online, and to notify the Comptroller, the NYPD, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, and the Commission to Combat Police Corruption of, reports covering wide-ranging information on civil actions in state and federal court regarding police misconduct, and for the NYPD Inspector General to use this information to make recommendations regarding “disciplining, training, and monitoring of police officers.” The NYPD would also be required to “study determinations by judges that an officer’s testimony is not credible.”</p> <p>The information required of the Law Department includes a comprehensive list of civil actions against the NYPD or individual police officers, the type of misconduct alleged in each instance, the names of the law firms representing the plaintiff and the defendant, whether or not the matter has been resolved, and whether the city paid out a settlement to the plaintiff.</p> <p>“The theme of the bill is to see if we can recognize any patterns that are emerging,” Williams said in an interview with Gotham Gazette, “just in general or with particular officers, that intervention might be beneficial before something bad happens.”</p> <p>Of the long legislative process for the measure, having been stuck in committee for over three years, Williams said that issues surrounding policing require sensitivity.</p> <p>“There’s always issues of transparency and how much information is too much. Are we putting too much out there in a way that makes officers look bad? That’s usually what a lot of pushback is about,” Williams said. “And we always push back, ‘No, we’re trying to make policing and officers better.’”</p> <p>Beyond the aim of increasing transparency about NYPD misconduct and having more data to inform decision-making, Williams also hopes that the bill itself could reduce police misconduct and “bad policing.” The NYPD has faced significant criticism for police misconduct that has led to deaths of civilians, excessive street stops (and frisks), hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements, and other negative outcomes. Officers involved in misconduct are often not held accountable to standards that many, like Williams, believe to be just.</p> <p>Although the data in question is public, it is not aggregated into a report, and therefore has not been analyzed by the NYPD, City Hall, or watchdogs in order to draw conclusions for improving the department, both in terms of departmental and officer accountability, and the performance of NYPD programs and initiatives.</p> <p>The legislation has been the subject of two hearings since its introduction: the first in May 2014, and the second in June 2016. Both times, it was laid over in committee without a vote. The <a href="http://www.nycbar.org/member-and-career-services/committees/reports-listing/reports/detail/testimony-on-int-0119-2014-which-would-require-reporting-on-civil-actions-filed-against-the-nypd" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York City Bar Association</a> and the <a href="http://www.legal-aid.org/media/185930/nypd_statistical_reporting.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Legal Aid Society</a> have voiced support for the legislation, and its current iteration, Intro 119-D, has nine cosponsors in addition to Williams. When the bill was put on the calendar for a committee hearing this week, Gotham Gazette reached Williams for comment about the status of the bill and its apparent imminent passage.</p> <p>Assuming it passes through the Committee on Oversight and Investigations, the bill will likely be voted through the full City Council on Thursday. Unlike many others, it may not be approved unanimously by the 51-seat Council that currently includes 47 Democrats, three Republicans, and vacancy.</p> <p>Big settlements paid by the city often make waves. <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/city-agrees-settle-suit-bogus-summonses-75-million-article-1.2953546" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In January</a>, a settlement was reached for the city to pay $75 million to those who were improperly issued summonses for minor offenses in order to fulfill alleged arrest quotas. The city was unable to prove probable cause in these issuances. The NYPD has consistently denied that it utilizes arrest quotas, though numerous former police officers have gone on the record to state that the department has indeed used quotas.</p> <p>Smaller settlements, however, also drain the city’s finances and clog the court system. Further, a lack of transparency in terms of civil action and litigation against the department and individual officers can prevent the introduction of necessary reforms.</p> <p>“Since individual damage claims are in some measure a reflection of the NYPD’s relationship to the community, the report could provide one measure of the effectiveness of NYPD’s management in achieving its goal of improving its relationship with communities across our City,” said William Gibney, director of the Legal Aid Society's Criminal Practice Special Litigation Unit, in 2014 testimony to the Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations. “It could help managers evaluate risk as to whether a new program or an existing practice, e.g., police vehicle pursuit, is working well or whether it is unnecessarily costing the City in terms of money paid in damages claims and relationships with the impacted communities. It could help determine whether certain precincts or certain officers need closer supervision or retraining.”</p> <p>According to a <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/annual-claims-report/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> from the office of city Comptroller Scott Stringer, the city paid out $100.6 million in Fiscal Year 2016 related to tort litigation against police misconduct, about equal to the amount paid out for medical malpractice claims ($101.1 million). Civil rights claims made up $158 million in city settlements.</p> <p>Over the past several years, the City Council and the NYPD have oftne disagreed over proposed legislation, though there have been numerous compromises reached, and the Council spearheaded the addition of what wound up being 1,300 officers to the force through a budget deal with Mayor Bill de Blasio.</p> <p>Williams has been a noted critic of the de Blasio administration on police accountability, stating at a Thursday press conference at City Hall that the current administration was “<a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2017/08/17/williams-de-blasio-worse-than-bloomberg-on-police-accountability-114004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">worse than the Bloomberg administration</a>” and that he had not decided on whether he would endorse de Blasio, a fellow Democrat, for reelection.</p> <p>Williams told Gotham Gazette that policing reform and police accountability and transparency are two separate things, and that the de Blasio administration has had some significant victories in the realm of police reform, but that accountability and transparency were severely lacking.</p> <p>“I think the NYPD has done more on reform than they get credit for,” he said. “And that’s because on police accountability and transparency, that’s just not the case. Just isn’t true.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/jumaane_williams_pthny.jpg" alt="jumaane williams pthny" width="600" height="421" /></p> <p>Council Member Jumaane Williams (photo: @pthny)</p> <hr /> <p>After a lengthy legislative process, a bill regarding police misconduct is likely to move through the City Council this week, beginning with a Tuesday committee vote.</p> <p>The legislation (<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1672818&amp;GUID=0CA0B20D-5E48-45E4-B81C-07BB0630CADF" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intro. 119</a>), introduced in 2014 by City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat, would require the city’s Law Department to post online, and to notify the Comptroller, the NYPD, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, and the Commission to Combat Police Corruption of, reports covering wide-ranging information on civil actions in state and federal court regarding police misconduct, and for the NYPD Inspector General to use this information to make recommendations regarding “disciplining, training, and monitoring of police officers.” The NYPD would also be required to “study determinations by judges that an officer’s testimony is not credible.”</p> <p>The information required of the Law Department includes a comprehensive list of civil actions against the NYPD or individual police officers, the type of misconduct alleged in each instance, the names of the law firms representing the plaintiff and the defendant, whether or not the matter has been resolved, and whether the city paid out a settlement to the plaintiff.</p> <p>“The theme of the bill is to see if we can recognize any patterns that are emerging,” Williams said in an interview with Gotham Gazette, “just in general or with particular officers, that intervention might be beneficial before something bad happens.”</p> <p>Of the long legislative process for the measure, having been stuck in committee for over three years, Williams said that issues surrounding policing require sensitivity.</p> <p>“There’s always issues of transparency and how much information is too much. Are we putting too much out there in a way that makes officers look bad? That’s usually what a lot of pushback is about,” Williams said. “And we always push back, ‘No, we’re trying to make policing and officers better.’”</p> <p>Beyond the aim of increasing transparency about NYPD misconduct and having more data to inform decision-making, Williams also hopes that the bill itself could reduce police misconduct and “bad policing.” The NYPD has faced significant criticism for police misconduct that has led to deaths of civilians, excessive street stops (and frisks), hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements, and other negative outcomes. Officers involved in misconduct are often not held accountable to standards that many, like Williams, believe to be just.</p> <p>Although the data in question is public, it is not aggregated into a report, and therefore has not been analyzed by the NYPD, City Hall, or watchdogs in order to draw conclusions for improving the department, both in terms of departmental and officer accountability, and the performance of NYPD programs and initiatives.</p> <p>The legislation has been the subject of two hearings since its introduction: the first in May 2014, and the second in June 2016. Both times, it was laid over in committee without a vote. The <a href="http://www.nycbar.org/member-and-career-services/committees/reports-listing/reports/detail/testimony-on-int-0119-2014-which-would-require-reporting-on-civil-actions-filed-against-the-nypd" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York City Bar Association</a> and the <a href="http://www.legal-aid.org/media/185930/nypd_statistical_reporting.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Legal Aid Society</a> have voiced support for the legislation, and its current iteration, Intro 119-D, has nine cosponsors in addition to Williams. When the bill was put on the calendar for a committee hearing this week, Gotham Gazette reached Williams for comment about the status of the bill and its apparent imminent passage.</p> <p>Assuming it passes through the Committee on Oversight and Investigations, the bill will likely be voted through the full City Council on Thursday. Unlike many others, it may not be approved unanimously by the 51-seat Council that currently includes 47 Democrats, three Republicans, and vacancy.</p> <p>Big settlements paid by the city often make waves. <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/city-agrees-settle-suit-bogus-summonses-75-million-article-1.2953546" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In January</a>, a settlement was reached for the city to pay $75 million to those who were improperly issued summonses for minor offenses in order to fulfill alleged arrest quotas. The city was unable to prove probable cause in these issuances. The NYPD has consistently denied that it utilizes arrest quotas, though numerous former police officers have gone on the record to state that the department has indeed used quotas.</p> <p>Smaller settlements, however, also drain the city’s finances and clog the court system. Further, a lack of transparency in terms of civil action and litigation against the department and individual officers can prevent the introduction of necessary reforms.</p> <p>“Since individual damage claims are in some measure a reflection of the NYPD’s relationship to the community, the report could provide one measure of the effectiveness of NYPD’s management in achieving its goal of improving its relationship with communities across our City,” said William Gibney, director of the Legal Aid Society's Criminal Practice Special Litigation Unit, in 2014 testimony to the Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations. “It could help managers evaluate risk as to whether a new program or an existing practice, e.g., police vehicle pursuit, is working well or whether it is unnecessarily costing the City in terms of money paid in damages claims and relationships with the impacted communities. It could help determine whether certain precincts or certain officers need closer supervision or retraining.”