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/police-reform 2017-10-23T07:46:59+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Calling for True Police Reform in 2017 2017-01-17T05:00:00+00:00 2017-01-17T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6717:calling-for-true-police-reform-in-2017 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/nypd_cops_dogs_subway.jpg" alt="nypd cops dogs subway" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>NYPD officers and dogs in the subway (photo: @NYPDnews)</p> <hr /> <p>Over the past five years, in the course of our research and advocacy efforts, we at PROP have become convinced that the NYPD's unjust policies not only violate our country's central founding principle of providing equal justice for all, but also that the department's racist practices are so entrenched, so long-standing, that only fundamental and far-reaching changes can end -- really end -- abusive and discriminatory policing in our great city.</p> <p>Relevant facts and PROP findings show the dire need for real reform:<br />-In 2015 the NYPD made over 20,000 arrests for the possession or sale of small amounts of marijuana; and 92.5% of these arrests involved New Yorkers of color. This, despite the research showing that white people use and sell the drug in equal or greater proportions than African-Americans and Latinos.</p> <p>-Recently, defending his police reform record on WNYC radio, Mayor de Blasio stated, "we stopped the arrests for low-level marijuana possession." In fact, during the first nine months of 2016, the NYPD made nearly 14,000 misdemeanor arrests for marijuana possession, about 12% more than the figure for 2015.</p> <p>-The largest category of NYPD arrests in 2015 was fare evasion, with over 29,000 arrests, 92% involving New Yorkers of color. During 2015, NYPD officers also issued nearly 124,000 summonses for fare evasion, bringing the total number of punitive interactions between officers and New Yorkers for this offense to over 153,000 for the year, or an average of nearly 420 per day.</p> <p>-Of the NYPD's juvenile arrests in 2015, 94.9% involved African-American or Latino young people.</p> <p>-Of the New Yorkers locked up on Rikers Island and in other city jails, about 88% are African-American or Latino.</p> <p>-Over the past two years, PROP's Court Monitoring Project, where volunteers observe proceedings in arraignment parts of the city's four major boroughs, found that over 90% of the observed cases involved New Yorkers of color. Virtually none of the defendants was even charged with a predatory or dangerous offense.</p> <p>These and similar undeniable facts, among other things, have shown us that NYPD daily practices are marked by a stark racial bias. We know, too, that political leaders, whatever their motivations, have at worst lied to the public about this ugly truth or at best misrepresented the harsh reality of NYPD practices.</p> <p>Given our well-founded skepticism about mainstream leaders' willingness to address the problem of discriminatory and abusive policing and our understanding of how deeply embedded the problem is in the NYPD's institutional policies and culture, we at PROP have chosen as a principal strategy for 2017, a year of city-wide municipal elections, to focus our determined efforts on injecting sweeping reform proposals into the public debate.</p> <p>Our recommended changes will aim to advance substantive remedies that no mainstream politician will currently support. Not because they don't make sense or are not the right things to do, but because they are too politically charged.</p> <p>PROP's proposed reforms for fundamental change will include:<br />-Abolishing "broken windows" policing that targets low-income New Yorkers of color for engaging in petty infractions that have been virtually decriminalized in well-off white communities.</p> <p>-Eliminating the quota system for evaluating officers' performance that emphasizes only their punitive interactions with New Yorkers and that, in effect, incentivizes bad policing.</p> <p>-Reducing the budget, personnel, resources, and power of the NYPD -- the guiding principle being, in part, the time-honored shibboleth that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely," applied to the unchecked power of the NYPD.</p> <p>-Transferring traffic enforcement -- in 2015, NYPD officers issued over 1 million traffic summonses -- to another government agency.</p> <p>-Having mental health professionals, not police officers, be the first responders to emergencies involving persons in psychiatric crisis.</p> <p>America teaches her young people that she provides equal justice for all, not equal justice for all except if you're a person of color, except if you're poor. America teaches that under her legal system, you're innocent until proven guilty, not that you're innocent until proven guilty except if you're poor, except if you're an American of color.</p> <p>Our goal for 2017 is grandiose and, admittedly, quixotic: to, starting with New York City, call America home, to create an America, starting with the Big Apple, that adheres to the founding principles of which she is so justifiably proud. And it's only by agreeing to and instituting fundamental and far-reaching changes, starting with her policing and criminal justice systems, that America can fulfill its stated vision of a just, livable, and inclusive society for all its people.</p> <p>***<br />Bob Gangi is the executive director of PROP, the Police Reform Organizing Project. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/PROPNYC" target="_blank">@PROPNYC</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/nypd_cops_dogs_subway.jpg" alt="nypd cops dogs subway" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>NYPD officers and dogs in the subway (photo: @NYPDnews)</p> <hr /> <p>Over the past five years, in the course of our research and advocacy efforts, we at PROP have become convinced that the NYPD's unjust policies not only violate our country's central founding principle of providing equal justice for all, but also that the department's racist practices are so entrenched, so long-standing, that only fundamental and far-reaching changes can end -- really end -- abusive and discriminatory policing in our great city.</p> <p>Relevant facts and PROP findings show the dire need for real reform:<br />-In 2015 the NYPD made over 20,000 arrests for the possession or sale of small amounts of marijuana; and 92.5% of these arrests involved New Yorkers of color. This, despite the research showing that white people use and sell the drug in equal or greater proportions than African-Americans and Latinos.</p> <p>-Recently, defending his police reform record on WNYC radio, Mayor de Blasio stated, "we stopped the arrests for low-level marijuana possession." In fact, during the first nine months of 2016, the NYPD made nearly 14,000 misdemeanor arrests for marijuana possession, about 12% more than the figure for 2015.</p> <p>-The largest category of NYPD arrests in 2015 was fare evasion, with over 29,000 arrests, 92% involving New Yorkers of color. During 2015, NYPD officers also issued nearly 124,000 summonses for fare evasion, bringing the total number of punitive interactions between officers and New Yorkers for this offense to over 153,000 for the year, or an average of nearly 420 per day.</p> <p>-Of the NYPD's juvenile arrests in 2015, 94.9% involved African-American or Latino young people.</p> <p>-Of the New Yorkers locked up on Rikers Island and in other city jails, about 88% are African-American or Latino.</p> <p>-Over the past two years, PROP's Court Monitoring Project, where volunteers observe proceedings in arraignment parts of the city's four major boroughs, found that over 90% of the observed cases involved New Yorkers of color. Virtually none of the defendants was even charged with a predatory or dangerous offense.</p> <p>These and similar undeniable facts, among other things, have shown us that NYPD daily practices are marked by a stark racial bias. We know, too, that political leaders, whatever their motivations, have at worst lied to the public about this ugly truth or at best misrepresented the harsh reality of NYPD practices.</p> <p>Given our well-founded skepticism about mainstream leaders' willingness to address the problem of discriminatory and abusive policing and our understanding of how deeply embedded the problem is in the NYPD's institutional policies and culture, we at PROP have chosen as a principal strategy for 2017, a year of city-wide municipal elections, to focus our determined efforts on injecting sweeping reform proposals into the public debate.</p> <p>Our recommended changes will aim to advance substantive remedies that no mainstream politician will currently support. Not because they don't make sense or are not the right things to do, but because they are too politically charged.</p> <p>PROP's proposed reforms for fundamental change will include:<br />-Abolishing "broken windows" policing that targets low-income New Yorkers of color for engaging in petty infractions that have been virtually decriminalized in well-off white communities.</p> <p>-Eliminating the quota system for evaluating officers' performance that emphasizes only their punitive interactions with New Yorkers and that, in effect, incentivizes bad policing.</p> <p>-Reducing the budget, personnel, resources, and power of the NYPD -- the guiding principle being, in part, the time-honored shibboleth that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely," applied to the unchecked power of the NYPD.</p> <p>-Transferring traffic enforcement -- in 2015, NYPD officers issued over 1 million traffic summonses -- to another government agency.</p> <p>-Having mental health professionals, not police officers, be the first responders to emergencies involving persons in psychiatric crisis.</p> <p>America teaches her young people that she provides equal justice for all, not equal justice for all except if you're a person of color, except if you're poor. America teaches that under her legal system, you're innocent until proven guilty, not that you're innocent until proven guilty except if you're poor, except if you're an American of color.</p> <p>Our goal for 2017 is grandiose and, admittedly, quixotic: to, starting with New York City, call America home, to create an America, starting with the Big Apple, that adheres to the founding principles of which she is so justifiably proud. And it's only by agreeing to and instituting fundamental and far-reaching changes, starting with her policing and criminal justice systems, that America can fulfill its stated vision of a just, livable, and inclusive society for all its people.</p> <p>***<br />Bob Gangi is the executive director of PROP, the Police Reform Organizing Project. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/PROPNYC" target="_blank">@PROPNYC</a>.</p> <p>

