City Council’s Police Reforms Fail To Reduce NYPD’s Footprint, Critics Say

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On Thursday afternoon, the Metropolis Council handed a bundle of payments aimed toward reforming the NYPD. The payments, which Mayor Invoice de Blasio stated he’ll signal, embody a regulation that makes it simpler for New Yorkers to sue law enforcement officials for violating their constitutional rights, and one other that requires the police division to file and launch demographic information on visitors stops.

But some advocates and councilmembers advised Gothamist that the laws nonetheless falls wanting its said purpose to meaningfully “scale back the NYPD’s footprint” and create extra rigorous programs of accountability.

Brooklyn Councilmember Brad Lander stated the bundle “provides as much as so much lower than meets the attention.”

“Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD put collectively a sham course of for interested by what sort of transformation we want in policing, and particularly policing accountability,” stated Lander, who’s at present working for Metropolis Comptroller. “This isn’t a critical response to the protest of the killing of George Floyd and there is not any purpose to imagine it can change core accountability constructions.”

Two of the payments that handed—to switch last disciplinary authority from the NYPD commissioner to the Civilian Grievance Evaluation Board (CCRB), and require NYPD officers to reside in New York Metropolis—had been “resolutions” in help of state laws that’s out of the council’s jurisdiction.

One other vital invoice from the unique bundle launched in January, which might have required the mayor to get Metropolis Council approval for his or her alternative of police commissioner, was not voted on.

Brooklyn Councilmember Stephen Levin, the primary sponsor of the laws that will maintain NYPD officers chargeable for violating New Yorkers’ protections in opposition to unconstitutional search and seizure and extreme drive, stated his invoice would drive cops to have “extra pores and skin within the sport.”

“For the primary time now in New York Metropolis you possibly can convey a lawsuit primarily based on an infringement of your constitutional rights underneath the 4th Modification, and the officer has to have the ability to reply for that,” Levin stated. “He can’t go in and say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m unassailable on this regard.’”




NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea wears a suit at a press conference at NYPD headquarters.

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NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea at a press convention earlier this week at police headquarters.


Lev Radin/Pacific Press/Shutterstock

The purpose of Levin’s laws is to blunt the consequences of “certified immunity,” a authorized doctrine that primarily shields law enforcement officials from any private legal responsibility stemming from misconduct on the job. Authorized advocates stated that whereas it was an vital first step, NYPD officers will nonetheless have the ability to use certified immunity as a protect in lots of circumstances when they’re sued for misconduct.

Taxpayers will nonetheless pay for any damages awarded, and the town’s Regulation Division will proceed to defend sued officers, a needed tweak for the mayor’s help of the invoice. The certified immunity doctrine can nonetheless be invoked in state and federal lawsuits.

“We predict it’s nice that folks may have the chance to sue particular person officers for violating their constitutional rights,” stated Andrew Case, senior counsel at LatinoJustice. “But it surely’s a small a part of lots of misconduct that’s nonetheless protected by certified immunity.”

The mayor’s Regulation Division is at present utilizing certified immunity as a protection in a lawsuit introduced in opposition to the NYPD by Legal professional Basic Letitia James for officers’ misconduct in the course of the protests final summer season.

“That is the place the cynicism of the town’s place form of will get to me,” Levin stated. “They testified in our listening to that it’s so not often invoked, ‘Oh it’s solely been invoked twice within the final yr.’ OK, nicely, they wrote a letter to a choose like, two months in the past, invoking it.”

A spokesperson for the Regulation Division hasn’t but responded to questions on whether or not they’ll proceed to make use of the certified immunity protection within the lawsuit, nor has the Mayor’s Workplace.

One invoice sponsored by Queens Councilmember Adrienne Adams requires the NYPD to launch quarterly studies on all of the visitors stops and officers make.

“Compelling them to report visitors cease information will permit everybody to see whether or not or not the police division is racially profiling drivers the identical means they racially profile pedestrians,” stated Case, the LatinoJustice lawyer.