</p> <p>According to a <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/annual-claims-report/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> from the office of city Comptroller Scott Stringer, the city paid out $100.6 million in Fiscal Year 2016 related to tort litigation against police misconduct, about equal to the amount paid out for medical malpractice claims ($101.1 million). Civil rights claims made up $158 million in city settlements.</p> <p>Over the past several years, the City Council and the NYPD have oftne disagreed over proposed legislation, though there have been numerous compromises reached, and the Council spearheaded the addition of what wound up being 1,300 officers to the force through a budget deal with Mayor Bill de Blasio.</p> <p>Williams has been a noted critic of the de Blasio administration on police accountability, stating at a Thursday press conference at City Hall that the current administration was “<a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2017/08/17/williams-de-blasio-worse-than-bloomberg-on-police-accountability-114004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">worse than the Bloomberg administration</a>” and that he had not decided on whether he would endorse de Blasio, a fellow Democrat, for reelection.</p> <p>Williams told Gotham Gazette that policing reform and police accountability and transparency are two separate things, and that the de Blasio administration has had some significant victories in the realm of police reform, but that accountability and transparency were severely lacking.</p> <p>“I think the NYPD has done more on reform than they get credit for,” he said. “And that’s because on police accountability and transparency, that’s just not the case. Just isn’t true.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Malliotakis Files Records Request for Mayor's Travel Expenses 2017-07-19T19:59:00+00:00 2017-07-19T19:59:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7073:gop-mayoral-contender-malliotakis-files-request-for-mayor-s-travel-expenses Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img_4068.jpg.jpeg" alt="img 4068.jpg" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (photo: Felipe De La Hoz/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>As Mayor Bill de Blasio spent his third day in Queens for his week-long City Hall in Your Borough initiative, presumptive Republican mayoral nominee Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis showed up at his Manhattan workplace to reprimand the mayor for a lack of transparency for his numerous trips out of the city.</p> <p>“I believe it's important that when we ask the mayor how much has it cost the taxpayers for various trips around the United States, or around the world, that he give the public that answer,” she told reporters from the steps of City Hall. Seeking those answers herself, after a brief news conference, Malliotakis hand-delivered to the mayor’s office a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for information on the mayor’s travel expenses from 21 trips he has made in the last three-and-a-half years.</p> <p>Malliotakis’ move was prompted by the NYPD’s recent refusal to release cost estimates for police protection provided to the mayor and three of his aides on a three-day trip to Germany two weeks ago. De Blasio travelled to Hamburg, a trip that was announced at the last minute, to participate in “events surrounding the G20 Summit,” a gathering of world leaders in which the mayor of New York has no official role. Instead, he spoke at a protest rally – its organizers invited him and paid for his travel – and other political events. The New York press, which wasn’t informed of his trip in advance, was left behind.</p> <p>During any national or international trip that the mayor takes, he is trailed by staff members and an NYPD security detail. De Blasio’s excursions have often earned him criticism from political opponents and from New Yorkers who believe the trips distract from his duties at home. His latest jaunt to Germany was considered particularly ill-timed, coming just a day after the killing of NYPD officer (posthumously promoted to detective) Miosotis Familia at the hands of a career criminal in the Bronx. Malliotakis said it was “shocking that [the trip] was the day after an NYPD officer was assassinated on our streets.”</p> <p>“Instead of being here to console the members the members of the NYPD and mourn with the family members, or attend the ceremony for 524 new police officers... our mayor was on the next flight to Hamburg,” said Malliotakis, referring to a swearing-in ceremony for new officers that took place on July 9.</p> <p>While the mayor and his aides had their travel and lodging expenses covered by the rally organizers in Hamburg, the costs to move and house his security detail were paid for with public dollars. Gotham Gazette <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7061-de-blasio-nypd-won-t-release-cost-for-germany-trip" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reported</a> last week that the mayor did not intend to release details of the trip’s cost, and the NYPD has refused to do so based on long-standing department policy regarding protection of dignitaries.</p> <p>At a news conference last week, the mayor directed the Gotham Gazette to ask the NYPD about the estimate of the cost. When informed that the NYPD would not and indeed never did so, the mayor demurred, saying, “I want consistency with whatever their practice has been.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7061-de-blasio-nypd-won-t-release-cost-for-germany-trip" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">De Blasio, NYPD Won’t Release Taxpayer Cost for Germany Trip</a>]</p> <p>Malliotakis contrasted de Blasio’s reluctance to be fully transparent with his prior positions as public advocate. In that role, de Blasio often criticized city agencies for refusing to comply with FOIL requests and was particularly derisive towards the NYPD for its lack of public disclosure.</p> <p>The Assemblymember also referenced several of the issues that she has made a centerpiece of her campaign for mayor, saying she wouldn’t mind the mayor’s travel as much if “the traffic was flowing, the transit was moving, the homeless were being taken care of.”</p> <p>Asked by Gotham Gazette if she would limit her travel only to essential trips if elected mayor, Malliotakis was noncommittal, saying “I understand that the Mayor of the City of New York has international attention and appeal and it is important to have some type of diplomatic relations” but that mayoral travel should “have some type of relation to your role if you're taking staff and you're taking security.”</p> <p>Malliotakis’ FOIL request doesn’t deal only with the contentious Hamburg trip, but with a total of 21 domestic and international trips that the mayor has taken which Malliotakis claimed “do not necessarily seem related to his position as mayor.” They included trips to Chicago, several European cities, and his ill-advised trip to Iowa during the presidential primary race in April 2015.</p> <p>Responding to the NYPD’s stated security concerns in providing too much information about mayoral travel, Malliotakis said she was “only asking for the amount that it's costing taxpayers, we're not asking for the specific number of employees, the number of security personnel needed to travel with the mayor for security reasons.”</p> <p>Monica Klein, a spokesperson for the mayor’s reelection campaign, said in an email that “this is about a 3-day trip mainly over a weekend that followed all previous NYPD security protocols of past travel for this mayor and others,” and accused Malliotakis of wanting to “force attention away from her support for President Trump, her donations from huge Trump supporters, and her votes against marriage equality and the minimum wage.” Tying Malliotakis to the controversial president has been a consistent strategy of de Blasio’s campaign.</p> <p>Klein also drew attention to the Malliotakis’ own travel in office as an Assembly member, which included trips to China, Greece, and Hawaii. A spokesperson for Malliotakis previously told the <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-mayoral-candidate-enjoys-traveling-article-1.3333285" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York Daily News</a> that those trips were off-session and did not utilize public funds.</p> <p>

***
by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img_4068.jpg.jpeg" alt="img 4068.jpg" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (photo: Felipe De La Hoz/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>As Mayor Bill de Blasio spent his third day in Queens for his week-long City Hall in Your Borough initiative, presumptive Republican mayoral nominee Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis showed up at his Manhattan workplace to reprimand the mayor for a lack of transparency for his numerous trips out of the city.</p> <p>“I believe it's important that when we ask the mayor how much has it cost the taxpayers for various trips around the United States, or around the world, that he give the public that answer,” she told reporters from the steps of City Hall. Seeking those answers herself, after a brief news conference, Malliotakis hand-delivered to the mayor’s office a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for information on the mayor’s travel expenses from 21 trips he has made in the last three-and-a-half years.</p> <p>Malliotakis’ move was prompted by the NYPD’s recent refusal to release cost estimates for police protection provided to the mayor and three of his aides on a three-day trip to Germany two weeks ago. De Blasio travelled to Hamburg, a trip that was announced at the last minute, to participate in “events surrounding the G20 Summit,” a gathering of world leaders in which the mayor of New York has no official role. Instead, he spoke at a protest rally – its organizers invited him and paid for his travel – and other political events. The New York press, which wasn’t informed of his trip in advance, was left behind.</p> <p>During any national or international trip that the mayor takes, he is trailed by staff members and an NYPD security detail. De Blasio’s excursions have often earned him criticism from political opponents and from New Yorkers who believe the trips distract from his duties at home. His latest jaunt to Germany was considered particularly ill-timed, coming just a day after the killing of NYPD officer (posthumously promoted to detective) Miosotis Familia at the hands of a career criminal in the Bronx. Malliotakis said it was “shocking that [the trip] was the day after an NYPD officer was assassinated on our streets.”</p> <p>“Instead of being here to console the members the members of the NYPD and mourn with the family members, or attend the ceremony for 524 new police officers... our mayor was on the next flight to Hamburg,” said Malliotakis, referring to a swearing-in ceremony for new officers that took place on July 9.</p> <p>While the mayor and his aides had their travel and lodging expenses covered by the rally organizers in Hamburg, the costs to move and house his security detail were paid for with public dollars. Gotham Gazette <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7061-de-blasio-nypd-won-t-release-cost-for-germany-trip" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reported</a> last week that the mayor did not intend to release details of the trip’s cost, and the NYPD has refused to do so based on long-standing department policy regarding protection of dignitaries.</p> <p>At a news conference last week, the mayor directed the Gotham Gazette to ask the NYPD about the estimate of the cost. When informed that the NYPD would not and indeed never did so, the mayor demurred, saying, “I want consistency with whatever their practice has been.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7061-de-blasio-nypd-won-t-release-cost-for-germany-trip" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">De Blasio, NYPD Won’t Release Taxpayer Cost for Germany Trip</a>]</p> <p>Malliotakis contrasted de Blasio’s reluctance to be fully transparent with his prior positions as public advocate. In that role, de Blasio often criticized city agencies for refusing to comply with FOIL requests and was particularly derisive towards the NYPD for its lack of public disclosure.</p> <p>The Assemblymember also referenced several of the issues that she has made a centerpiece of her campaign for mayor, saying she wouldn’t mind the mayor’s travel as much if “the traffic was flowing, the transit was moving, the homeless were being taken care of.”</p> <p>Asked by Gotham Gazette if she would limit her travel only to essential trips if elected mayor, Malliotakis was noncommittal, saying “I understand that the Mayor of the City of New York has international attention and appeal and it is important to have some type of diplomatic relations” but that mayoral travel should “have some type of relation to your role if you're taking staff and you're taking security.”</p> <p>Malliotakis’ FOIL request doesn’t deal only with the contentious Hamburg trip, but with a total of 21 domestic and international trips that the mayor has taken which Malliotakis claimed “do not necessarily seem related to his position as mayor.” They included trips to Chicago, several European cities, and his ill-advised trip to Iowa during the presidential primary race in April 2015.</p> <p>Responding to the NYPD’s stated security concerns in providing too much information about mayoral travel, Malliotakis said she was “only asking for the amount that it's costing taxpayers, we're not asking for the specific number of employees, the number of security personnel needed to travel with the mayor for security reasons.”</p> <p>Monica Klein, a spokesperson for the mayor’s reelection campaign, said in an email that “this is about a 3-day trip mainly over a weekend that followed all previous NYPD security protocols of past travel for this mayor and others,” and accused Malliotakis of wanting to “force attention away from her support for President Trump, her donations from huge Trump supporters, and her votes against marriage equality and the minimum wage.” Tying Malliotakis to the controversial president has been a consistent strategy of de Blasio’s campaign.</p> <p>Klein also drew attention to the Malliotakis’ own travel in office as an Assembly member, which included trips to China, Greece, and Hawaii. A spokesperson for Malliotakis previously told the <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-mayoral-candidate-enjoys-traveling-article-1.3333285" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York Daily News</a> that those trips were off-session and did not utilize public funds.</p> <p>