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Bill de Blasio’s Police Accountability Problem 2016-12-28T05:00:00+00:00 2016-12-28T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6690:bill-de-blasio-s-police-accountability-problem Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27420695870_bbf551278b_z.jpg" alt="de blasio nypd headquarters" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign account recently posted a Twitter message touting the NYPD’s neighborhood policing initiative. “New York City is proving to the rest of the country that respectful, compassionate neighborhood policing drives down crime &amp; makes us safer,” <a href="https://twitter.com/BilldeBlasio/status/811357299172376576" target="_blank">the tweet</a> from @BilldeBlasio read.</p> <p>In a response symbolic of a problem de Blasio is facing as he heads into his re-election year, Lumumba Bandele <a href="https://twitter.com/Lumumbabandele/status/811385620522270720" target="_blank">tweeted</a> his response to de Blasio: “You &amp; #NYPD are in no position to talk about respect &amp; compassion.” Bandele then cited the fact that the police officers who killed Ramarley Graham, an unarmed black teenager shot to death in 2012, and “others,” likely a reference including Eric Garner, are still employed by the city.</p> <p>Bandele identifies himself on Twitter as an organizer, writer, producer, and professor from Bedford-Stuyvesant. His mention of Ramarley Graham came as there has been increased attention from police reform activists to pressure de Blasio to proceed with an NYPD trial for Officer Richard Haste and the others involved in <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ramarley-graham-nypd-richard-haste_us_567455d4e4b0b958f6567aa0" target="_blank">Graham’s death</a>. NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill recently announced that such a trial was likely to begin in early 2017.</p> <p>The new year, de Blasio’s fourth as mayor, is also expected to see movement regarding accountability for Officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose chokehold led to Garner’s 2014 death during an attempted arrest. A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo in 2014, and the federal Department of Justice has been investigating his actions, which, according to de Blasio and the NYPD, has kept the city from moving ahead with any of its own disciplinary procedure.</p> <p>As the mayor kicks off his re-election campaign, police reform activists, including some elected officials, are frustrated with de Blasio for what they see as a failure to live up to his 2013 promise as a police reformer, especially with regard to increasing accountability at the NYPD. While these two high-profile cases may soon see developments, advocates say that punishment for officers takes far too long and is far too soft, and that on holding officers accountable for inappropriate or illegal behavior, the mayor has done nothing systemic to change NYPD culture.</p> <p>For his part, de Blasio argues that he has been the reformer he said he would be, that he has overseen major changes to policing in New York City while both crime and arrests have declined. De Blasio, a Democrat, has been battling perceptions that he is "anti-cop" and would be soft on crime since his 2013 campaign. While he has mostly assuaged the latter, the former persists in some corners, perhaps contibuting to a lack of action in addressing accountabiity, even as, on the other side of the equation, reformers believe he has not been tough enough on badly-behaving officers.</p> <p>Some reform advocates do give de Blasio credit for following through on elements of his campaign rhetoric, which had a significant focus on policing as part of his larger call for greater equity. But, they are quick to note that de Blasio’s efforts have not extended into essential areas of transparency and accountability.</p> <p>City Council Member Jumaane Williams and members of Communities United for Police Reform, for example, acknowledge that de Blasio has overseen certain tactical changes at the NYPD, like instituting a new training regime focused on de-escalation, continuing to reduce street stops, and a more lenient approach to marijuana arrests. But, they believe that it amounts to little if it is not accompanied by major changes to how police officers are dealt with when they abuse their power, especially around excessive use of force.</p> <p>Real culture change, they say, requires both front- and back-end reform -- new training, strategies, and directives, as well as beefed up oversight and increased transparency and accountability. At the same time de Blasio has been criticized for doing little on officer accountability, after decades of doing so the NYPD stopped making public a weekly update on officer disciplinary actions, citing their realization that they had been violating a state law.</p> <p>When de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill held an early December press conference to announce low crime in the city, Communities United put out a press release saying, “As Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner O’Neill gave briefing on crime data from November, they continued to ignore alleged abuses and misconduct during month.” The release linked to more than two dozen news articles about alleged police abuses or a lack of transparency into the NYPD.</p> <p>“There’s a lot of talk about building relationships and building trust between communities and police,” but “our position is, hold up, in order for us to have trust, we need greater accountability,” said Monifa Bandele, a vice president at Moms Rising, a national organization that in New York is part of Communities United for Police Reform. Bandele spoke with Gotham Gazette after CPR held a mid-December press conference calling for new measures to improve transparency and accountability in the NYPD. Police officers regularly violate people’s rights, she said, but “nothing seems to come of it.”</p> <p>CPR and a majority of City Council members want to see the Right to Know Act passed. The legislation would require police officers to provide more information to people they are stopping on the street, including identification. Despite majority support, the Right to Know Act has stalled in the City Council because de Blasio does not support it, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has not allowed it to come to a vote, and other Council members have been <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6478-procedural-move-could-lead-to-vote-on-right-to-know-act" target="_blank">unwilling to move it to a vote</a> without the speaker’s blessing. Mark-Viverito did announce <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/13/nyregion/new-york-city-council-will-not-vote-on-police-reform-measures.html?_r=0" target="_blank">a compromise</a> with the NYPD to institute elements of the legislation through NYPD training and the patrol guide.</p> <p>Council Member Williams is one sponsor of the Right to Know Act, and while he wants to see more from de Blasio and the NYPD, he also says that there has been progress. In an interview, Williams said that there probably hasn’t been enough credit given to de Blasio for some of the change, but that that is a result of other failings.</p> <p>“It’s very real that when it comes to transparency and accountability we’re no better than any other city in this nation and that’s a problem, we should be leading this effort,” Williams said.</p> <p>“One of the best ways to change behaviors is to make sure people feel there’s accountability for that behavior,” said Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat. “So those are the type of things that I think people have yet to see and they’re very concerned about it and it’s what he campaigned on so I think people have an expectation to see it.”</p> <p>Williams said he’s pleased about neighborhood policing, street stops continuing to decrease, and marijuana arrests being down, but that the city still needs to look at the racial breakdown, the percentages by demographic group, of some of the stops and arrest data. It is a sentiment echoed by leaders from Communities United for Police Reform, an umbrella group, as well as PROP, the Police Reform Organizing Project, which monitors arrest data and court proceedings. These activists say that it is good that a number of metrics are trending downward overall, but that disproportionate racial disparities persist on everything from street stops to summonses and arrests for all types of low-level crimes.</p> <p>“I would love to hear a coherent answer on that,” Williams said when asked why he thinks de Blasio hasn’t been more aggressive on the transparency and accountability aspects of police reform.</p> <p>Asked recently about the issue, de Blasio told WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer that he believes he’s lived up to his promises on policing and that disciplinary matters are done on a case-by-case basis.</p> <p>“What did I say we were going to do? We were going to greatly decrease the use of stop-and-frisk. We did that. We were going to institute neighborhood policing. We’re doing that. We were going to stop the things that were causing a rift between police and community. For example, we stopped the arrest for low-level marijuana possession. You know, we are now doing an entirely different training regimen for our cops including de-escalation when there are encounters with civilians. We’re starting implicit bias training at the NYPD – a huge step forward for the largest police department in the country,” de Blasio <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/ask-mayor-december-7" target="_blank">said December 7 on WNYC</a>.</p> <p>The mayor continued: “I think folks who want reform should look at all that – all the things that they had said they wanted are actually happening. In terms of the disciplinary cases, each and every one of those is going to be seen through. As you know, the Garner case, right now, is in the hands of the U.S. Justice Department. When they finish their process, if they do not bring charges, there will be disciplinary action determined through the NYPD’s due process.”</p> <p>“So, I don’t put those pieces together the same way that some critics do,” de Blasio said. “I think we have made steady progress on police reform.”</p> <p>To support his point, de Blasio said that the city has “reinvigorated” the Civilian Complaint Review Board, a nominally independent agency that hears civilian complaints about the NYPD, holds hearings, and recommends punishments. Under de Blasio, complaints against police officers to the CCRB have dropped, something the mayor regularly cites. He mentioned it on WNYC earlier this month, while also bringing up the NYPD Inspector General, a position created through City Council legislation co-sponsored by Council Members Williams and Brad Lander, de Blasio’s successor in the City Council from Park Slope, and passed over the veto of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg (de Blasio was supportive of the legislation as public advocate at the time).</p> <p>“We have so many elements of reform that some of these same advocates said, for years, would change everything,” de Blasio said on WNYC. “We’re doing it. And body cameras – in the course of this year, you’re going to see body cameras starting to be introduced on a large level in New York City. They will be expanded greatly from there.”</p> <p>One problem that reformers point to in de Blasio’s argument is that the NYPD commissioner continues to possess discretion as to what extent he or she follows CCRB recommendations on officer punishment and that discretion almost always leads to a lesser penalty, often significantly so. Officers who use excessive force, for example, may be docked a few vacation days as opposed to being suspended without pay or worse. Advocates want “zero tolerance” for officers who violate the rights of civilians.