One other piece of laws that handed would take away the only real duty from the NYPD for investigating critical car crashes. As a substitute, a brand new unit underneath the Division of Transportation will function the lead investigative company, with the facility to interview witnesses, problem public statements, and suggest road design modifications.

The change was hailed as a victory by protected streets advocates, who’ve lengthy accused the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad of victim-blaming crash victims and failing to correctly examine reckless drivers. However others described the invoice as a half-measure, noting that the language was reportedly softened on the final minute to permit some NYPD discretion over investigations, in alternate for the mayor’s backing of the proposal.

“The NYPD remains to be going to do the identical set of issues,” stated Lander, who co-sponsored the laws. “It is not altering what’s damaged in CIS.”




Protesters sit on the street with riot officers, with their backs turned to the camera, facing them

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Protesters and riot police in Manhattan on Might 31, 2020


John Nacion/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

Reform advocates had been notably scathing of Mayor Invoice de Blasio’s state-mandated plan for NYPD reforms, which the counsel additionally accredited on Thursday in a decision. Final yr, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered all localities throughout the state to provide you with a police reform plan by April 1, or lose state funding.

Whereas the plan creates 5,000 extra spots in the summertime youth employment program, and commits $15 million in additional funding for anti-violence packages and social companies, it additionally expands the attain of the NYPD into communities, one thing that many police reform advocates have spent years arguing in opposition to. Two initiatives initially proposed by the mayor have the NYPD working with NYCHA and the Parks Division to “rehabilitate basketball courts,” however are absent from the council’s decision.

“We don’t want law enforcement officials to place nets on basketball hoops, we want them to have a smaller function in policing the neighborhood,” Case stated.

Keli Younger, the civil rights marketing campaign coordinator for the advocacy group VOCAL-NY, stated that reform aimed toward serving to Black, Brown, and low-income communities “can solely be achieved by considerably decreasing interactions with police by way of defunding the NYPD and reinvesting these assets into housing, social companies, and care.”

Metropolis Council Speaker Corey Johnson insisted that this bundle was “only the start.”

“We’re going to push to go additional. Nevertheless, we needed to go a plan earlier than April 1 as a result of if we did not the governor underneath his government order might have withheld billions of {dollars} of support from our metropolis,” Johnson stated.




Queens Councilmember Adrienne Adams, the chair of the public safety committee, speaks into a microphone at a town hall meeting with Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2019.

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Queens Councilmember Adrienne Adams, the chair of the general public security committee at a city corridor assembly with Mayor Invoice de Blasio in 2019.

Emil Cohen / Metropolis Council

Councilmember Adams, who’s the chair of the general public security committee, and sponsored the stalled “recommendation and consent” invoice requiring council oversight of the police commissioner, additionally careworn that the laws was not lifeless.

“I’m dedicated to shifting ahead with extra police reforms, together with the recommendation and consent invoice that may convey extra accountability and scrutiny to the method of selecting a police commissioner,” Adams stated in a press release.

The NYPD continues to oppose the laws, and in addition opposes the state laws that will give the CCRB last disciplinary authority over law enforcement officials; at present, the NYPD commissioners deviates from their suggestions 71% of the time.

“What individuals are calling for is accountability. While you take that accountability away from the chief government of the group and hand it to a committee, you’ve the alternative of accountability,” NYPD deputy commissioner John Miller stated in a press release. “When one thing goes flawed, all you get is finger pointing.”

Michael Sisitzky, the senior coverage counsel on the New York Civil Liberties Union, stated that the extra vital battle over NYPD reform will happen throughout this yr’s price range negotiations.

“We had an actual combat final yr over calls to scale back the NYPD’s price range and the town made some beauty shifts, moved some funds from one column to the opposite with out really decreasing our funding in regulation enforcement,” Sisitzky stated. “These calls to defund the NYPD usually are not going to go away. This reform plan can’t be cited as an excuse for not taking these needed steps.”

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