***
by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
De Blasio, NYPD Won’t Release Taxpayer Cost for Germany Trip 2017-07-13T04:00:00+00:00 2017-07-13T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7061:de-blasio-nypd-won-t-release-cost-for-germany-trip Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/34738336890_a2e95cbbe8_z.jpg" alt="Gotham Gazette: Mayor" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; NYPD leaders (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Asked about the cost to taxpayers for his recent trip to Germany, Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated at a press conference Wednesday that expenses for himself and three aides were paid for by the organizers of a protest rally the mayor was asked to headline. As for his NYPD security detail, which did come at taxpayer expense, the mayor said, “The NYPD always provides some kind of estimate so please ask them for that.”</p> <p>But, news outlets had already been asking the NYPD for that cost estimate and the department refused to provide it, referencing long-standing practice that de Blasio was apparently unaware of. Asked a second time about releasing the estimate Wednesday, de Blasio said of the NYPD, “I’m not an expert on what they do but that’s who has the number.”</p> <p>“I want to say when it’s security related I respect the protocols of the NYPD,” de Blasio said. “So, that’s something that they have – I want whatever’s been done in the past to be done here. I’m just not an expert on what they release and what they don’t.”</p> <p>Told then by Gotham Gazette that the NYPD was refusing to give a cost estimate for the taxpayer expense, de Blasio said, “I want consistency with whatever their practice has been. That’s what I’m saying.”</p> <p>Asked if he didn’t perhaps want a more transparent approach, de Blasio said, “I don’t know what their practice has been so I don’t have a baseline...I’m saying, whatever it’s been in the past, it should continue to be. That’s what I’m comfortable with.”</p> <p>In a statement to Gotham Gazette, an NYPD spokesperson said that the department has “been over this many times,” that “The NYPD does not release information or discuss the specifics surrounding protection of dignitaries, including the mayor. This is a long-standing policy that has been in effect for decades.”</p> <p>So, while the plane and lodging costs for the mayor and his aides was not billed to the city, the airfare, accommodations, and any other costs, like per diems, for NYPD officers who went were, but the public will not be informed of that expense. The decision by de Blasio and the NYPD also comes a short time after they were highly public about the costs to the NYPD and city for protecting Donald Trump and his family in late 2016 and early 2017. De Blasio regularly lobbied publicly, using cost estimates provided by the NYPD, for federal reimbursement, which the city wound up receiving.</p> <p>Speaking of Trump: in a trip announced at the very last minute, de Blasio flew to Hamburg, Germany on Thursday July 6 in order to hold several meetings with government officials there and speak at the Hamburg Zeigt Haltung rally on Saturday, held in response to the G20 summit of world leaders being hosted nearby at which President Donald Trump was appearing.</p> <p>De Blasio said he was invited to speak at the rally, which was to promote democratic principles and advocate for fighting climate change, welcoming immigrants, and other typically more Democratic values, to present an alternative American viewpoint to that of Trump, who has taken a more isolationist approach to world affairs than his recent predecessors, is a climate change skeptic, and has promoted anti-immigrant policies.</p> <p>De Blasio’s shielding of the taxpayer expense for his trip was met with disapproval from good government leader Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union. “For a mayor whose previous hallmark had been transparency, it would be important to request that the NYPD publicly release the cost to taxpayers for an NYPD contingent to accompany him to Germany. This has nothing to do with security and everything to do with the taxpayers’ right to know how their tax dollars are spent -- the two need not be confused.”</p> <p>The mayor somewhat disingenuously also said Wednesday that people need to understand that he always has an NYPD security detail, which of course comes at taxpayer expense. De Blasio failed to mention, though, that his detail is not typically flying internationally or staying at hotels.</p> <p>Along with the hidden NYPD costs to taxpayers, the last-minute nature was another non-transparent aspect of the trip. De Blasio and his team have chalked this up to uncertainty around whether he would actually go given other late-breaking events, including the murder of an NYPD officer. When it was clear that the wake and funeral for Officer Miosotis Familia would not be held until the beginning of this week, de Blasio finalized his plan to go to Germany. The mayor’s press office gave the media about two hours notice before de Blasio was in the air heading overseas.</p> <p>The mayor’s chief spokesperson argued that the office does not do tentative scheduling with news outlets, so there was no way to notify members of the press in advance given the fluid nature of things.</p> <p>Asked about this on Wednesday, de Blasio said he stood behind his press secretary, Eric Phillips, “100 percent on this.” But, he indicated that the events around this particular trip were special and that it is possible for the press office to give some heads up to news organizations in instances where there is some uncertainty.</p> <p>Referencing the uncertainty around the extension of mayoral control of New York City schools and services for Familia, de Blasio said, “I think we had two really abnormal situations happening that affected both focus and clarity. In a normal situation, of course, you could and we will – if we think something is likely but not definite, absolutely there are times when we can give notice and say ‘hey this is for your information.’” But, de Blasio said that this situation, “was so gray that we thought that it would just create confusion and again we were focused first and foremost on...the services. That would was the decisive factor.”</p> <p>Of his reason for accepting the invitation to go and speak at the rally, de Blasio told Gotham Gazette it was part of the theme of “joint effort between mayors around this country and globally” that he said “is going to be more of the norm, going forward, because no one has the illusion our national government is going to address these issues. I mean, it’s just as simple as that. Our whole view right now of what happens in Washington is stopping bad things from happening. There’s no potential for a positive climate policy, a positive immigration policy, a positive policy to address income inequality – any of that. So, the cities of the world – and, in some cases, states – are going to have to lead the way and we’re all working with each other, and we’re all trying to learn from each other, set goals together, etcetera.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/34738336890_a2e95cbbe8_z.jpg" alt="Gotham Gazette: Mayor" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; NYPD leaders (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Asked about the cost to taxpayers for his recent trip to Germany, Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated at a press conference Wednesday that expenses for himself and three aides were paid for by the organizers of a protest rally the mayor was asked to headline. As for his NYPD security detail, which did come at taxpayer expense, the mayor said, “The NYPD always provides some kind of estimate so please ask them for that.”</p> <p>But, news outlets had already been asking the NYPD for that cost estimate and the department refused to provide it, referencing long-standing practice that de Blasio was apparently unaware of. Asked a second time about releasing the estimate Wednesday, de Blasio said of the NYPD, “I’m not an expert on what they do but that’s who has the number.”</p> <p>“I want to say when it’s security related I respect the protocols of the NYPD,” de Blasio said. “So, that’s something that they have – I want whatever’s been done in the past to be done here. I’m just not an expert on what they release and what they don’t.”</p> <p>Told then by Gotham Gazette that the NYPD was refusing to give a cost estimate for the taxpayer expense, de Blasio said, “I want consistency with whatever their practice has been. That’s what I’m saying.”</p> <p>Asked if he didn’t perhaps want a more transparent approach, de Blasio said, “I don’t know what their practice has been so I don’t have a baseline...I’m saying, whatever it’s been in the past, it should continue to be. That’s what I’m comfortable with.”</p> <p>In a statement to Gotham Gazette, an NYPD spokesperson said that the department has “been over this many times,” that “The NYPD does not release information or discuss the specifics surrounding protection of dignitaries, including the mayor. This is a long-standing policy that has been in effect for decades.”</p> <p>So, while the plane and lodging costs for the mayor and his aides was not billed to the city, the airfare, accommodations, and any other costs, like per diems, for NYPD officers who went were, but the public will not be informed of that expense. The decision by de Blasio and the NYPD also comes a short time after they were highly public about the costs to the NYPD and city for protecting Donald Trump and his family in late 2016 and early 2017. De Blasio regularly lobbied publicly, using cost estimates provided by the NYPD, for federal reimbursement, which the city wound up receiving.</p> <p>Speaking of Trump: in a trip announced at the very last minute, de Blasio flew to Hamburg, Germany on Thursday July 6 in order to hold several meetings with government officials there and speak at the Hamburg Zeigt Haltung rally on Saturday, held in response to the G20 summit of world leaders being hosted nearby at which President Donald Trump was appearing.</p> <p>De Blasio said he was invited to speak at the rally, which was to promote democratic principles and advocate for fighting climate change, welcoming immigrants, and other typically more Democratic values, to present an alternative American viewpoint to that of Trump, who has taken a more isolationist approach to world affairs than his recent predecessors, is a climate change skeptic, and has promoted anti-immigrant policies.</p> <p>De Blasio’s shielding of the taxpayer expense for his trip was met with disapproval from good government leader Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union. “For a mayor whose previous hallmark had been transparency, it would be important to request that the NYPD publicly release the cost to taxpayers for an NYPD contingent to accompany him to Germany. This has nothing to do with security and everything to do with the taxpayers’ right to know how their tax dollars are spent -- the two need not be confused.”</p> <p>The mayor somewhat disingenuously also said Wednesday that people need to understand that he always has an NYPD security detail, which of course comes at taxpayer expense. De Blasio failed to mention, though, that his detail is not typically flying internationally or staying at hotels.</p> <p>Along with the hidden NYPD costs to taxpayers, the last-minute nature was another non-transparent aspect of the trip. De Blasio and his team have chalked this up to uncertainty around whether he would actually go given other late-breaking events, including the murder of an NYPD officer. When it was clear that the wake and funeral for Officer Miosotis Familia would not be held until the beginning of this week, de Blasio finalized his plan to go to Germany. The mayor’s press office gave the media about two hours notice before de Blasio was in the air heading overseas.</p> <p>The mayor’s chief spokesperson argued that the office does not do tentative scheduling with news outlets, so there was no way to notify members of the press in advance given the fluid nature of things.</p> <p>Asked about this on Wednesday, de Blasio said he stood behind his press secretary, Eric Phillips, “100 percent on this.” But, he indicated that the events around this particular trip were special and that it is possible for the press office to give some heads up to news organizations in instances where there is some uncertainty.</p> <p>Referencing the uncertainty around the extension of mayoral control of New York City schools and services for Familia, de Blasio said, “I think we had two really abnormal situations happening that affected both focus and clarity. In a normal situation, of course, you could and we will – if we think something is likely but not definite, absolutely there are times when we can give notice and say ‘hey this is for your information.’” But, de Blasio said that this situation, “was so gray that we thought that it would just create confusion and again we were focused first and foremost on...the services. That would was the decisive factor.”</p> <p>Of his reason for accepting the invitation to go and speak at the rally, de Blasio told Gotham Gazette it was part of the theme of “joint effort between mayors around this country and globally” that he said “is going to be more of the norm, going forward, because no one has the illusion our national government is going to address these issues. I mean, it’s just as simple as that. Our whole view right now of what happens in Washington is stopping bad things from happening. There’s no potential for a positive climate policy, a positive immigration policy, a positive policy to address income inequality – any of that. So, the cities of the world – and, in some cases, states – are going to have to lead the way and we’re all working with each other, and we’re all trying to learn from each other, set goals together, etcetera.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