</p> <p>Citizens Union, a government reform organization, recently published <a href="http://www.citizensunion.org/issue_briefs_and_position_statements" target="_blank">a new set</a> of recommendations for streamlining and improving police accountability, including changes to the process by which officers are disciplined. This was a follow up to <a href="https://echalk-slate-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/private/districts/466/resources/58037ee5-1d5b-4b41-abd8-e022e3443b9b?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIZQPKIVDQVS7TUJA&amp;Expires=1790851945&amp;response-content-disposition=%3Bfilename%3D%22CUReport_AccountabilityPoliceMisconduct%281%29.pdf%22&amp;response-content-type=application%2Fpdf&amp;Signature=c7X31savzsVG9GkOlVMFSH5f6sY%3D" target="_blank">a 2012 Citizens Union report</a> that analyzed more than ten years of CCRB and NYPD data, raising significant questions about officer discipline -- it found that “The NYPD almost always did not follow CCRB recommendations to administer the most severe penalty despite the fact that the CCRB shows great discretion in accepting and investigating complaints against police officers.”</p> <p>De Blasio, who has had a contentious relationship with the main union representing rank-and-file NYPD officers, has repeatedly deflected discussion of police accountability by focusing on the new training that officers are getting, arguing that it and other reforms are preventing bad actions by officers, and reducing negative interactions between officers and members of the public.</p> <p>Along with tougher sanctions on officers who use excessive force or otherwise break protocol, Williams, CPR, and others want to see movement on the Right to Know Act and another bill, sponsored by Council Member Rory Lancman, to make police chokeholds illegal -- they are currently banned by NYPD policy, but critics say this has not deterred officers from using them, as seen in Garner’s death. (Even if made illegal, chokeholds, like any other use of force, would be allowable under law when an officer’s life is in danger.)</p> <p>According to Monifa Bandele of Moms Rising, the Right to Know Act would build on the progress of the Community Safety Act. She said that children come home having had an interaction with police that they felt was unjustified or abusive, but can’t tell their parents who the officer was. “It’s hard to have accountability when you don’t know who you’ve interacted with,” she said, noting that adults often have the same issue. “Transparency, which is what the Right to Know Act is rooted in, is very key to get to accountability,” Bandele said, adding that officers seem to know that “there won’t be any consequences to violating the rights of New Yorkers.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for de Blasio argued that “The mayor has delivered the farthest reaching criminal justice reforms of any mayor in the city’s history," but did not address questions around officer accountability and punishment for officers who violate rules and laws.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration is currently <a href="http://changethenypd.org/releases/elected-officials-advocates-file-legal-action-supporting-release-summary-misconduct-record" target="_blank">being sued</a> by Legal Aid Society and others over its refusal to release the discipline records of Officer Pantaleo, whose chokehold led to Eric Garner’s death. This, in combination with the change in policy around what had been a weekly posting of officer promotions and disciplinary action at NYPD headquarters has led to claims of backsliding on transparency and accountability.</p> <p>“Without transparency about past disciplinary records when the CCRB finds an officer has committed misconduct, how can there be any real accountability?” asked Council Member Lander in <a href="http://changethenypd.org/releases/elected-officials-advocates-file-legal-action-supporting-release-summary-misconduct-record" target="_blank">a statement</a>. “[I]f the NYPD can dismiss or downgrade the CCRB's charges secretly, and the public never knows about patterns of repeat offenders, how can communities be asked to trust the system? That’s why we are deeply distressed by the NYPD’s recent decision to suddenly reverse course on a decades-old practice of transparency, and why we’re joining the call today to release records pertaining to complaints against Officer Daniel Pantaleo.”</p> <p>Pantaleo has been on modified duty since Garner’s death, but he continues to draw his NYPD salary, and was even found to be collecting significant overtime pay -- something that the NYPD quickly moved to address when <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2016/09/officer-in-eric-garner-death-boosts-overtime-pay-105359" target="_blank">Politico New York reported it</a>. Overtime limits or not, modified duty is not enough for Pantaleo or other officers accused of wrongdoing, advocates for reform say.</p> <p>Monifa Bandele said her teenage children are told the rules at school, but if they violate them, there are consequences. “Accountability is what we want from Bill de Blasio,” she said. “He’s done great things,” she added, noting universal pre-kindergarten and paid sick leave, “but what about policing -- this is an issue that Bill de Blasio ran on...it’s what separated him from the rest of the pack.”</p> <p>It’s unclear at this point what “the pack” will look like as the mayor seeks re-election in 2017, but Bandele said “I don’t know” when asked if de Blasio has done enough good to warrant her support this time around. She indicated there’s still time for him to show real commitment to police reform by focusing on the transparency and accountability elements.</p> <p>Congressional Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a Brooklyn Democrat, has been an outspoken critic of de Blasio and is talked about as a potential mayoral candidate, though he has said he is not planning to run. At a September press conference outside NYPD headquarters, Jeffries said, “The administration said to us that they would be transparent as it relates to the issue of the police and the tension with the community. Instead, they’ve retreated, and declined to provide information on rogue officers who don’t deserve to wear the blue uniform any further. The de Blasio administration promised the people of the City of New York that we would receive meaningful police reform and instead we’ve gotten more of the same. That is shameful. And we will no longer tolerate it.”</p> <p>Public opinion polls consistently show de Blasio with strong support among African-Americans, especially relative to white New Yorkers. Asked about this and whether people of color should support de Blasio, Council Member Williams said, “Well I think none of our support should be taken for granted so I would tell my constituents ‘don’t give anybody your support without asking hard questions and having them respond.’”</p> <p>As for whether he plans to back de Blasio (seven of Williams’ colleagues recently announced their endorsements of the mayor for re-election), Williams said, “He’s the person I supported before, I think I am inclined to still support him, but not without hearing a lot of answers on police reform issues and housing issues, these are really affecting my constituents because I think there are glaring problems in what we want to accomplish in this city and what’s been done.”</p> <p>“There has been movement,” Williams added, making sure to acknowledge progress. “We said we were going to push wholesale, systematic differences and changes and I don’t think that’s come about and people have a right to hear, well, ‘why hasn’t it and what’s going to be different in the next campaign?’ So all i’m going to tell my constituents: let’s wait and hear what those answers are.”</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: Monifa and Lumumba Bandele are married. Separately, this reporter noticed the Lumumba Bandele tweet mentioned in the beginning of the story and came across Monifa Bandele at the press conference mentioned, later confirming the relationship.</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/27420695870_bbf551278b_z.jpg" alt="de blasio nypd headquarters" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign account recently posted a Twitter message touting the NYPD’s neighborhood policing initiative. “New York City is proving to the rest of the country that respectful, compassionate neighborhood policing drives down crime &amp; makes us safer,” <a href="https://twitter.com/BilldeBlasio/status/811357299172376576" target="_blank">the tweet</a> from @BilldeBlasio read.</p> <p>In a response symbolic of a problem de Blasio is facing as he heads into his re-election year, Lumumba Bandele <a href="https://twitter.com/Lumumbabandele/status/811385620522270720" target="_blank">tweeted</a> his response to de Blasio: “You &amp; #NYPD are in no position to talk about respect &amp; compassion.” Bandele then cited the fact that the police officers who killed Ramarley Graham, an unarmed black teenager shot to death in 2012, and “others,” likely a reference including Eric Garner, are still employed by the city.</p> <p>Bandele identifies himself on Twitter as an organizer, writer, producer, and professor from Bedford-Stuyvesant. His mention of Ramarley Graham came as there has been increased attention from police reform activists to pressure de Blasio to proceed with an NYPD trial for Officer Richard Haste and the others involved in <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ramarley-graham-nypd-richard-haste_us_567455d4e4b0b958f6567aa0" target="_blank">Graham’s death</a>. NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill recently announced that such a trial was likely to begin in early 2017.</p> <p>The new year, de Blasio’s fourth as mayor, is also expected to see movement regarding accountability for Officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose chokehold led to Garner’s 2014 death during an attempted arrest. A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo in 2014, and the federal Department of Justice has been investigating his actions, which, according to de Blasio and the NYPD, has kept the city from moving ahead with any of its own disciplinary procedure.</p> <p>As the mayor kicks off his re-election campaign, police reform activists, including some elected officials, are frustrated with de Blasio for what they see as a failure to live up to his 2013 promise as a police reformer, especially with regard to increasing accountability at the NYPD. While these two high-profile cases may soon see developments, advocates say that punishment for officers takes far too long and is far too soft, and that on holding officers accountable for inappropriate or illegal behavior, the mayor has done nothing systemic to change NYPD culture.