New York City Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Co-Sponsors
City Council Committee on Public Safety, March 16, 2021
Thank you to Chair Adams and the members of the Committee on Public Safety for the opportunity to provide a statement regarding the Reform and Reinvention proposal.
For the past five months, at the invitation of Police Commissioner Shea, we – Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and Executive Director of FPWA, Wes Moore, CEO of the Robin Hood foundation, and Arva Rice, President and CEO of the New York Urban League – have served as cosponsors in a joint effort with the Mayor’s Office and NYPD, to ensure that the City’s response to the State’s Executive Order 203 centers on the needs and concerns of the New Yorkers most affected by racialized policing, the criminalization of poverty, and the lack of transparency and accountability in the NYPD.
We were resolute in advocating for a framework that would address the experiences of being low income and of color in New York City. The five thematic areas that emerged, and the vast majority of recommendations were directly informed by dozens of conversations and listening sessions held with members of communities impacted by poverty and over-policing. We owe it to both those who did and did not engage with us as part of the Reform and Reimagination Collaborative to make sure this proposal is thoughtfully debated, revised as needed, and then allotted the sufficient financial resources to make it a reality.
The proposed plan is built upon five pillars of reform: 1. The Decriminalization of Poverty; 2. Recognition and Continual Examination of Historical and Modern-Day Racialized Policing in New York City; 3. Transparency and Accountability to the People of New York City; 4. Community Representation and Partnership; and 5. A Diverse, Resilient, and Supported NYPD.
The problems highlighted and addressed in this proposal are not new. Racialized policing in New York City has existed since the Department’s inception, including a history of slave catching and kidnapping in the 19th century, in addition to the contemporary practices of unconstitutional stops and frisks of Black and Brown New Yorkers, the systematic profiling and surveillance of Muslims, the secretive maintenance of a gang database, and countless brutal assaults and deaths at the hands of police. Further, the criminalization of poverty has created an inescapable cycle of justice-involvement and disadvantage that compounds and worsens over time. This crisis has only grown as we have witnessed the responsibilities of law enforcement expand, such that problems of homelessness, mental illness, substance abuse, and access to transportation, are met with criminal justice responses. For the City to be most effective and responsive to these issues, and for the NYPD to be legitimate in the eyes of all New Yorkers, the police department must be held accountable for the systemic wrongs of the past and present, and a new course must be charted.
With the Mayor and Police Commissioner’s leadership, across the plan’s five pillars are proposals to: examine and end policies that over-police low income and minority communities; prioritize budget justice by increasing and enhancing key services to support low-income individuals, families and communities, and bring an end to the poverty to prison pipeline; and hold officers who cause harm and violate the public’s trust to account.
The racialized policing practices that have traumatized Black and Brown New Yorkers across generations cannot be addressed quickly or superficially. What is needed is an inclusive plan that engages the City, many of its agencies, and its residents alike, and commits to a multi-year investment of time and resources. While each individual reform within the proposed plan may help in making an incremental improvement, it is only through the support, endorsement, and financial commitment to the full plan that we can bring about the comprehensive, lasting, and systemic change that we are all seeking.
In closing, we ask the Council to support this plan and to work with the Mayor in the weeks ahead to ensure that this police reform and reinvention plan is accompanied by the budget justice our communities have needed for far too long. And we commit to working with you all to ensure a future policing framework in the City that is trusted, transparent, and responsive to the needs of every New Yorker.