Calling Trump’s Big Lie What It Is 2017-05-02T04:00:00+00:00 2017-05-02T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6906:calling-trump-s-big-lie-what-it-is Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/nypd_via_nypdrecruit.jpg" alt="nypd via nypdrecruit" width="600" height="309" /></p> <p>(photo: @NYPDRecruit)</p> <hr /> <p>Upping the immigration deportation ante, a San Francisco federal judge found “irreparable harm” and ordered a national preliminary injunction blocking President Donald Trump’s threat of cutting off law enforcement funds to “sanctuary cities” that defiantly refused to comply with his deportation policy.</p> <p>Under the proposed Trump policy, cities would lose funding if undocumented and even legal immigrants are not reported to federal authorities for deportation after being charged with low-level criminal offenses, such as disorderly conduct, possessing small amounts of marijuana, or a variety of non-violent, “broken windows” offenses.</p> <p>Although federal law mandates deportation of noncitizens convicted of serious crimes, Trump’s executive order promulgates a simplistic view of “let’s kick them out” because all undocumented immigrants, non-citizen Muslims, or anyone overstaying a visa, “present a significant threat to national security and public safety and the presence of such individuals in the United States...are contrary to the national interest...[causing] immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.”</p> <p>This Trumpian misinterpretation of constitutional law is a giant step backward reshaping the country’s immigration policy by diminishing civil liberties, due process, and constitutional protections, which for more than 100 years were guaranteed by our federal courts even to those who are illegally in the U.S.</p> <p>But threats have been elevated to the big lie.</p> <p>Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, in an over-the-top and uninformed response to the court’s decision to block defunding, shouted that it was an “egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge.”</p> <p>Spicer should read the Constitution -- federal judges are appointed pursuant to Article 3, by the President -- as should Trump.</p> <p>He accused “sanctuary cities” such as New York of "putting the well-being of criminal aliens before the safety of our citizens" and says city officials who authored policies protecting people living in the country illegally "have the blood of dead Americans on their hands...a gift to the criminal gang and cartel element in our country" that puts "thousands of innocent lives at risk."</p> <p>This is the big lie, but Spicer is not the only Trump perpetrator.</p> <p>On April 21, Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared in an official DOJ memo that New York City “soft on crime” and it “continues to see gang murder after gang murder,” blaming the city for failing to turn over to federal immigration authorities for deportation a gang member who was released from Rikers Island after a conviction of a non-serious misdemeanor.</p> <p>The truth is New York City is a national success story of driving crime down over the past 20-plus years – especially violent crime. The president, a New Yorker, knows this. However, accepting this fact means superseding political grandstanding, and acknowledging that New York’s fight against violent and especially gang crimes have occurred with great success and has continued during Trump’s first 100 days.</p> <p>Since Trump’s inauguration, the NYPD and the city’s District Attorneys have prosecuted gangs and others violent criminals, refuting Session’s big “soft on crime” lie. (Sessions did walk back some of his criticisms after major blowback from NYPD Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill and others.)</p> <p>March 9, the Queens D.A. and NYPD arrested six members of the ABK street gang for plotting to kill two rival gang members and 11 individuals affiliated with the ABK for selling drugs in Queens neighborhoods.</p> <p>March 15, the Bronx D.A., NYPD, and federal law enforcement officials charged 49 members of two Bronx drug distribution organizations with narcotics, robbery, firearms offenses and murder.</p> <p>March 22, the Manhattan D.A. and NYPD charged six men, ages 19-22, as part of a firearm ring for trafficking 105 guns from South Carolina into New York City.</p> <p>March 28, the Staten Island D.A. and NYPD announced the “takedown” of a heroin distribution ring that operated on the South Shore of Staten Island.</p> <p>April 18, the Brooklyn D.A. announced four gang members were sentenced to 25 years to life for robbery and murder.</p> <p>Although the federal courts sent a clear message to Trump that airport detentions, religious profiling, and now defunding threats are unconstitutional, this president does not accept that our nation’s history of protecting individual freedoms no matter one’s race or religion – or how one entered the United States – that our country was not founded on threats, unlawful, odious executive orders, or the big lie.</p> <p>***<br />Arnold N. Kriss is a Manhattan attorney who formerly served as a Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney and Deputy Commissioner of Trials in the New York Police Department.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/nypd_via_nypdrecruit.jpg" alt="nypd via nypdrecruit" width="600" height="309" /></p> <p>(photo: @NYPDRecruit)</p> <hr /> <p>Upping the immigration deportation ante, a San Francisco federal judge found “irreparable harm” and ordered a national preliminary injunction blocking President Donald Trump’s threat of cutting off law enforcement funds to “sanctuary cities” that defiantly refused to comply with his deportation policy.</p> <p>Under the proposed Trump policy, cities would lose funding if undocumented and even legal immigrants are not reported to federal authorities for deportation after being charged with low-level criminal offenses, such as disorderly conduct, possessing small amounts of marijuana, or a variety of non-violent, “broken windows” offenses.</p> <p>Although federal law mandates deportation of noncitizens convicted of serious crimes, Trump’s executive order promulgates a simplistic view of “let’s kick them out” because all undocumented immigrants, non-citizen Muslims, or anyone overstaying a visa, “present a significant threat to national security and public safety and the presence of such individuals in the United States...are contrary to the national interest...[causing] immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.”</p> <p>This Trumpian misinterpretation of constitutional law is a giant step backward reshaping the country’s immigration policy by diminishing civil liberties, due process, and constitutional protections, which for more than 100 years were guaranteed by our federal courts even to those who are illegally in the U.S.</p> <p>But threats have been elevated to the big lie.</p> <p>Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, in an over-the-top and uninformed response to the court’s decision to block defunding, shouted that it was an “egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge.”</p> <p>Spicer should read the Constitution -- federal judges are appointed pursuant to Article 3, by the President -- as should Trump.</p> <p>He accused “sanctuary cities” such as New York of "putting the well-being of criminal aliens before the safety of our citizens" and says city officials who authored policies protecting people living in the country illegally "have the blood of dead Americans on their hands...a gift to the criminal gang and cartel element in our country" that puts "thousands of innocent lives at risk."</p> <p>This is the big lie, but Spicer is not the only Trump perpetrator.</p> <p>On April 21, Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared in an official DOJ memo that New York City “soft on crime” and it “continues to see gang murder after gang murder,” blaming the city for failing to turn over to federal immigration authorities for deportation a gang member who was released from Rikers Island after a conviction of a non-serious misdemeanor.</p> <p>The truth is New York City is a national success story of driving crime down over the past 20-plus years – especially violent crime. The president, a New Yorker, knows this. However, accepting this fact means superseding political grandstanding, and acknowledging that New York’s fight against violent and especially gang crimes have occurred with great success and has continued during Trump’s first 100 days.</p> <p>Since Trump’s inauguration, the NYPD and the city’s District Attorneys have prosecuted gangs and others violent criminals, refuting Session’s big “soft on crime” lie. (Sessions did walk back some of his criticisms after major blowback from NYPD Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill and others.)</p> <p>March 9, the Queens D.A. and NYPD arrested six members of the ABK street gang for plotting to kill two rival gang members and 11 individuals affiliated with the ABK for selling drugs in Queens neighborhoods.</p> <p>March 15, the Bronx D.A., NYPD, and federal law enforcement officials charged 49 members of two Bronx drug distribution organizations with narcotics, robbery, firearms offenses and murder.</p> <p>March 22, the Manhattan D.A. and NYPD charged six men, ages 19-22, as part of a firearm ring for trafficking 105 guns from South Carolina into New York City.</p> <p>March 28, the Staten Island D.A. and NYPD announced the “takedown” of a heroin distribution ring that operated on the South Shore of Staten Island.</p> <p>April 18, the Brooklyn D.A. announced four gang members were sentenced to 25 years to life for robbery and murder.</p> <p>Although the federal courts sent a clear message to Trump that airport detentions, religious profiling, and now defunding threats are unconstitutional, this president does not accept that our nation’s history of protecting individual freedoms no matter one’s race or religion – or how one entered the United States – that our country was not founded on threats, unlawful, odious executive orders, or the big lie.</p> <p>***<br />Arnold N. Kriss is a Manhattan attorney who formerly served as a Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney and Deputy Commissioner of Trials in the New York Police Department.</p> <p>