</p> <p>For his part, de Blasio argues that he has been the reformer he said he would be, that he has overseen major changes to policing in New York City while both crime and arrests have declined. De Blasio, a Democrat, has been battling perceptions that he is "anti-cop" and would be soft on crime since his 2013 campaign. While he has mostly assuaged the latter, the former persists in some corners, perhaps contibuting to a lack of action in addressing accountabiity, even as, on the other side of the equation, reformers believe he has not been tough enough on badly-behaving officers.</p> <p>Some reform advocates do give de Blasio credit for following through on elements of his campaign rhetoric, which had a significant focus on policing as part of his larger call for greater equity. But, they are quick to note that de Blasio’s efforts have not extended into essential areas of transparency and accountability.</p> <p>City Council Member Jumaane Williams and members of Communities United for Police Reform, for example, acknowledge that de Blasio has overseen certain tactical changes at the NYPD, like instituting a new training regime focused on de-escalation, continuing to reduce street stops, and a more lenient approach to marijuana arrests. But, they believe that it amounts to little if it is not accompanied by major changes to how police officers are dealt with when they abuse their power, especially around excessive use of force.</p> <p>Real culture change, they say, requires both front- and back-end reform -- new training, strategies, and directives, as well as beefed up oversight and increased transparency and accountability. At the same time de Blasio has been criticized for doing little on officer accountability, after decades of doing so the NYPD stopped making public a weekly update on officer disciplinary actions, citing their realization that they had been violating a state law.</p> <p>When de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill held an early December press conference to announce low crime in the city, Communities United put out a press release saying, “As Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner O’Neill gave briefing on crime data from November, they continued to ignore alleged abuses and misconduct during month.” The release linked to more than two dozen news articles about alleged police abuses or a lack of transparency into the NYPD.</p> <p>“There’s a lot of talk about building relationships and building trust between communities and police,” but “our position is, hold up, in order for us to have trust, we need greater accountability,” said Monifa Bandele, a vice president at Moms Rising, a national organization that in New York is part of Communities United for Police Reform. Bandele spoke with Gotham Gazette after CPR held a mid-December press conference calling for new measures to improve transparency and accountability in the NYPD. Police officers regularly violate people’s rights, she said, but “nothing seems to come of it.”</p> <p>CPR and a majority of City Council members want to see the Right to Know Act passed. The legislation would require police officers to provide more information to people they are stopping on the street, including identification. Despite majority support, the Right to Know Act has stalled in the City Council because de Blasio does not support it, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has not allowed it to come to a vote, and other Council members have been <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6478-procedural-move-could-lead-to-vote-on-right-to-know-act" target="_blank">unwilling to move it to a vote</a> without the speaker’s blessing. Mark-Viverito did announce <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/13/nyregion/new-york-city-council-will-not-vote-on-police-reform-measures.html?_r=0" target="_blank">a compromise</a> with the NYPD to institute elements of the legislation through NYPD training and the patrol guide.</p> <p>Council Member Williams is one sponsor of the Right to Know Act, and while he wants to see more from de Blasio and the NYPD, he also says that there has been progress. In an interview, Williams said that there probably hasn’t been enough credit given to de Blasio for some of the change, but that that is a result of other failings.</p> <p>“It’s very real that when it comes to transparency and accountability we’re no better than any other city in this nation and that’s a problem, we should be leading this effort,” Williams said.</p> <p>“One of the best ways to change behaviors is to make sure people feel there’s accountability for that behavior,” said Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat. “So those are the type of things that I think people have yet to see and they’re very concerned about it and it’s what he campaigned on so I think people have an expectation to see it.”</p> <p>Williams said he’s pleased about neighborhood policing, street stops continuing to decrease, and marijuana arrests being down, but that the city still needs to look at the racial breakdown, the percentages by demographic group, of some of the stops and arrest data. It is a sentiment echoed by leaders from Communities United for Police Reform, an umbrella group, as well as PROP, the Police Reform Organizing Project, which monitors arrest data and court proceedings. These activists say that it is good that a number of metrics are trending downward overall, but that disproportionate racial disparities persist on everything from street stops to summonses and arrests for all types of low-level crimes.</p> <p>“I would love to hear a coherent answer on that,” Williams said when asked why he thinks de Blasio hasn’t been more aggressive on the transparency and accountability aspects of police reform.</p> <p>Asked recently about the issue, de Blasio told WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer that he believes he’s lived up to his promises on policing and that disciplinary matters are done on a case-by-case basis.</p> <p>“What did I say we were going to do? We were going to greatly decrease the use of stop-and-frisk. We did that. We were going to institute neighborhood policing. We’re doing that. We were going to stop the things that were causing a rift between police and community. For example, we stopped the arrest for low-level marijuana possession. You know, we are now doing an entirely different training regimen for our cops including de-escalation when there are encounters with civilians. We’re starting implicit bias training at the NYPD – a huge step forward for the largest police department in the country,” de Blasio <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/ask-mayor-december-7" target="_blank">said December 7 on WNYC</a>.</p> <p>The mayor continued: “I think folks who want reform should look at all that – all the things that they had said they wanted are actually happening. In terms of the disciplinary cases, each and every one of those is going to be seen through. As you know, the Garner case, right now, is in the hands of the U.S. Justice Department. When they finish their process, if they do not bring charges, there will be disciplinary action determined through the NYPD’s due process.”</p> <p>“So, I don’t put those pieces together the same way that some critics do,” de Blasio said. “I think we have made steady progress on police reform.”</p> <p>To support his point, de Blasio said that the city has “reinvigorated” the Civilian Complaint Review Board, a nominally independent agency that hears civilian complaints about the NYPD, holds hearings, and recommends punishments. Under de Blasio, complaints against police officers to the CCRB have dropped, something the mayor regularly cites. He mentioned it on WNYC earlier this month, while also bringing up the NYPD Inspector General, a position created through City Council legislation co-sponsored by Council Members Williams and Brad Lander, de Blasio’s successor in the City Council from Park Slope, and passed over the veto of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg (de Blasio was supportive of the legislation as public advocate at the time).</p> <p>“We have so many elements of reform that some of these same advocates said, for years, would change everything,” de Blasio said on WNYC. “We’re doing it. And body cameras – in the course of this year, you’re going to see body cameras starting to be introduced on a large level in New York City. They will be expanded greatly from there.”</p> <p>One problem that reformers point to in de Blasio’s argument is that the NYPD commissioner continues to possess discretion as to what extent he or she follows CCRB recommendations on officer punishment and that discretion almost always leads to a lesser penalty, often significantly so. Officers who use excessive force, for example, may be docked a few vacation days as opposed to being suspended without pay or worse. Advocates want “zero tolerance” for officers who violate the rights of civilians.</p> <p>Citizens Union, a government reform organization, recently published <a href="http://www.citizensunion.org/issue_briefs_and_position_statements" target="_blank">a new set</a> of recommendations for streamlining and improving police accountability, including changes to the process by which officers are disciplined. This was a follow up to <a href="https://echalk-slate-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/private/districts/466/resources/58037ee5-1d5b-4b41-abd8-e022e3443b9b?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIZQPKIVDQVS7TUJA&amp;Expires=1790851945&amp;response-content-disposition=%3Bfilename%3D%22CUReport_AccountabilityPoliceMisconduct%281%29.pdf%22&amp;response-content-type=application%2Fpdf&amp;Signature=c7X31savzsVG9GkOlVMFSH5f6sY%3D" target="_blank">a 2012 Citizens Union report</a> that analyzed more than ten years of CCRB and NYPD data, raising significant questions about officer discipline -- it found that “The NYPD almost always did not follow CCRB recommendations to administer the most severe penalty despite the fact that the CCRB shows great discretion in accepting and investigating complaints against police officers.”</p> <p>De Blasio, who has had a contentious relationship with the main union representing rank-and-file NYPD officers, has repeatedly deflected discussion of police accountability by focusing on the new training that officers are getting, arguing that it and other reforms are preventing bad actions by officers, and reducing negative interactions between officers and members of the public.</p> <p>Along with tougher sanctions on officers who use excessive force or otherwise break protocol, Williams, CPR, and others want to see movement on the Right to Know Act and another bill, sponsored by Council Member Rory Lancman, to make police chokeholds illegal -- they are currently banned by NYPD policy, but critics say this has not deterred officers from using them, as seen in Garner’s death. (Even if made illegal, chokeholds, like any other use of force, would be allowable under law when an officer’s life is in danger.)</p> <p>According to Monifa Bandele of Moms Rising, the Right to Know Act would build on the progress of the Community Safety Act. She said that children come home having had an interaction with police that they felt was unjustified or abusive, but can’t tell their parents who the officer was. “It’s hard to have accountability when you don’t know who you’ve interacted with,” she said, noting that adults often have the same issue. “Transparency, which is what the Right to Know Act is rooted in, is very key to get to accountability,” Bandele said, adding that officers seem to know that “there won’t be any consequences to violating the rights of New Yorkers.