City officials laid out a multi-faceted plan Sunday to reform the NYPD and its community relations while Mayor Bill de Blasio described his own regrets in how he handled the Eric Garner case.
The new policies — focused on preventing crime through youth services and holding officers more accountable — were drafted based on input from the newly formed racial inequality task force. The group was formed amid civil rights protests following the alleged murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
The plan includes:
- Shifting funding from the NYPD to youth and social services.
- Expediting the disciplinary process for officers accused of misconduct.
- Hiring a community leader in neighborhoods across the city to consult top-ranking officers on community relations.
- Reforming state law to allow for more transparency of NYPD disciplinary actions toward officers.
- Shifting the onus of enforcing unlicensed vending from patrol officers.
Speaking about Garner, who died in 2014 when police attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes near Victory Boulevard and Bay Street in Tompkinsville, de Blasio said Sunday that he did not handle the tragedy correctly.
“We deferred to the U.S. Justice Department during the Obama administration in the case of Eric Garner — that was a mistake,” de Blasio said. “Even if the Department of Justice didn’t like it, even if they said it would make their case harder, I should’ve gone to the Garner family and said, ‘This is your choice. I’m ready to go; you want to take this chance or not?”
De Blasio said Sunday it wasn’t known yet what area of the NYPD’s budget would be tapped for an effective launch of the new community-based services. The NYPD reportedly has said it could re-direct $10 million budgeted for overtime, while the City Council has said the agency could re-direct $25 million by canceling the next round of police cadets.
Earlier this week, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer called on the city to move $1.1 billion from the NYPD in an effort to “uproot systematic racism.”
De Blasio said he aims to push through several changes in regard to police-community relations by the end of his second term.
“Now, for 18 months, [the administration] is unfettered,” de Blasio said. “I am term-limited, I’m not running for anything, and we are in a place that is clear and fearless; we’re gonna get a lot done.”
A CALL FOR MORE DISCIPLINE
The city has taken action against multiple NYPD officers seen on video acting aggressively toward protesters in separate incidents over the course of several days.
An officer seen on video shoving a woman to the ground in Brooklyn has been suspended without pay, while his supervisor that day has been reassigned. Further disciplinary action will commence in the case of both officers.
An officer seen on video pulling down a protester’s face mask and pepper-spraying him in Brooklyn has been suspended without pay, and further disciplinary action will commence, the mayor said.
“There are more [incidents] under investigation,” de Blasio said. “Each investigation will follow the facts and, where discipline is needed, it will occur.”
In terms of protester arrests, the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said Friday that anyone accused of violence against officers or property will be charged appropriately.
However, the office said it would not prosecute those charged for low-level offenses, saying the office’s policy is “designed to minimize unnecessary interactions with the criminal justice system.”
While there were hundreds of arrests and several officers injured when the protests first began, a citywide curfew has helped curtail those incidents. As a result, only four arrests were made and 24 summonses issued during Saturday’s protests, leading the mayor to lift the curfew.
PUSH FOR MORE TRANSPARENCY
The city is calling on state legislators to repeal a bill that in effect would make officers’ disciplinary records more visible to the public.
De Blasio this week called on the legislature to repeal bill 50-A.
Meanwhile, the city’s largest police union has voiced its disapproval of the move, saying it would make accusations against officers public prior to them being found guilty of misconduct.
One of the issues brought to the city’s racial inequality task force during meetings with community stakeholders was a feeling that their voices were not being heard and/or taken seriously by police.
In response, the department will hire a civilian to represent the community at the “patrol borough level” as an ambassador to police.
Information passed on to the community through the ambassador will include new policies that residents might not be aware of and the status of disciplinary actions being taken against certain officers.
New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray, who heads the task force, said she’s seen several videos of alleged police brutality against protesters across the country.
“It’s very painful to watch, and we will not tolerate any of that kind of policing in New York City,” she said. “I am pleased to say that what we’ve seen in New York City does not reflect a lot of what we’ve seen in other places.”
© 2020 Staten Island Advance
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.