***
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A New Approach to Police Body Cameras 2017-05-01T04:00:00+00:00 2017-05-01T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6899:a-new-approach-to-police-body-cameras Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/tucker_body_cam.jpg" alt="tucker body cam" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>NYPD's Ben Tucker with a body camera (photo: @NYPDnews)</p> <hr /> <p>After many months of waiting, the New York City Police Department recently announced its proposed rules for the use of body worn cameras. The NYPD developed the policy in response to a mandate by the federal court in the &nbsp;<a href="https://ccrjustice.org/home/what-we-do/our-cases/floyd-et-al-v-city-new-york-et-al" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Floyd v. City of New York</a> “stop and frisk” case. To their credit, the NYPD, with the help of the <a href="https://policingproject.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Policing Project</a> at NYU Law School, undertook an extensive public comment process to solicit input from experts, interest groups, members of the public, and police officers. Twenty thousand members of the public and 5,000 police officers sent in survey responses.</p> <p>Unfortunately, many of the suggestions that emerged during that process were not included in the final NYPD policy, leading the lawyers in the Floyd case to pledge that they would <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/16/nyregion/new-york-body-cameras-police-civil-rights.html?_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">move to block approval</a> of the new rules by the court.</p> <p>The main objections are that officers would have access to footage before making statements about what happened in an incident, the lack of privacy protections for those captured on video, and too much officer discretion as to when the cameras should be turned on. In addition, unions representing police sergeants, detectives, and lieutenants have threatened to fight the new rules in court because they were not consulted about their new roles in overseeing the process. Only patrol officers will wear the cameras.</p> <p>Perhaps it’s time then to hit the reset button on our approach to this new technology. Body cameras produce a profound tension between our desire to enhance officer accountability and our concerns about the growing surveillance powers of the police.</p> <p>The killings by police of Michael Brown and Eric Garner ushered in a wave of popular support for body worn cameras as a singular tool for improving police accountability. The hope is that the existence of video evidence will act as a deterrent to police misconduct and allow for easier prosecution of officers who abuse their authority. Expanded use of such cameras was a central recommendation of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing and has been embraced by police accountability activists and civil rights organizations across the U.S.</p> <p>Despite this strong support, there remain significant privacy concerns. In New York City alone there will soon be over 20,000 officers on patrol with cameras. These cameras will likely record millions of mundane interactions with the public as well as capture the activities of people merely going about their daily lives. Some of these people may be engaged in lawful activities that they would prefer their neighbors, employers, or the government were not aware of, such as visiting an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, attending a political event, or entering an adult book store.</p> <p>In addition, extensive use of the cameras could contribute to an expansion of police surveillance capacity. By geocoding camera data, new databases could be established that allow police to review all footage from a designated area before or after a crime, potentially subjecting thousands of people to unwarranted intrusions into their lives merely because of where they live or work. Law professor Elizabeth Joh refers to this as an increase in “<a href="http://harvardlpr.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/10.1_3_Joh.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">surveillance discretion</a>” in which police have dramatically more potential reasons for looking into someone’s personal life based on suspicion rather than concrete evidence of wrongdoing.</p> <p>Such “big data” endeavors turn innocent behavior into suspicious behavior because of correlations on a grand scale that may have absolutely no relevance to a specific individual now brought under investigation. For example, if there is a belief or evidence that drug dealers are more likely to frequent a particular park or corner and I happen to also regularly walk that way while going to work, then I can easily end up under suspicion.</p> <p>Police would also be in a position to populate gang databases and political dossiers using camera footage in high crime areas or at political demonstrations. This effort could be aided by emerging facial recognition software. There is a long history of police misusing such databases. Gang databases are notoriously easy to end up in and near impossible to get out of. They have been used to target people for gang injunctions resulting in enhanced penalties. There have even been cases where they have been shared with current or prospective employers. There is a long history of local police maintaining political intelligence files with the names and images of individuals engaged in totally lawful political activity. These databases have also been shared with employers and resulted in politically motivated harassment. &nbsp;</p> <p>Camera footage of people walking down a particular street or lawfully interacting with friends or neighbors could also be used to populate databases of people considered at high risk for committing violence. Several major cities including Chicago and New York use these databases to produce “heat lists,” based on complex algorithms of potential risk factors such as prior arrests or involvement with child welfare systems. Being on such a list can trigger intensive surveillance or enhanced prosecutions.</p> <p>Raw footage and databases that rely on the footage could also be shared with other law enforcement agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Agency, or the FBI. These agencies then might feed this data into their own algorithms triggering yet more surveillance, suspicion, and investigations based entirely on probabilities rather than individualized probable cause or reasonable suspicion. &nbsp;</p> <p>So what is to be done?</p> <p>One way to reduce concerns about this enhanced police surveillance would be to take control of the footage away from police and hand it over to an independent civilian agency. From the moment officers download the data it would be under the control of such an agency and could not be reviewed, released, or altered by the police without probable cause.</p> <p>If police feel there is something relevant to a legitimate investigation they can request a warrant to access it. Since the officer was present at filming, meeting the standard of probable cause should be easy in cases where criminal behavior is alleged. Similarly, police misconduct oversight bodies would need to have a sworn complaint in hand before they could review footage.</p> <p>Following the guidance of the <a href="https://www.aclu.org/other/model-act-regulating-use-wearable-body-cameras-law-enforcement" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ACLU</a> and the <a href="http://www.constitutionproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/BodyCamerasRptOnline.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Constitution Project</a>, there should also be tight restrictions on public access to the video. Footage should only be made available to the public with the consent of those seen in the video (or family members of someone deceased) or if there are no privacy issues at stake, which might be accomplished with extensive redaction. Individuals who are the subject of police action captured by body cameras should have the right to review it.</p> <p>These tight privacy controls would help reassure the public that their non-criminal interactions with police will not be reviewed by police or the public. This is especially important for people who are victims of or witnesses to a crime or who may want to informally or anonymously provide police with information (these groups are not supposed to be recorded by the NYPD under the new rules).</p> <p>Such a policy would also help overcome the legitimate concern of police officers that cameras should not be used to monitor them for administrative violations or be used for vendettas by supervisors. By taking control of the footage away from police, the chances of such personally or politically motivated reviews would be greatly diminished.</p> <p>Placing the footage under the control of an independent agency would also ensure that defense attorneys and prosecutors have equal access to it. Currently, district attorneys are at an advantage as they receive evidence directly from the police and make their own determinations about whether something is relevant to the case and if so, when to give it to defense counsel. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6879-thousands-of-low-profile-cases-could-turn-on-police-body-camera-footage" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to representatives of the public defender services</a> here in New York, such evidence often only materializes the day before or the day of a trial, forcing many to take plea deals or be unprepared for trial. &nbsp;</p> <p>We must keep in mind that the primary basis for public support of body cameras is the need for increased police accountability. In the words of Michael Sisitzky of the New York Civil Liberties Union, “Public support for body cameras will not last if the technology becomes just another gadget to help police and prosecutors, instead of a tool for meaningful reform of police practices.”</p> <p>***<br />Alex S. Vitale is Associate Professor of Sociology and Coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College. He is the author of <em>City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics</em> and the forthcoming <em>The End of Policing</em>.</p> <p>

***
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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/tucker_body_cam.jpg" alt="tucker body cam" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>NYPD's Ben Tucker with a body camera (photo: @NYPDnews)</p> <hr /> <p>After many months of waiting, the New York City Police Department recently announced its proposed rules for the use of body worn cameras. The NYPD developed the policy in response to a mandate by the federal court in the &nbsp;<a href="https://ccrjustice.org/home/what-we-do/our-cases/floyd-et-al-v-city-new-york-et-al" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Floyd v. City of New York</a> “stop and frisk” case. To their credit, the NYPD, with the help of the <a href="https://policingproject.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Policing Project</a> at NYU Law School, undertook an extensive public comment process to solicit input from experts, interest groups, members of the public, and police officers. Twenty thousand members of the public and 5,000 police officers sent in survey responses.</p> <p>Unfortunately, many of the suggestions that emerged during that process were not included in the final NYPD policy, leading the lawyers in the Floyd case to pledge that they would <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/16/nyregion/new-york-body-cameras-police-civil-rights.html?_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">move to block approval</a> of the new rules by the court.</p> <p>The main objections are that officers would have access to footage before making statements about what happened in an incident, the lack of privacy protections for those captured on video, and too much officer discretion as to when the cameras should be turned on. In addition, unions representing police sergeants, detectives, and lieutenants have threatened to fight the new rules in court because they were not consulted about their new roles in overseeing the process. Only patrol officers will wear the cameras.</p> <p>Perhaps it’s time then to hit the reset button on our approach to this new technology. Body cameras produce a profound tension between our desire to enhance officer accountability and our concerns about the growing surveillance powers of the police.</p> <p>The killings by police of Michael Brown and Eric Garner ushered in a wave of popular support for body worn cameras as a singular tool for improving police accountability. The hope is that the existence of video evidence will act as a deterrent to police misconduct and allow for easier prosecution of officers who abuse their authority. Expanded use of such cameras was a central recommendation of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing and has been embraced by police accountability activists and civil rights organizations across the U.S.</p> <p>Despite this strong support, there remain significant privacy concerns. In New York City alone there will soon be over 20,000 officers on patrol with cameras. These cameras will likely record millions of mundane interactions with the public as well as capture the activities of people merely going about their daily lives. Some of these people may be engaged in lawful activities that they would prefer their neighbors, employers, or the government were not aware of, such as visiting an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, attending a political event, or entering an adult book store.</p> <p>In addition, extensive use of the cameras could contribute to an expansion of police surveillance capacity. By geocoding camera data, new databases could be established that allow police to review all footage from a designated area before or after a crime, potentially subjecting thousands of people to unwarranted intrusions into their lives merely because of where they live or work. Law professor Elizabeth Joh refers to this as an increase in “<a href="http://harvardlpr.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/10.1_3_Joh.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">surveillance discretion</a>” in which police have dramatically more potential reasons for looking into someone’s personal life based on suspicion rather than concrete evidence of wrongdoing.</p> <p>Such “big data” endeavors turn innocent behavior into suspicious behavior because of correlations on a grand scale that may have absolutely no relevance to a specific individual now brought under investigation. For example, if there is a belief or evidence that drug dealers are more likely to frequent a particular park or corner and I happen to also regularly walk that way while going to work, then I can easily end up under suspicion.