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for de Blasio argued that “The mayor has delivered the farthest reaching criminal justice reforms of any mayor in the city’s history," but did not address questions around officer accountability and punishment for officers who violate rules and laws.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration is currently <a href="http://changethenypd.org/releases/elected-officials-advocates-file-legal-action-supporting-release-summary-misconduct-record" target="_blank">being sued</a> by Legal Aid Society and others over its refusal to release the discipline records of Officer Pantaleo, whose chokehold led to Eric Garner’s death. This, in combination with the change in policy around what had been a weekly posting of officer promotions and disciplinary action at NYPD headquarters has led to claims of backsliding on transparency and accountability.</p> <p>“Without transparency about past disciplinary records when the CCRB finds an officer has committed misconduct, how can there be any real accountability?” asked Council Member Lander in <a href="http://changethenypd.org/releases/elected-officials-advocates-file-legal-action-supporting-release-summary-misconduct-record" target="_blank">a statement</a>. “[I]f the NYPD can dismiss or downgrade the CCRB's charges secretly, and the public never knows about patterns of repeat offenders, how can communities be asked to trust the system? That’s why we are deeply distressed by the NYPD’s recent decision to suddenly reverse course on a decades-old practice of transparency, and why we’re joining the call today to release records pertaining to complaints against Officer Daniel Pantaleo.”</p> <p>Pantaleo has been on modified duty since Garner’s death, but he continues to draw his NYPD salary, and was even found to be collecting significant overtime pay -- something that the NYPD quickly moved to address when <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2016/09/officer-in-eric-garner-death-boosts-overtime-pay-105359" target="_blank">Politico New York reported it</a>. Overtime limits or not, modified duty is not enough for Pantaleo or other officers accused of wrongdoing, advocates for reform say.</p> <p>Monifa Bandele said her teenage children are told the rules at school, but if they violate them, there are consequences. “Accountability is what we want from Bill de Blasio,” she said. “He’s done great things,” she added, noting universal pre-kindergarten and paid sick leave, “but what about policing -- this is an issue that Bill de Blasio ran on...it’s what separated him from the rest of the pack.”</p> <p>It’s unclear at this point what “the pack” will look like as the mayor seeks re-election in 2017, but Bandele said “I don’t know” when asked if de Blasio has done enough good to warrant her support this time around. She indicated there’s still time for him to show real commitment to police reform by focusing on the transparency and accountability elements.</p> <p>Congressional Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a Brooklyn Democrat, has been an outspoken critic of de Blasio and is talked about as a potential mayoral candidate, though he has said he is not planning to run. At a September press conference outside NYPD headquarters, Jeffries said, “The administration said to us that they would be transparent as it relates to the issue of the police and the tension with the community. Instead, they’ve retreated, and declined to provide information on rogue officers who don’t deserve to wear the blue uniform any further. The de Blasio administration promised the people of the City of New York that we would receive meaningful police reform and instead we’ve gotten more of the same. That is shameful. And we will no longer tolerate it.”</p> <p>Public opinion polls consistently show de Blasio with strong support among African-Americans, especially relative to white New Yorkers. Asked about this and whether people of color should support de Blasio, Council Member Williams said, “Well I think none of our support should be taken for granted so I would tell my constituents ‘don’t give anybody your support without asking hard questions and having them respond.’”</p> <p>As for whether he plans to back de Blasio (seven of Williams’ colleagues recently announced their endorsements of the mayor for re-election), Williams said, “He’s the person I supported before, I think I am inclined to still support him, but not without hearing a lot of answers on police reform issues and housing issues, these are really affecting my constituents because I think there are glaring problems in what we want to accomplish in this city and what’s been done.”</p> <p>“There has been movement,” Williams added, making sure to acknowledge progress. “We said we were going to push wholesale, systematic differences and changes and I don’t think that’s come about and people have a right to hear, well, ‘why hasn’t it and what’s going to be different in the next campaign?’ So all i’m going to tell my constituents: let’s wait and hear what those answers are.”</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: Monifa and Lumumba Bandele are married. Separately, this reporter noticed the Lumumba Bandele tweet mentioned in the beginning of the story and came across Monifa Bandele at the press conference mentioned, later confirming the relationship.</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
Working with The Next Police Commissioner 2016-08-09T04:00:00+00:00 2016-08-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6472:working-with-the-next-police-commissioner Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/williams_king_deblasio.jpg" alt="williams king deblasio" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>City Council Member Jumaane Williams, the author (photo: Jeff Reed)</p> <hr /> <p>Given where we are in the policing discussion in this city and country, and the acknowledgement of how deeply systemic the problems lie, focusing on the departure or hiring of any one Commissioner has always simplified a complex problem. I have never known a time when people were not calling for the removal of an NYPD Commissioner as the solution to policing issues in our city.</p> <p>It was right for many of us to express concerns when Commissioner Bill Bratton was chosen, given troublesome incidents in Boston, Los Angeles, and right here in New York City. It was also our duty to point out clearly and boldly when we thought he was not helping us steer the conversation in the right direction. Indeed, there were times when Commissioner Bratton showed contempt for the City Council's role in government. The Police Department is not an agency unto itself, free of the city&rsquo;s legislative body. The Commissioner has also, at times, used language that ranged from insensitive to incendiary and dangerous.</p> <p>Still, we would be wrong to say that no change has occurred during his tenure.</p> <p>We can argue about what the changes that have occurred mean, how effective they are and will eventually be, but we cannot ignore them. While there are still issues with the percentage breakdown by race of who is getting stopped and arrested, there have been significant drops in stop-question-and-frisks and marijuana arrests. The Neighborhood Coordination Officers Program, while not true community policing, is a good attempt to move away from focusing on arrests and summonses. There have been legislative victories, collaborations, and of course, the retraining of the entire force -- all while pushing crime to historic lows.</p> <p>It takes many partners to deal with public safety and NYPD has a crucial role.</p> <p>With all that said, we are not where many of us thought we would be in 2016, particularly in the areas of trust and accountability. In these areas improvement has been slow, even stagnant. This is where <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6470-bratton-departure-comes-with-silver-lining-for-de-blasio" target="_blank">the new Commissioner, James O'Neill</a>, whom I've grown to view as an honest broker, can really focus on moving the ball forward. I congratulate him on his appointment and look forward to working with him.</p> <p>Long-lasting change cannot happen until we tackle all of the socioeconomic and structural obstacles that poor, black, and brown communities face. Unemployment, inadequate housing, and an unsatisfactory education system are all problems that need interagency solutions. Police have a tough job, and we owe it to them and the community not to ask them to do jobs that they shouldn't be doing.</p> <p>In addition, the City Council has a legislative responsibility to do its part. To that end I am disappointed to hear Chief O&rsquo;Neill say he will support the current agreement around the Right to Know Act (RTKA) without creating law. The RTKA goes hand-in-hand with the new neighborhood policing model, as well as the Right to Record Act, which helps protect both police and community. Together, they are responsible, common sense laws that will promote transparency and accountability in the police department, with the RTKA proposals mirroring recommendations from the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. These pieces of legislation will also help repair the relationship between the department and black and brown communities.</p> <p>While improved policing practices and common sense legislation are steps in the right direction, we cannot expect the troubles of the community to be fixed solely by police and lawmakers. If we are honest, the biggest improvement would be the complete acceptance that the responsibility for public safety cannot be left to police alone. This acknowledgement must be combined with concentrated funding for other resources that complement, match, or exceed investment in law enforcement.</p> <p>I look forward to working with the new Commissioner on these ideas and others.</p> <p>When asked about the future of policing in this city when Commissioner Bratton was appointed I said then that I was &ldquo;cautiously optimistic.&rdquo; As an elected leader, I make no apologies for remaining optimistic in the worst and best of times while fighting to do right. If asked again as Commissioner O&rsquo;Neill is set to take over, my answer would be the same.</p> <p>***<br />Jumaane D. Williams is a City Council member from Brooklyn and co-chair of the Council's Task Force to Combat Gun Violence. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JumaaneWilliams" target="_blank">@JumaaneWilliams</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/williams_king_deblasio.jpg" alt="williams king deblasio" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>City Council Member Jumaane Williams, the author (photo: Jeff Reed)</p> <hr /> <p>Given where we are in the policing discussion in this city and country, and the acknowledgement of how deeply systemic the problems lie, focusing on the departure or hiring of any one Commissioner has always simplified a complex problem. I have never known a time when people were not calling for the removal of an NYPD Commissioner as the solution to policing issues in our city.