New York City needs a trusted, effective police force to keep all of our streets and communities safe. The vast majority of our fellow residents are law-abiding, but some make our streets and neighborhoods unsafe for the rest of us. Violent crime, particularly when guns are involved, diminishes our quality of life and can negatively impact the tax revenue the city needs by discouraging ridership on the subway, tourism, and the opening of small businesses. It can cause residents to leave the city, reducing our tax base, but most importantly it can take the lives of our fellow New Yorkers, devastating families and communities. I would be supportive of all measures that advance community safety, including those that protect our communities from police violence.
While most citizens would agree that police are an essential part of keeping our communities safe from violent crime, the reality is that policing, in this country and this city, is overdue for real change. Unfortunately, and sometimes tragically, there are members of the NYPD who do not protect and serve, and who make our streets and neighborhoods unsafe for New Yorkers, particularly those of color. While the use of force may sometimes be necessary to protect a civilian or an officer, these incidents should be few and far between with deadly force even rarer. A number of crucial reforms are required to ensure that all law-abiding New Yorkers are safe, regardless of race.
Criminal Law is State Law
Criminal justice issues, generally speaking, are governed by New York State Law, and suspected criminals are prosecuted by our state and city district attorneys. There is little the City Council can do to effect criminal justice reform apart from putting pressure on our state legislators to act. I can promise that I will be there standing side by side with you in your outrage, and I will hold accountable those responsible for the breakdown in the system.
I believe the NYPD should be:
Fellow New York City residents
Living in a community will inform the way officers police. I support the City Council’s resolution calling on the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, S.2984/A.1951, which would require NYPD officers to live within the five boroughs of New York City. I would also support tying promotions to living in the five boroughs.
The police force, from the entering cadets to the top brass, must reflect the New York City population both in racial diversity and gender. Currently, nearly 70% of New York City’s residents are non white, while the police force is 45% white. Despite the fact that 24% of the New York City population is Black, only 15% of the NYPD is Black. The NYPD’s chiefs and deputy inspectors and inspectors who hold a rank above captain are 79% non-Hispanic white. Even including captains, that number is 72%. Research shows that non-white police officers stop and arrest fewer people and use less force when they do.
The gender gap is starker. Only 18% of the uniformed force is female, and 8% of those holding a rank above captain were women. Only nine of the 77 precincts in New York City are headed by women.
That the supervisory levels of the NYPD are so disproportionately white and male is concerning. It is reasonable to question whether such a monolithic group suffers from a lack of diverse backgrounds challenging the culture of the NYPD and whether this informs who gets promoted.
I support the philosophies of community policing to identify and address the root causes of crime before it occurs, trauma-informed care to lower the likelihood of escalation during an encounter with the police and to reduce recidivism, and restorative justice to address the aftermath of crime. The focus should be on people, particularly the victims of crime. Police precincts must be partners with the people and community and faith-based organizations in the neighborhoods they serve, and tailor problem-solving techniques to the culture of the neighborhood.
Focused only on Public Safety
The role of police must be limited to criminal law enforcement, with an emphasis on getting guns off the streets. The NYPD should not be in the business of traffic enforcement. I support the creation of a traffic safety corps as well as expanded reliance on traffic cameras.
The NYPD must also be relieved of functions that are better performed by other professionals like social workers and mental health professionals, such as:
mental health crises, except as part of a team with a mental health professional, to respond to individuals who are in a mental health crisis and threatening to use a dangerous weapon
school security -- restorative justice should be taught and practiced in schools
NYC’s Mobile Crisis Teams could be tasked with these functions, but currently respond within a 48-hour window. We need a robust emergency response team for mental health crises, which could be achieved through properly funding the Mobile Crisis Teams and expanding the staff dramatically. The B-HEARD (Behavioral Health Emergency Assistance Response Division) pilot program set to roll out soon could turn out to be an effective emergency response team, but the pilot program is too small. B-HEARD should be present in more neighborhoods and around the clock.
Even when a mental health crisis corps is up and running, 911 dispatchers will largely be making the decision about whether to send them or the NYPD. This personnel must be trained to identify when a call is about a mental health crisis rather than a crime in progress so that the right team is sent to the scene.
Under Civilian Control
The New York City government must summon the political will to execute a complete overhaul of the way bad cops are held accountable. Police violence must not be incentivized or tolerated, and officers should be fired for using violence not necessary to protect public safety. This is good for not only the community but also the majority of our police officers who are good public servants worthy of our trust. Refusing to hold bad cops responsible for their actions benefits only those bad cops to the detriment of the rest of the force which has to serve under a cloud of suspicion, always aware that one colleague who doesn’t follow the rules can throw a community into chaos and make it harder to do the job they are sworn to do.
The memorandum signed by the Civilian Complaint Review Board and the NYPD in February enshrines the policies of the NYPD. It does not change them, and it leaves final say over the punishment of any officer in the hands of the Police Commissioner.
I support the passage of New York State S5252/A6012, to remove final disciplinary authority from the Police Commissioner, the power that is more appropriately entrusted to the Commissioner of the Department of Investigation, a mayoral nominee confirmed by the City Council who cannot be removed without a required public hearing. I note that the U.S. Secretary of Defense must be approved by the Senate and must have been retired from the military for at least seven years. Just as we recognize that the military must be under civilian control, it is past time to acknowledge the same about the police.
Reform Must Address
the timely release of detailed reporting and data for public scrutiny
a comprehensive plan for
the investigations of and, when necessary, discipline for allegations of police misconduct against a civilian
the review and audit of the NYPD’s protocols and practices, to include investigations of corruption
real oversight of police discipline
True accountability will be impossible as long as the police union and benevolent society are allowed to stand in the way. Those who negotiate Collective Bargaining Agreements with the NYPD must stand behind reforms established by the New York City government and refuse to let the CBA process against the public interest by diluting reforms to protect problem officers.
Every member of the NYPD should undergo meaningful, comprehensive training in:
de-escalation of mental health crises without resorting to deadly force — even when the individual in crisis has a weapon
active bystandership training, which teaches officers how to intervene to keep each other from over-reacting during crisis situations
prevention of the loss of life, such as
providing first aid to victims of crimes as well as the use of force by police, particularly following an officer-involved shooting incident
using squad cars as ambulances to rush gunshot victims to hospitals
Every squad car should be provided with a first-aid kit that the officers know how to use.
The NYPD budget needs much more oversight, and functions that are not directly related to public safety should be halted or transferred to the appropriate agencies. There should be no blank check to spend taxpayers’ money on big-ticket items like surveillance drones, riot gear and robot police dogs. I would work to disband the vice squad which is a very expensive solution in search of a problem.