</p> <p>Police would also be in a position to populate gang databases and political dossiers using camera footage in high crime areas or at political demonstrations. This effort could be aided by emerging facial recognition software. There is a long history of police misusing such databases. Gang databases are notoriously easy to end up in and near impossible to get out of. They have been used to target people for gang injunctions resulting in enhanced penalties. There have even been cases where they have been shared with current or prospective employers. There is a long history of local police maintaining political intelligence files with the names and images of individuals engaged in totally lawful political activity. These databases have also been shared with employers and resulted in politically motivated harassment. &nbsp;</p> <p>Camera footage of people walking down a particular street or lawfully interacting with friends or neighbors could also be used to populate databases of people considered at high risk for committing violence. Several major cities including Chicago and New York use these databases to produce “heat lists,” based on complex algorithms of potential risk factors such as prior arrests or involvement with child welfare systems. Being on such a list can trigger intensive surveillance or enhanced prosecutions.</p> <p>Raw footage and databases that rely on the footage could also be shared with other law enforcement agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Agency, or the FBI. These agencies then might feed this data into their own algorithms triggering yet more surveillance, suspicion, and investigations based entirely on probabilities rather than individualized probable cause or reasonable suspicion. &nbsp;</p> <p>So what is to be done?</p> <p>One way to reduce concerns about this enhanced police surveillance would be to take control of the footage away from police and hand it over to an independent civilian agency. From the moment officers download the data it would be under the control of such an agency and could not be reviewed, released, or altered by the police without probable cause.</p> <p>If police feel there is something relevant to a legitimate investigation they can request a warrant to access it. Since the officer was present at filming, meeting the standard of probable cause should be easy in cases where criminal behavior is alleged. Similarly, police misconduct oversight bodies would need to have a sworn complaint in hand before they could review footage.</p> <p>Following the guidance of the <a href="https://www.aclu.org/other/model-act-regulating-use-wearable-body-cameras-law-enforcement" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ACLU</a> and the <a href="http://www.constitutionproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/BodyCamerasRptOnline.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Constitution Project</a>, there should also be tight restrictions on public access to the video. Footage should only be made available to the public with the consent of those seen in the video (or family members of someone deceased) or if there are no privacy issues at stake, which might be accomplished with extensive redaction. Individuals who are the subject of police action captured by body cameras should have the right to review it.</p> <p>These tight privacy controls would help reassure the public that their non-criminal interactions with police will not be reviewed by police or the public. This is especially important for people who are victims of or witnesses to a crime or who may want to informally or anonymously provide police with information (these groups are not supposed to be recorded by the NYPD under the new rules).</p> <p>Such a policy would also help overcome the legitimate concern of police officers that cameras should not be used to monitor them for administrative violations or be used for vendettas by supervisors. By taking control of the footage away from police, the chances of such personally or politically motivated reviews would be greatly diminished.</p> <p>Placing the footage under the control of an independent agency would also ensure that defense attorneys and prosecutors have equal access to it. Currently, district attorneys are at an advantage as they receive evidence directly from the police and make their own determinations about whether something is relevant to the case and if so, when to give it to defense counsel. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6879-thousands-of-low-profile-cases-could-turn-on-police-body-camera-footage" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to representatives of the public defender services</a> here in New York, such evidence often only materializes the day before or the day of a trial, forcing many to take plea deals or be unprepared for trial. &nbsp;</p> <p>We must keep in mind that the primary basis for public support of body cameras is the need for increased police accountability. In the words of Michael Sisitzky of the New York Civil Liberties Union, “Public support for body cameras will not last if the technology becomes just another gadget to help police and prosecutors, instead of a tool for meaningful reform of police practices.”</p> <p>***<br />Alex S. Vitale is Associate Professor of Sociology and Coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College. He is the author of <em>City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics</em> and the forthcoming <em>The End of Policing</em>.</p> <p>

***
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Thousands of Low-Profile Cases Could Turn on Police Body Camera Footage 2017-04-18T04:00:00+00:00 2017-04-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6879:thousands-of-low-profile-cases-could-turn-on-police-body-camera-footage Ben Max <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/nypdnews-twitter-2014-vievu.jpg" alt="nypdnews twitter 2014 vievu" width="600" height="394" /></p> <p>(photo: @NYPDnews)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">In June 2016, the Policing Project at the NYU School of Law co-sponsored<a href="https://policingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Report-to-the-NYPD-Summarizing-Public-Feedback-on-BWC-Policy.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> a study</a> with the NYPD to assess sentiments regarding police body cameras, part of an effort to influence department policy as body cameras become worn by an increasing number of patrol officers. The NYPD has been gradually outfitting its officers with body cameras, in part as a result of a court order, with an initial rollout of <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/nypd-wrapping-up-body-camera-pilot-program-1456916402" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">54 cameras in 2014</a>, and 1,200 more to be added to the force this year. As part of a new contract with the city’s patrol officers union, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in early 2017 that all 23,000 patrol officers would be wearing body cameras by 2019.</p> <p dir="ltr">In implementing a body camera program, the NYPD must outline the protocols that would guide everything from circumstances under which officers must activate their cameras to the proper method of releasing footage.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Policing Project survey, which remained open for 40 days, received 25,126 responses from “individuals who identified themselves as living, working, or attending school in New York,” as well as 5,419 police officers. In <a href="http://nypdnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/NYPD_BWC-Response-to-Officer-and-Public-Input.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a study</a> conducted concurrently by the Marron Institute of Urban Management at NYU, police officers answered similar questions and were encouraged to participate by Pat Lynch, the President of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), who posted the questionnaire on the union website within days of its launch.</p> <p dir="ltr">One of the many themes in the study was the ongoing question of a defense attorney’s ability to access police body camera footage in the cases they handle with clients, who are charged with a crime by a local district attorney. Public defenders, who handle a large percentage of cases brought against poor New Yorkers, are particularly concerned about rules governing the usage of body cameras and access to footage. There were 314,870 arrests made by the NYPD in 2016, most of which were for non-violent crime.</p> <p dir="ltr">Discovery law -- the process by which defense lawyers are given access to materials by District Attorneys in cases and plea negotiations -- is inconsistently implemented across the five New York City boroughs, according to public defenders. As body cameras become ubiquitous in the NYPD -- by 2019, all<a href="https://twitter.com/NYCMayor/status/826543006870360068"> </a><a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/059-17/mayor-de-blasio-patrolmen-s-benevolent-association-reach-tentative-five-year-agreement-#/0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">members of the PBA will be wearing one</a> -- there is increased pressure from public defenders and advocacy groups like the Brennan Center for Justice, the Bronx Defenders, and the New York City Civil Liberties Union (who all submitted their own responses to the surveys) to develop comprehensive laws surrounding police-worn body cameras.</p> <p dir="ltr">When Mayor de Blasio and the PBA announced their new contract deal, the mayor said, “this agreement provides the compensation and benefits the world’s finest police department deserves, while outfitting the entire force with body cameras and delivering the transparency and policing reforms at the center of effective and trusted law enforcement.” Transparency is the lynchpin underlying calls for the proliferation of body cameras within the NYPD (and other police departments around the country); but some fear that NYPD policy and district attorney practices will not uphold the rhetoric espoused by the mayor.</p> <p dir="ltr">While police body cameras are often discussed in the context of major incidents of police brutality, it is the many thousands of lower-profile interactions between officers and members of the public that will make for virtually all of the footage taken by such cameras. Police body cameras will capture hundreds of thousands of low-level arrests each year, as well as circumstances around felonies, contentious and harmonious exchanges between police and the public, and instances where people feel that they are treated wrongly by the police and wind up bringing their own legal action.</p> <p dir="ltr">Police body cameras are heralded by many, including de Blasio, Public Advocate Letitia James, and others, as a key accountability and transparency tool. But, they also open what could be a Pandora’s Box of questions and potential pitfalls. Rules for recording and disclosure are being closely tracked by those who will be directly involved in many of the cases where body camera footage will be a factor, and red flags are being raised.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Cynthia Conti-Cook, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society, “the way prosecutors interpret discovery laws in New York State and criminal procedure law really allows the prosecutor to delay what he or she is revealing, causing many people to plead guilty before potentially vital evidence is disclosed." This can place public defenders in difficult positions – if prosecutor determines that body camera footage isn't relevant to a case, the public defender may never see it.</p> <p dir="ltr">While key factors in many legal proceedings involving police body cameras will be when the camera is turned on (and off) and what is recorded, it is illegal for prosecutors to withhold footage that could exonerate a defendant.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Debora Silberman, senior staff attorney with Brooklyn Defender Services, “prosecutors have an obligation under [the] Brady [Bill] that they are required, if there is exculpatory video, they're obligated, [by] ethical and constitutional obligations under the law, to turn that over to us, and to make that known to us.” But this doesn't necessarily mean that a public defender will have access to body camera footage, even if it does exist.</p> <p dir="ltr">Conti-Cook of Legal Aid said that if there is a recording from a body camera that was not evidence a prosecutor wants to produce in support of their case, either because it exonerated the defendant or in any way undermined police testimony or other evidence, then the way that prosecutors work, the prosecutor will likely withhold that evidence until the day of trial, hoping for a guilty plea before they were forced to disclose.</p> <p dir="ltr">When contacted for comment, multiple representatives for District Attorney offices disputed this. They claimed that the Supreme Court decision of Brady v Maryland, which established that prosecutors must turn over all exculpatory evidence, meant that body camera footage would have to be given to public defenders, regardless of whether that footage was favorable to a defendant or a police officer and D.A.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, some public defenders have expressed doubt that it is so cut and dry and closely followed in all cases.