</p> <p>It was right for many of us to express concerns when Commissioner Bill Bratton was chosen, given troublesome incidents in Boston, Los Angeles, and right here in New York City. It was also our duty to point out clearly and boldly when we thought he was not helping us steer the conversation in the right direction. Indeed, there were times when Commissioner Bratton showed contempt for the City Council's role in government. The Police Department is not an agency unto itself, free of the city&rsquo;s legislative body. The Commissioner has also, at times, used language that ranged from insensitive to incendiary and dangerous.</p> <p>Still, we would be wrong to say that no change has occurred during his tenure.</p> <p>We can argue about what the changes that have occurred mean, how effective they are and will eventually be, but we cannot ignore them. While there are still issues with the percentage breakdown by race of who is getting stopped and arrested, there have been significant drops in stop-question-and-frisks and marijuana arrests. The Neighborhood Coordination Officers Program, while not true community policing, is a good attempt to move away from focusing on arrests and summonses. There have been legislative victories, collaborations, and of course, the retraining of the entire force -- all while pushing crime to historic lows.</p> <p>It takes many partners to deal with public safety and NYPD has a crucial role.</p> <p>With all that said, we are not where many of us thought we would be in 2016, particularly in the areas of trust and accountability. In these areas improvement has been slow, even stagnant. This is where <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6470-bratton-departure-comes-with-silver-lining-for-de-blasio" target="_blank">the new Commissioner, James O'Neill</a>, whom I've grown to view as an honest broker, can really focus on moving the ball forward. I congratulate him on his appointment and look forward to working with him.</p> <p>Long-lasting change cannot happen until we tackle all of the socioeconomic and structural obstacles that poor, black, and brown communities face. Unemployment, inadequate housing, and an unsatisfactory education system are all problems that need interagency solutions. Police have a tough job, and we owe it to them and the community not to ask them to do jobs that they shouldn't be doing.</p> <p>In addition, the City Council has a legislative responsibility to do its part. To that end I am disappointed to hear Chief O&rsquo;Neill say he will support the current agreement around the Right to Know Act (RTKA) without creating law. The RTKA goes hand-in-hand with the new neighborhood policing model, as well as the Right to Record Act, which helps protect both police and community. Together, they are responsible, common sense laws that will promote transparency and accountability in the police department, with the RTKA proposals mirroring recommendations from the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. These pieces of legislation will also help repair the relationship between the department and black and brown communities.</p> <p>While improved policing practices and common sense legislation are steps in the right direction, we cannot expect the troubles of the community to be fixed solely by police and lawmakers. If we are honest, the biggest improvement would be the complete acceptance that the responsibility for public safety cannot be left to police alone. This acknowledgement must be combined with concentrated funding for other resources that complement, match, or exceed investment in law enforcement.</p> <p>I look forward to working with the new Commissioner on these ideas and others.</p> <p>When asked about the future of policing in this city when Commissioner Bratton was appointed I said then that I was &ldquo;cautiously optimistic.&rdquo; As an elected leader, I make no apologies for remaining optimistic in the worst and best of times while fighting to do right. If asked again as Commissioner O&rsquo;Neill is set to take over, my answer would be the same.</p> <p>***<br />Jumaane D. Williams is a City Council member from Brooklyn and co-chair of the Council's Task Force to Combat Gun Violence. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JumaaneWilliams" target="_blank">@JumaaneWilliams</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Demanding Justice is Not a 'War on Cops' 2016-06-20T04:00:00+00:00 2016-06-20T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6404:demanding-justice-is-not-a-war-on-cops Amanda Sherwin <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/27522769260_efecc67cc7_z.jpg" alt="NYPD sidewalk park cars" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>photo: Sofie Hecht, Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p>The Manhattan Institute&rsquo;s Heather Mac Donald has a new book out Tuesday that claims that there is a &ldquo;War on Cops,&rdquo; led by the Black Lives Matter movement and anyone else who ever called for reductions in excessive, heavy-handed, or brutal policing.</p> <p>Mac Donald&rsquo;s basic point is that the police merely take action in response to actual levels of crime and disorder and that by doing so they save lives. Anyone who accuses them of racist motivations or outcomes misses the fact that the majority of the lives they save are those of young men of color, she says, since they are so frequently the victims of criminal violence. According to Mac Donald, &ldquo;there is no New York City institution more dedicated to the proposition that &lsquo;black lives matter&rsquo; than the New York Police Department.&rdquo;</p> <p>She also maintains that when people criticize the police, they undermine the ability of officers to take the kinds of proactive actions needed to do this work, making all of us less safe. This is a rehashing of the so called &ldquo;Ferguson Effect,&rdquo; which Mac Donald has espoused and I and others have painstakingly <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/there-is-absolutely-no-such-thing-as-the-ferguson-effect/" target="_blank">debunked</a>. For instance, crime in New York City has continued to go down, even when police went on a two-week strike last year and even after a now years-long radical reduction in &ldquo;stop and frisk&rdquo; encounters, which Mac Donald so vehemently <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/07/17/does-stop-and-frisk-reduce-crime/to-see-its-value-see-how-crime-rose-elsewhere" target="_blank">defended</a> in the past.</p> <p>The &ldquo;Ferguson Effect&rdquo; is based on a logic that when police are told to stop killing people and behaving in an unlawful manner, they become incapable of doing their jobs. This is both an insult to police officers and leaves no room for people to raise very real and valid concerns about heavy-handed, racially-biased, and at times corrupt and brutal policing. As I asked once <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/what-does-it-mean-be-anti-police/" target="_blank">before</a>, if I call to complain about broken swings in the playground, does that make me anti-parks? Or, if I complain that my trash didn&rsquo;t get picked up, does that make me anti-sanitation? There are hundreds of thousands of police who understand and sympathize with many of the criticisms being raised, and to accuse them of shirking their responsibilities as a result suggests that Mac Donald holds a very dim view of the professional ethics of American police while she attempts to be one of their biggest champions.</p> <p>In an <a href="http://nypost.com/2016/06/19/broken-windows-policing-doesnt-target-minorities-it-saves-them/" target="_blank">excerpt</a> of the book published in the New York Post, she accuses me of being out of touch with the desire of poor and non-white New Yorkers to live in neighborhoods free of crime and disorder. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even a cursory reading of my book <a href="http://nyupress.org/books/9780814788189/" target="_blank">City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics</a>, would reveal that I spent years doing fieldwork in just such neighborhoods. I found that people are indeed very concerned about disorder, and that politicians who ignore this do so at their own peril.</p> <p>But I also went deeper than Mac Donald&rsquo;s knee jerk neoconservatism. People in these neighborhoods only turned to police for help when all other avenues for assistance were closed off to them. From East New York, Brooklyn to the East Village in Manhattan, New Yorkers told me they wanted disorder dealt with through affordable housing, adequate mental health care services, drug treatment on demand, and after-school programs and stable employment for youth. It is only when austerity politics, supported by Mac Donald and the Manhattan Institute, made these things unattainable that people called for police-led responses.</p> <p>Over the years I have attended many community meetings where people have demanded more aggressive police actions. I frequently bring my students with me to see the dilemmas facing communities, though many of them are well aware from first-hand experience. Most people in these meetings are deeply frustrated, and rightfully so. The decades of urban disinvestment and tax cutting mania have left them with declining living standards and in many cases a degraded quality of life&mdash;or displacement by the forces of gentrification. In my experience many of them are torn between having to rely on police to solve their community problems and knowing that this means putting more young people from the community in jail and prison. What people really want for their communities and their neighbors are resources and opportunities.</p> <p>Mac Donald argues that there is nothing racist about the fact that the vast majority of people arrested and cited as part of &ldquo;Broken Windows&rdquo; policing are not white, because the police are only taking enforcement action where the crime is. She claims that Eric Garner, for instance, was targeted because it is only in communities of color that people sell illegal cigarettes. All I can say is that she&rsquo;s never spent any time in the working class white neighborhoods of Brooklyn, where the illegal sale of untaxed cigarettes is rampant. She also clearly never hangs out in areas like Park Slope, Chelsea, and the Upper West Side where marijuana usage is widespread but <a href="https://www.vice.com/read/weed-is-basically-legal-in-new-york-city-now-but-only-if-youre-white-1023" target="_blank">enforcement near zero</a>. <a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/Race-Class-NYPD-Marijuana-Arrests-Oct-2014.pdf" target="_blank">Research</a> conducted by Queens College&rsquo;s Harry Levine shows that even when economic class is factored in, neighborhoods that have more non-whites experience dramatically higher enforcement rates than white ones.</p> <p>If anything, it&rsquo;s Mac Donald who is horribly out of touch. By supporting neverending budget cuts for every service but the police, she is oblivious to the dire consequences of grinding millions of young, poor, and disabled people through a criminal justice systems that mostly just makes their lives worse, and in cases like <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/kalief-browder-1993-2015" target="_blank">Kalief Browder</a> and <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/paying-blood-over-policing-article-1.1872536" target="_blank">Eric Garner</a>, results in their death. She should come and spend a day with my hard-working students at Brooklyn College and hear their stories of abuse, criminalization, and heartbreak that result from the NYPD&rsquo;s war on disorder before she claims that the solution to every urban ill is more policing.</p> <p>***<br />Alex S. Vitale is associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and author of City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics. He is on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/avitale" target="_blank">@avitale</a>.<br /><br />