</p> <p dir="ltr">As things stand now, public defenders are looking forward to the proliferation of body cameras, largely so they can contextualize cases. A problem that defenders often point to is the short amount of time they’re given to prepare a case for a defendant. According to Conti-Cook “We have attorneys in Manhattan who don't learn the names of the complaining witnesses until the day before or the day of trial. And there's no way that you can prepare a case without having that information. So the night before they're always scrambling with coming up with a quick investigation, you prepare for the next day. But it really puts us systematically at a disadvantage when it comes to counselling our clients.”</p> <p dir="ltr">It remains unclear if body camera footage will help ease this phenomenon by providing more context, or simply be another data point that public defenders need to scramble for in the final hours before a case.</p> <p dir="ltr">The issue of evidence disclosure, including of body camera footage, is relevant to various cases, those that are tried in court and those settled pretrial. According to Silberman of Brooklyn Defender Services, “many of our cases end in a plea bargain, prior to a pretrial hearing, so we don't get the benefit of challenging the constitutionality of the search or the approach of our client...we don't get to challenge whether the police officer's observation were true or accurate, or whether they make sense in the context of the allegation.” If public defenders are able to refer to body camera footage to ascertain the full circumstances surrounding a case, they may have more leverage and even avoid some plea bargains altogether.</p> <p dir="ltr">One public defender presented a hypothetical situation as an example. A police officer is legally allowed to search a person if the officer believes they witness an exchange of drugs take place. But what if that officer is 50 feet away from the exchange when it happens, and it’s not clear what they were actually capable of seeing at the time? Body camera footage could corroborate or disprove an officer’s account of events.</p> <p dir="ltr">Even if a search yields the discovery of drugs, Silberman sees how body camera footage could be used on behalf of a defendant. “Very often, when we suspect that there has been an illegal approach of our client, and illegal search of our client, and illegal car stop, a car search, of either the car or the house, we would be challenging the constitutional grounds for the search or the approach,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Silberman also sees what she thinks can at times be the officer point of view, saying, “I think it can be easy to justify illegal behavior by convincing oneself that taking a gun off the street or taking the drugs off the street was worth the search.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“[S]o few of our cases get to the stage where we get to challenge their observation,” Silberman added. “Most of our cases plea out. Which means that you're entering a plea, you're taking a misdemeanor or a felony and possibly jail time, or probation. Before you even get to that stage, very often a prosecutor will say to you, ‘look, if I have to go to a hearing, my offer's off the table.’”</p> <p dir="ltr">There are many more pretrial hearings, when a district attorney offers evidence and a potential plea deal, than trials. “Only when you do a pretrial hearing do you get to challenge the constitutionality of the search or the approach, search through the vehicle, search of the client, search of the house,” Silberman said. “If we had a video of the kinds of observations that were made, it would be a completely different ballgame. But it's so infrequent that we even get to a stage to challenge the officer's testimony or perspective.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Right now, both district attorneys and public defenders agree that police body cameras will have a positive impact. In a statement to Gotham Gazette, a spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said that he “has long supported the use of police body cameras, which increase the civility of interactions with residents, reduce false complaints against officers, and provide potentially vital evidence for criminal investigations and prosecutions.”</p> <p dir="ltr">On the question of discovery, Vance's spokesperson said, “Our office will meet our legal obligations to provide this material in discovery, as we do with all evidence. We are confident in our ability to efficiently and effectively utilize and produce body camera evidence.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Echoing a point made by Vance, de Blasio, and others, Silberman of Brooklyn Defender Services thinks that police officers will be aided by body cameras too, saying that they “benefit public safety and officer safety. Just as much as we're concerned about the truth coming out, so are police officers. Police officers also have to deal with people making accusations of falsehoods, whether they're saying something that's not true, or whether they were being too aggressive. And if an officer is acting in accordance with the law, that is justifying all the actions that he took.”</p> <p dir="ltr">State Senator Daniel Squadron, who had co-written<a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/sites/default/files/articles/attachments/bwc_nypd_letter_2.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> a letter</a> with Assemblymember Dan Quart and Public Advocate James asking for more transparency from the NYPD, agrees. One detail that concerned Squadron, Quart, and James related to Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). In their letter to then-NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, the three elected officials outlined their worry that the cost of filing a FOIL request for body camera footage was “prohibitive” ($36,000, per the example they cited), and the procedure by which the NYPD could redact footage would undermine the ostensible purpose of body cameras: increased transparency.</p> <p dir="ltr">In response, Bratton wrote that “our working group is proceeding as expeditiously as possible, trying to balance public transparency and individual privacy.” He cited the NYU Policing Project study and closed his letter assuring the three officials that the NYPD was “exploring all options for the use of body-worn cameras by our police officers.” Bratton has since retired from the NYPD and been replaced by Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill.</p> <p dir="ltr">In a statement to Gotham Gazette, Senator Squadron said, “Body cameras can protect officers and civilians alike, but it's critical that transparency be a central component,” Squadron added he will “push to ensure that transparency and safeguarding privacy are cornerstones of body camera policies." Squadron didn’t address specific questions about district attorneys turning over body camera footage.</p> <p dir="ltr">The concurrent NYU/NYPD study did address the way in which the NYPD or district attorneys would disclose body-camera footage in criminal and civil proceedings. In conjunction with the release of the Policing Project survey results, the released NYPD <a href="http://nypdnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/NYPD_BWC-Response-to-Officer-and-Public-Input.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">its assessment</a> of the survey and its new draft policy for body-worn cameras. The NYPD rejected some recommendations from the Policing Project and accepted others. “Arresting officers will provide the assigned prosecutor with access to all BWC video related to an arrest utilizing the Body Worn Camera video management system,” the NYPD writes. Notably, the NYPD did not stipulate how the assigned prosecutor should then release the footage to public defenders.</p> <p dir="ltr">To Nick Malinowski, formerly of Brooklyn Defender Services and now at Vocal-NY, a grassroots organizing group, the new NYPD protocol is not enough. In a statement to Gotham Gazette, Malinowski said, “Body cameras in and of themselves are neither good, nor bad. The way they are used, who has access to the footage, matters. There is not much in the current NYPD plan to suggest it will improve transparency or accountability and certainly the history of the NYPD in this regard does not give us confidence; instead we really should understand this pilot project as an expansion of police power and surveillance.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2015, there were a total of 306,695 dispositions across all five district attorney borough offices, according <a href="http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/dispos/nyc.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">to data</a> from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. When Gotham Gazette contacted the five DA offices, none were able to provide precise data on the number of dispositions in which body camera footage was used as evidence. As the NYPD rolls out its body camera program, that fact is likely to change.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio has pledged that body cameras are “delivering the transparency and policing reforms at the center of effective and trusted law enforcement.” A lot will depend on how the cameras are used and what footage is made available to both defendants and their attorneys, and the broader public. Silberman believes that body cameras “really speak to truth and justice. This is really what our adversarial system is all about. They would speak to what actually happened. It would give us a constitutional perspective on the incident at hand, and the incident in question.”</p> <p>

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by Elena Burger, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/nypdnews-twitter-2014-vievu.jpg" alt="nypdnews twitter 2014 vievu" width="600" height="394" /></p> <p>(photo: @NYPDnews)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">In June 2016, the Policing Project at the NYU School of Law co-sponsored<a href="https://policingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Report-to-the-NYPD-Summarizing-Public-Feedback-on-BWC-Policy.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> a study</a> with the NYPD to assess sentiments regarding police body cameras, part of an effort to influence department policy as body cameras become worn by an increasing number of patrol officers. The NYPD has been gradually outfitting its officers with body cameras, in part as a result of a court order, with an initial rollout of <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/nypd-wrapping-up-body-camera-pilot-program-1456916402" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">54 cameras in 2014</a>, and 1,200 more to be added to the force this year. As part of a new contract with the city’s patrol officers union, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in early 2017 that all 23,000 patrol officers would be wearing body cameras by 2019.</p> <p dir="ltr">In implementing a body camera program, the NYPD must outline the protocols that would guide everything from circumstances under which officers must activate their cameras to the proper method of releasing footage.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Policing Project survey, which remained open for 40 days, received 25,126 responses from “individuals who identified themselves as living, working, or attending school in New York,” as well as 5,419 police officers. In <a href="http://nypdnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/NYPD_BWC-Response-to-Officer-and-Public-Input.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a study</a> conducted concurrently by the Marron Institute of Urban Management at NYU, police officers answered similar questions and were encouraged to participate by Pat Lynch, the President of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), who posted the questionnaire on the union website within days of its launch.</p> <p dir="ltr">One of the many themes in the study was the ongoing question of a defense attorney’s ability to access police body camera footage in the cases they handle with clients, who are charged with a crime by a local district attorney. Public defenders, who handle a large percentage of cases brought against poor New Yorkers, are particularly concerned about rules governing the usage of body cameras and access to footage. There were 314,870 arrests made by the NYPD in 2016, most of which were for non-violent crime.</p> <p dir="ltr">Discovery law -- the process by which defense lawyers are given access to materials by District Attorneys in cases and plea negotiations -- is inconsistently implemented across the five New York City boroughs, according to public defenders. As body cameras become ubiquitous in the NYPD -- by 2019, all<a href="https://twitter.com/NYCMayor/status/826543006870360068"> </a><a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/059-17/mayor-de-blasio-patrolmen-s-benevolent-association-reach-tentative-five-year-agreement-#/0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">members of the PBA will be wearing one</a> -- there is increased pressure from public defenders and advocacy groups like the Brennan Center for Justice, the Bronx Defenders, and the New York City Civil Liberties Union (who all submitted their own responses to the surveys) to develop comprehensive laws surrounding police-worn body cameras.