***
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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/27522769260_efecc67cc7_z.jpg" alt="NYPD sidewalk park cars" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>photo: Sofie Hecht, Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p>The Manhattan Institute&rsquo;s Heather Mac Donald has a new book out Tuesday that claims that there is a &ldquo;War on Cops,&rdquo; led by the Black Lives Matter movement and anyone else who ever called for reductions in excessive, heavy-handed, or brutal policing.</p> <p>Mac Donald&rsquo;s basic point is that the police merely take action in response to actual levels of crime and disorder and that by doing so they save lives. Anyone who accuses them of racist motivations or outcomes misses the fact that the majority of the lives they save are those of young men of color, she says, since they are so frequently the victims of criminal violence. According to Mac Donald, &ldquo;there is no New York City institution more dedicated to the proposition that &lsquo;black lives matter&rsquo; than the New York Police Department.&rdquo;</p> <p>She also maintains that when people criticize the police, they undermine the ability of officers to take the kinds of proactive actions needed to do this work, making all of us less safe. This is a rehashing of the so called &ldquo;Ferguson Effect,&rdquo; which Mac Donald has espoused and I and others have painstakingly <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/there-is-absolutely-no-such-thing-as-the-ferguson-effect/" target="_blank">debunked</a>. For instance, crime in New York City has continued to go down, even when police went on a two-week strike last year and even after a now years-long radical reduction in &ldquo;stop and frisk&rdquo; encounters, which Mac Donald so vehemently <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/07/17/does-stop-and-frisk-reduce-crime/to-see-its-value-see-how-crime-rose-elsewhere" target="_blank">defended</a> in the past.</p> <p>The &ldquo;Ferguson Effect&rdquo; is based on a logic that when police are told to stop killing people and behaving in an unlawful manner, they become incapable of doing their jobs. This is both an insult to police officers and leaves no room for people to raise very real and valid concerns about heavy-handed, racially-biased, and at times corrupt and brutal policing. As I asked once <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/what-does-it-mean-be-anti-police/" target="_blank">before</a>, if I call to complain about broken swings in the playground, does that make me anti-parks? Or, if I complain that my trash didn&rsquo;t get picked up, does that make me anti-sanitation? There are hundreds of thousands of police who understand and sympathize with many of the criticisms being raised, and to accuse them of shirking their responsibilities as a result suggests that Mac Donald holds a very dim view of the professional ethics of American police while she attempts to be one of their biggest champions.</p> <p>In an <a href="http://nypost.com/2016/06/19/broken-windows-policing-doesnt-target-minorities-it-saves-them/" target="_blank">excerpt</a> of the book published in the New York Post, she accuses me of being out of touch with the desire of poor and non-white New Yorkers to live in neighborhoods free of crime and disorder. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even a cursory reading of my book <a href="http://nyupress.org/books/9780814788189/" target="_blank">City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics</a>, would reveal that I spent years doing fieldwork in just such neighborhoods. I found that people are indeed very concerned about disorder, and that politicians who ignore this do so at their own peril.</p> <p>But I also went deeper than Mac Donald&rsquo;s knee jerk neoconservatism. People in these neighborhoods only turned to police for help when all other avenues for assistance were closed off to them. From East New York, Brooklyn to the East Village in Manhattan, New Yorkers told me they wanted disorder dealt with through affordable housing, adequate mental health care services, drug treatment on demand, and after-school programs and stable employment for youth. It is only when austerity politics, supported by Mac Donald and the Manhattan Institute, made these things unattainable that people called for police-led responses.</p> <p>Over the years I have attended many community meetings where people have demanded more aggressive police actions. I frequently bring my students with me to see the dilemmas facing communities, though many of them are well aware from first-hand experience. Most people in these meetings are deeply frustrated, and rightfully so. The decades of urban disinvestment and tax cutting mania have left them with declining living standards and in many cases a degraded quality of life&mdash;or displacement by the forces of gentrification. In my experience many of them are torn between having to rely on police to solve their community problems and knowing that this means putting more young people from the community in jail and prison. What people really want for their communities and their neighbors are resources and opportunities.</p> <p>Mac Donald argues that there is nothing racist about the fact that the vast majority of people arrested and cited as part of &ldquo;Broken Windows&rdquo; policing are not white, because the police are only taking enforcement action where the crime is. She claims that Eric Garner, for instance, was targeted because it is only in communities of color that people sell illegal cigarettes. All I can say is that she&rsquo;s never spent any time in the working class white neighborhoods of Brooklyn, where the illegal sale of untaxed cigarettes is rampant. She also clearly never hangs out in areas like Park Slope, Chelsea, and the Upper West Side where marijuana usage is widespread but <a href="https://www.vice.com/read/weed-is-basically-legal-in-new-york-city-now-but-only-if-youre-white-1023" target="_blank">enforcement near zero</a>. <a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/Race-Class-NYPD-Marijuana-Arrests-Oct-2014.pdf" target="_blank">Research</a> conducted by Queens College&rsquo;s Harry Levine shows that even when economic class is factored in, neighborhoods that have more non-whites experience dramatically higher enforcement rates than white ones.</p> <p>If anything, it&rsquo;s Mac Donald who is horribly out of touch. By supporting neverending budget cuts for every service but the police, she is oblivious to the dire consequences of grinding millions of young, poor, and disabled people through a criminal justice systems that mostly just makes their lives worse, and in cases like <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/kalief-browder-1993-2015" target="_blank">Kalief Browder</a> and <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/paying-blood-over-policing-article-1.1872536" target="_blank">Eric Garner</a>, results in their death. She should come and spend a day with my hard-working students at Brooklyn College and hear their stories of abuse, criminalization, and heartbreak that result from the NYPD&rsquo;s war on disorder before she claims that the solution to every urban ill is more policing.</p> <p>***<br />Alex S. Vitale is associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and author of City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics. He is on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/avitale" target="_blank">@avitale</a>.<br /><br />

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

</p>
Ten Days in the Life of a Police Reform Advocate 2016-02-27T14:20:35+00:00 2016-02-27T14:20:35+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6197:ten-days-in-the-life-of-a-police-reform-advocate Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/prop_nyc_four_members_gangi.jpg" alt="prop nyc four members gangi" width="600" height="592" /></p> <p>PROP volunteers, including the author (photo: @PROPNYC)</p> <hr /> <p>In a recent ten-day period I had experiences that taught me new things about bad NYPD practices, reinforced my cynicism about the lame way that mainstream politicians, including officials who self-identify as progressives, posture on policing issues, and strengthened my determination to press aggressively for fundamental and meaningful changes in NYPD policies. My organization, PROP - <a href="http://www.policereformorganizingproject.org/" target="_blank">the Police Reform Organizing Project</a> - continues to monitor NYPD practices and advocate for real change.</p> <p>*On a monitoring visit to the Brooklyn criminal court -- PROP representatives and volunteers regularly observe proceedings in the arraignment parts of the city's criminal courts as a way of tracking NYPD 'broken windows' arrest practices -- I stood on a line of about 45 people waiting to pass through the metal detector. I was the only white person -- everyone else was African-American or Latino, the vast majority of whom dressed in clothes suggesting that they were members not of the well-to-do professional class, but of the low-income or working classes.</p> <p>*On that morning, the Brooklyn misdemeanor arraignment part heard 34 cases, all men of color whom the police had arrested and locked up. Each of these men walked out of the courtroom, meaning essentially that no court official, including in most cases the prosecutors, considered the defendants dangerous or predatory. The charges included suspended license, theft of services (usually fare-beating), marijuana possession, disorderly conduct, and open alcohol container.</p> <p>*At a meeting later that day, a fellow police reformer reported that he had recently attended a police/community meeting where neighborhood residents had a discussion with officials from the local precinct. The community members expressed concern about a recent armed robbery and asked what the police were doing about it. The officials responded by saying that they were "summonsing like crazy," meaning that police officers were issuing many criminal summonses to people in the neighborhood for representative 'broken windows' infractions/activities like being in the park after dark, littering, carrying an open alcohol container, or riding a bike on the sidewalk. Community members raised the pointed question: But what are you doing to actually investigate the crime and catch the perpetrators?</p> <p>*At a meeting with a journalist and me, a police officer who is considering coming forward to publicize the ill effects of the NYPD's quota system on officers and New Yorkers alike, reported on the following matters: under the pressure to "make their numbers" each month, some officers working in a precinct with a cemetery within its borders will issue what are known as "cemetery summonses," meaning that they will enter the graveyard and write up tickets with the names of dead people that that they find on the tombstones. Some precincts - those that serve white well-to-do areas, for example - have no quotas. One of the first questions that an officer new to an inner-city precinct asks is: "What is the number?" And, again under the pressure of the quota system, some officers will for most of the month ignore a neighborhood "hot spot," a place where crime such as drug dealing or prostitution takes place in the open, and if they have not met their quotas, will round up the people at those sites at month's end.</p> <p>*A PROP volunteer, a teacher who instructs students at night classes in the City College system, reported the following stories that he heard during a class discussion about discriminatory NYPD practices: two students of color, both women - one African-American and the other Latina - recounted unsettling encounters with officers on select buses in the Bronx. In one case the woman couldn't at first find the receipt when the officer approached her, so the officer began writing up the summons; she did eventually find it, but when she displayed it, the officer said that it was too late, that he had already filled out the ticket; she has refused to pay the fine and plans to fight the ticket. In the other case, the woman made a mistake in pressing the buttons of the ticket machine at the bus stop and ended up with 2 tickets for handicapped people which totaled the same amount, $2.50, as a regular ticket; the officer still issued a summons and, in this case, rather than take the time that she couldn't afford to oppose the summons, the woman paid the fine.</p> <p>*PROP released <a href="http://www.policereformorganizingproject.org/90-the-harm-continues-a-prop-court-monitoring-report/" target="_blank">an analysis</a> of the NYPD's misdemeanor arrest practices for 2015, revealing that 87 percent of those arrests involved people of color compared to 85.8 percent in 2013 and 86.5 percent in 2014. To demonstrate the blatant racism associated with these practices, we focused on some specific kinds of arrests including theft of services, or fare-beating, which at 29,198 was the NYPD's most numerous arrest category for last year. Fully 92 percent involved people of color - in fact, in our year-and-a-half of court-monitoring work, we have observed only a handful of white defendants charged with theft of services. Spokespeople for City Hall and the Police Department made statements in response focused on safety on the subways, but that did not address the extraordinary racial imbalance reflected in the numbers that PROP had spotlighted.</p> <p>Despite these numbers and accounts that demonstrate the undeniable racial bias and deep injustices involved in the NYPD's current application of quota-driven 'broken windows' policing, our city's leading politicians, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, announce and occasionally enact the softest kind of modifications that do nothing to fundamentally change or end the NYPD's abusive and discriminatory practices.</p> <p>Out of political considerations - it would be too risky to promote the fundamental police reforms needed - they have effectively abandoned one of their main constituencies: low-income New Yorkers of color, leaving them to the harsh treatment and societal marginalization that result from the practices and policies of the NYPD and the city's criminal justice system.</p> <p>It is up to us police reformers and other concerned New Yorkers to keep hammering away at these issues. Despite our frustration and disappointment of the moment, we know that silence will kill all hope of achieving our shared goal of a fair, safe, and inclusive city for all New Yorkers.</p> <p>***<br />Bob Gangi is Director of the Police Reform Organizing Project. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/PROPNYC" target="_blank">@PROPNYC</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/prop_nyc_four_members_gangi.jpg" alt="prop nyc four members gangi" width="600" height="592" /></p> <p>PROP volunteers, including the author (photo: @PROPNYC)</p> <hr /> <p>In a recent ten-day period I had experiences that taught me new things about bad NYPD practices, reinforced my cynicism about the lame way that mainstream politicians, including officials who self-identify as progressives, posture on policing issues, and strengthened my determination to press aggressively for fundamental and meaningful changes in NYPD policies. My organization, PROP - <a href="http://www.policereformorganizingproject.org/" target="_blank">the Police Reform Organizing Project</a> - continues to monitor NYPD practices and advocate for real change.</p> <p>*On a monitoring visit to the Brooklyn criminal court -- PROP representatives and volunteers regularly observe proceedings in the arraignment parts of the city's criminal courts as a way of tracking NYPD 'broken windows' arrest practices -- I stood on a line of about 45 people waiting to pass through the metal detector. I was the only white person -- everyone else was African-American or Latino, the vast majority of whom dressed in clothes suggesting that they were members not of the well-to-do professional class, but of the low-income or working classes.</p> <p>*On that morning, the Brooklyn misdemeanor arraignment part heard 34 cases, all men of color whom the police had arrested and locked up. Each of these men walked out of the courtroom, meaning essentially that no court official, including in most cases the prosecutors, considered the defendants dangerous or predatory. The charges included suspended license, theft of services (usually fare-beating), marijuana possession, disorderly conduct, and open alcohol container.</p> <p>*At a meeting later that day, a fellow police reformer reported that he had recently attended a police/community meeting where neighborhood residents had a discussion with officials from the local precinct. The community members expressed concern about a recent armed robbery and asked what the police were doing about it. The officials responded by saying that they were "summonsing like crazy," meaning that police officers were issuing many criminal summonses to people in the neighborhood for representative 'broken windows' infractions/activities like being in the park after dark, littering, carrying an open alcohol container, or riding a bike on the sidewalk. Community members raised the pointed question: But what are you doing to actually investigate the crime and catch the perpetrators?</p> <p>*At a meeting with a journalist and me, a police officer who is considering coming forward to publicize the ill effects of the NYPD's quota system on officers and New Yorkers alike, reported on the following matters: under the pressure to "make their numbers" each month, some officers working in a precinct with a cemetery within its borders will issue what are known as "cemetery summonses," meaning that they will enter the graveyard and write up tickets with the names of dead people that that they find on the tombstones. Some precincts - those that serve white well-to-do areas, for example - have no quotas. One of the first questions that an officer new to an inner-city precinct asks is: "What is the number?" And, again under the pressure of the quota system, some officers will for most of the month ignore a neighborhood "hot spot," a place where crime such as drug dealing or prostitution takes place in the open, and if they have not met their quotas, will round up the people at those sites at month's end.</p> <p>*A PROP volunteer, a teacher who instructs students at night classes in the City College system, reported the following stories that he heard during a class discussion about discriminatory NYPD practices: two students of color, both women - one African-American and the other Latina - recounted unsettling encounters with officers on select buses in the Bronx. In one case the woman couldn't at first find the receipt when the officer approached her, so the officer began writing up the summons; she did eventually find it, but when she displayed it, the officer said that it was too late, that he had already filled out the ticket; she has refused to pay the fine and plans to fight the ticket. In the other case, the woman made a mistake in pressing the buttons of the ticket machine at the bus stop and ended up with 2 tickets for handicapped people which totaled the same amount, $2.50, as a regular ticket; the officer still issued a summons and, in this case, rather than take the time that she couldn't afford to oppose the summons, the woman paid the fine.</p> <p>*PROP released <a href="http://www.policereformorganizingproject.org/90-the-harm-continues-a-prop-court-monitoring-report/" target="_blank">an analysis</a> of the NYPD's misdemeanor arrest practices for 2015, revealing that 87 percent of those arrests involved people of color compared to 85.8 percent in 2013 and 86.5 percent in 2014. To demonstrate the blatant racism associated with these practices, we focused on some specific kinds of arrests including theft of services, or fare-beating, which at 29,198 was the NYPD's most numerous arrest category for last year. Fully 92 percent involved people of color - in fact, in our year-and-a-half of court-monitoring work, we have observed only a handful of white defendants charged with theft of services. Spokespeople for City Hall and the Police Department made statements in response focused on safety on the subways, but that did not address the extraordinary racial imbalance reflected in the numbers that PROP had spotlighted.</p> <p>Despite these numbers and accounts that demonstrate the undeniable racial bias and deep injustices involved in the NYPD's current application of quota-driven 'broken windows' policing, our city's leading politicians, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, announce and occasionally enact the softest kind of modifications that do nothing to fundamentally change or end the NYPD's abusive and discriminatory practices.</p> <p>Out of political considerations - it would be too risky to promote the fundamental police reforms needed - they have effectively abandoned one of their main constituencies: low-income New Yorkers of color, leaving them to the harsh treatment and societal marginalization that result from the practices and policies of the NYPD and the city's criminal justice system.</p> <p>It is up to us police reformers and other concerned New Yorkers to keep hammering away at these issues. Despite our frustration and disappointment of the moment, we know that silence will kill all hope of achieving our shared goal of a fair, safe, and inclusive city for all New Yorkers.</p> <p>***<br />Bob Gangi is Director of the Police Reform Organizing Project. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/PROPNYC" target="_blank">@PROPNYC</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>