</p> <p dir="ltr">When Mayor de Blasio and the PBA announced their new contract deal, the mayor said, “this agreement provides the compensation and benefits the world’s finest police department deserves, while outfitting the entire force with body cameras and delivering the transparency and policing reforms at the center of effective and trusted law enforcement.” Transparency is the lynchpin underlying calls for the proliferation of body cameras within the NYPD (and other police departments around the country); but some fear that NYPD policy and district attorney practices will not uphold the rhetoric espoused by the mayor.</p> <p dir="ltr">While police body cameras are often discussed in the context of major incidents of police brutality, it is the many thousands of lower-profile interactions between officers and members of the public that will make for virtually all of the footage taken by such cameras. Police body cameras will capture hundreds of thousands of low-level arrests each year, as well as circumstances around felonies, contentious and harmonious exchanges between police and the public, and instances where people feel that they are treated wrongly by the police and wind up bringing their own legal action.</p> <p dir="ltr">Police body cameras are heralded by many, including de Blasio, Public Advocate Letitia James, and others, as a key accountability and transparency tool. But, they also open what could be a Pandora’s Box of questions and potential pitfalls. Rules for recording and disclosure are being closely tracked by those who will be directly involved in many of the cases where body camera footage will be a factor, and red flags are being raised.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Cynthia Conti-Cook, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society, “the way prosecutors interpret discovery laws in New York State and criminal procedure law really allows the prosecutor to delay what he or she is revealing, causing many people to plead guilty before potentially vital evidence is disclosed." This can place public defenders in difficult positions – if prosecutor determines that body camera footage isn't relevant to a case, the public defender may never see it.</p> <p dir="ltr">While key factors in many legal proceedings involving police body cameras will be when the camera is turned on (and off) and what is recorded, it is illegal for prosecutors to withhold footage that could exonerate a defendant.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Debora Silberman, senior staff attorney with Brooklyn Defender Services, “prosecutors have an obligation under [the] Brady [Bill] that they are required, if there is exculpatory video, they're obligated, [by] ethical and constitutional obligations under the law, to turn that over to us, and to make that known to us.” But this doesn't necessarily mean that a public defender will have access to body camera footage, even if it does exist.</p> <p dir="ltr">Conti-Cook of Legal Aid said that if there is a recording from a body camera that was not evidence a prosecutor wants to produce in support of their case, either because it exonerated the defendant or in any way undermined police testimony or other evidence, then the way that prosecutors work, the prosecutor will likely withhold that evidence until the day of trial, hoping for a guilty plea before they were forced to disclose.</p> <p dir="ltr">When contacted for comment, multiple representatives for District Attorney offices disputed this. They claimed that the Supreme Court decision of Brady v Maryland, which established that prosecutors must turn over all exculpatory evidence, meant that body camera footage would have to be given to public defenders, regardless of whether that footage was favorable to a defendant or a police officer and D.A.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, some public defenders have expressed doubt that it is so cut and dry and closely followed in all cases.</p> <p dir="ltr">As things stand now, public defenders are looking forward to the proliferation of body cameras, largely so they can contextualize cases. A problem that defenders often point to is the short amount of time they’re given to prepare a case for a defendant. According to Conti-Cook “We have attorneys in Manhattan who don't learn the names of the complaining witnesses until the day before or the day of trial. And there's no way that you can prepare a case without having that information. So the night before they're always scrambling with coming up with a quick investigation, you prepare for the next day. But it really puts us systematically at a disadvantage when it comes to counselling our clients.”</p> <p dir="ltr">It remains unclear if body camera footage will help ease this phenomenon by providing more context, or simply be another data point that public defenders need to scramble for in the final hours before a case.</p> <p dir="ltr">The issue of evidence disclosure, including of body camera footage, is relevant to various cases, those that are tried in court and those settled pretrial. According to Silberman of Brooklyn Defender Services, “many of our cases end in a plea bargain, prior to a pretrial hearing, so we don't get the benefit of challenging the constitutionality of the search or the approach of our client...we don't get to challenge whether the police officer's observation were true or accurate, or whether they make sense in the context of the allegation.” If public defenders are able to refer to body camera footage to ascertain the full circumstances surrounding a case, they may have more leverage and even avoid some plea bargains altogether.</p> <p dir="ltr">One public defender presented a hypothetical situation as an example. A police officer is legally allowed to search a person if the officer believes they witness an exchange of drugs take place. But what if that officer is 50 feet away from the exchange when it happens, and it’s not clear what they were actually capable of seeing at the time? Body camera footage could corroborate or disprove an officer’s account of events.</p> <p dir="ltr">Even if a search yields the discovery of drugs, Silberman sees how body camera footage could be used on behalf of a defendant. “Very often, when we suspect that there has been an illegal approach of our client, and illegal search of our client, and illegal car stop, a car search, of either the car or the house, we would be challenging the constitutional grounds for the search or the approach,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Silberman also sees what she thinks can at times be the officer point of view, saying, “I think it can be easy to justify illegal behavior by convincing oneself that taking a gun off the street or taking the drugs off the street was worth the search.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“[S]o few of our cases get to the stage where we get to challenge their observation,” Silberman added. “Most of our cases plea out. Which means that you're entering a plea, you're taking a misdemeanor or a felony and possibly jail time, or probation. Before you even get to that stage, very often a prosecutor will say to you, ‘look, if I have to go to a hearing, my offer's off the table.’”</p> <p dir="ltr">There are many more pretrial hearings, when a district attorney offers evidence and a potential plea deal, than trials. “Only when you do a pretrial hearing do you get to challenge the constitutionality of the search or the approach, search through the vehicle, search of the client, search of the house,” Silberman said. “If we had a video of the kinds of observations that were made, it would be a completely different ballgame. But it's so infrequent that we even get to a stage to challenge the officer's testimony or perspective.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Right now, both district attorneys and public defenders agree that police body cameras will have a positive impact. In a statement to Gotham Gazette, a spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said that he “has long supported the use of police body cameras, which increase the civility of interactions with residents, reduce false complaints against officers, and provide potentially vital evidence for criminal investigations and prosecutions.”</p> <p dir="ltr">On the question of discovery, Vance's spokesperson said, “Our office will meet our legal obligations to provide this material in discovery, as we do with all evidence. We are confident in our ability to efficiently and effectively utilize and produce body camera evidence.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Echoing a point made by Vance, de Blasio, and others, Silberman of Brooklyn Defender Services thinks that police officers will be aided by body cameras too, saying that they “benefit public safety and officer safety. Just as much as we're concerned about the truth coming out, so are police officers. Police officers also have to deal with people making accusations of falsehoods, whether they're saying something that's not true, or whether they were being too aggressive. And if an officer is acting in accordance with the law, that is justifying all the actions that he took.”</p> <p dir="ltr">State Senator Daniel Squadron, who had co-written<a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/sites/default/files/articles/attachments/bwc_nypd_letter_2.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> a letter</a> with Assemblymember Dan Quart and Public Advocate James asking for more transparency from the NYPD, agrees. One detail that concerned Squadron, Quart, and James related to Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). In their letter to then-NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, the three elected officials outlined their worry that the cost of filing a FOIL request for body camera footage was “prohibitive” ($36,000, per the example they cited), and the procedure by which the NYPD could redact footage would undermine the ostensible purpose of body cameras: increased transparency.</p> <p dir="ltr">In response, Bratton wrote that “our working group is proceeding as expeditiously as possible, trying to balance public transparency and individual privacy.” He cited the NYU Policing Project study and closed his letter assuring the three officials that the NYPD was “exploring all options for the use of body-worn cameras by our police officers.” Bratton has since retired from the NYPD and been replaced by Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill.</p> <p dir="ltr">In a statement to Gotham Gazette, Senator Squadron said, “Body cameras can protect officers and civilians alike, but it's critical that transparency be a central component,” Squadron added he will “push to ensure that transparency and safeguarding privacy are cornerstones of body camera policies." Squadron didn’t address specific questions about district attorneys turning over body camera footage.</p> <p dir="ltr">The concurrent NYU/NYPD study did address the way in which the NYPD or district attorneys would disclose body-camera footage in criminal and civil proceedings. In conjunction with the release of the Policing Project survey results, the released NYPD <a href="http://nypdnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/NYPD_BWC-Response-to-Officer-and-Public-Input.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">its assessment</a> of the survey and its new draft policy for body-worn cameras. The NYPD rejected some recommendations from the Policing Project and accepted others. “Arresting officers will provide the assigned prosecutor with access to all BWC video related to an arrest utilizing the Body Worn Camera video management system,” the NYPD writes. Notably, the NYPD did not stipulate how the assigned prosecutor should then release the footage to public defenders.</p> <p dir="ltr">To Nick Malinowski, formerly of Brooklyn Defender Services and now at Vocal-NY, a grassroots organizing group, the new NYPD protocol is not enough. In a statement to Gotham Gazette, Malinowski said, “Body cameras in and of themselves are neither good, nor bad. The way they are used, who has access to the footage, matters. There is not much in the current NYPD plan to suggest it will improve transparency or accountability and certainly the history of the NYPD in this regard does not give us confidence; instead we really should understand this pilot project as an expansion of police power and surveillance.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2015, there were a total of 306,695 dispositions across all five district attorney borough offices, according <a href="http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/dispos/nyc.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">to data</a> from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. When Gotham Gazette contacted the five DA offices, none were able to provide precise data on the number of dispositions in which body camera footage was used as evidence. As the NYPD rolls out its body camera program, that fact is likely to change.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio has pledged that body cameras are “delivering the transparency and policing reforms at the center of effective and trusted law enforcement.” A lot will depend on how the cameras are used and what footage is made available to both defendants and their attorneys, and the broader public. Silberman believes that body cameras “really speak to truth and justice. This is really what our adversarial system is all about. They would speak to what actually happened. It would give us a constitutional perspective on the incident at hand, and the incident in question.”</p> <p>

***
by Elena Burger, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>