September 27, 2012 — Several hundred New Yorkers, elected officials – together with civil rights, community and labor leaders – rallied at City Hall today in support of a legislative package of police reforms, known as the Community Safety Act.
New Yorkers of all backgrounds, including people of color, immigrant, LGBT, Muslim, and homeless New Yorkers, descended on City Hall to speak out against discriminatory policing and advocate that the City Council pass the pending bills.
“New Yorkers are tired of waiting for justice and reforms,” said Yul-san Liem, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform. “Our communities are standing up to reject discriminatory policing like stop-and-frisk abuses, surveillance of Muslim communities, and the lack of police accountability that have continued for too long. The Community Safety Act represents reforms our city’s police department needs, and the City Council must pass these bills.”
The rally outside of City Hall was organized by Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) and preceded meetings with council members where New Yorkers illustrated the damage that discriminatory policing and lack of police oversight has on their communities. Dozens of advocacy and community organizations participated in the rally calling for an end to discriminatory policing and more effective accountability and oversight for the NYPD.
At the rally, CPR announced that all four bills of the Community Safety Act had received sponsorship by a majority of members of the City Council. The campaign also announced the endorsement of the Community Safety Act legislative package by over 50 organizations from throughout the city.
On Monday, the City Council announced that a hearing on the bills would be held on October 10 at City Hall, followed by field hearings on stop-and-frisk practices in Brooklyn and Queens later in the month.
The Community Safety Act consists of four bills:
- Intro 799 that protects New Yorkers against unlawful searches that those subjected to stop-and-frisk often experience. These illegal searches have contributed significantly to the explosion of low-level marijuana arrests, primarily among black and Latino youth, despite the state’s 1977 decriminalization of private possession in small quantities.
- Intro 800 that creates a strong ban on profiling by the NYPD and expands protections against profiling based on age, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, housing status, language and disability, in addition to race, religion or ethnicity.
- Intro 801 that requires NYPD officers to identify themselves and explain their actions.
- Intro 881 that establishes an Inspector General for the NYPD to provide independent oversight.
“Even when I have tried to exercise the rights I knew I had, there was no way of ensuring they were respected in reality – during one stop, the cop’s only response was to call me a ‘faggot’ while conducting a search over my objection.” said Mitchell Mora, a 23 year old Latino youth leader, “know your rights” educator, and researcher with Streetwise and Safe. “The Community Safety Act is critical to counteract the many ways in which LGBTQ youth of color are policed -- whether we are being told, like I was, to empty our pockets, open up a bag or purse, or submit to a ‘gender check’ without any legal basis.”
“This practice of stopping, frisking and intimidating kids really angers me,” said Brooklyn resident Justin Rosado, 17, a student and member of Make the Road New York. “I am a kid who follows the rules, goes to school every day, and spends my free time trying to make my community a better place. But none of that matters because I am young and Latino.”
“I’m rallying for police reform with CPR on September 27 to make the NYPD accountable for their negative actions, and to stop the harassment of the homeless by the NYPD,” said Raul Rodriguez, a member of Picture the Homeless.
“We believe the NYPD’s discriminatory practices are an attack on people of African descent,” said Tsedey Betru, a member of the New York chapter of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. “We stand in solidarity with all New Yorkers affected by these practices to pass the Community Safety Act, so that our communities are safe from crime and immoral policing.”
“The Community Safety Act, which is backed by an ever-growing coalition of broad-based support, is an important series of reforms that will help lead to better policing and safer streets for all,” stated Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn). “I am proud to be a prime sponsor of this legislation and even prouder to join my colleagues today in calling for greater NYPD accountability and the passage of these bills. I firmly believe that we can achieve better policing and safer streets in our city simultaneously.”
The NYPD’s stop-and-frisk abuses are just one example of systemic discriminatory policing that targets certain New Yorkers, based on their race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, housing status, gender identity or expression, and sexual orientation.
Organizers and supporters of the day of advocacy and campaign to pass the Community Safety Act pointed to the fact that the Bloomberg administration’s use of stop-and-frisk and other discriminatory policing practices constitute a widespread violation of the civil and human rights of New Yorkers, and fail to keep communities safe from violence. They also highlighted other legally dubious practices and patterns by the NYPD that have occurred under the Bloomberg administration without accountability and resolution.
During the Bloomberg administration, the NYPD has made more than 4 million stops of New Yorkers, with nearly 90 percent of stops resulting in no summons or arrest. Black and Latino New Yorkers make up approximately 85 percent of the stops. Stops often result in unlawful searches, unwarranted arrests and charges, and abusive, humiliating treatment of those New Yorkers subjected to them.
LGBT New Yorkers, the homeless, Muslims, public housing residents and many others have also been subjected to similar profiling and abuses at the hands of the police department.
Meanwhile, a lack of effective oversight but also other systemic practices – like quota systems and the manipulation of crime statistics – have allowed these abuses to continue. The perpetuation of these harmful policies and practices contribute to a police department that is less and less accountable to the taxpayers of New York City that it is responsible for serving and protecting.
None of these practices have helped protect New Yorkers, as gun violence remains at nearly the same levels as when Mayor Bloomberg first entered office.
The rally served as a rejection of illegal, discriminatory policing, and put forth an affirmative vision of police reforms that would help make our city safer, promote civil rights and justice, and improve the NYPD by restoring integrity and trust in the police department.
“Stop and frisk makes youth of color feel like we’re criminals and not welcome in our own city,” said Alfredo Carrasquillo of VOCAL-NY. “It also drives the number one arrest in this city, which is possession of small amounts of marijuana, and fuels the school to prison pipeline as a result.”
“I’ve been a victim of these racist ‘stop and frisk’ tactics since before there was a name for it,” said Steve Kohut, a Justice Committee organizer. “Now it breaks my heart to know that I’m going to have to sit my son down and tell him that, like myself, chances are he will be searched, groped, stripped, and maybe even beaten by the cops, just because he’s Latino.”
“The Community Safety Act will bring much needed reforms to the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk and related practices,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “Collectively, these bills would ensure that the NYPD is held accountable when it abuses its power. This, in turn, will improve police-community relations and lead to a better NYPD for all.”
“Young people in many neighborhoods have come to expect that they will be stopped and searched on their way to school, when hanging out with their friends, and even inside their own apartment buildings,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director Vincent Warren. “The transparency, oversight, and accountability provided by the Community Safety Act will be a critical step towards preventing these kinds of abuses.”
“Stop-and-frisk is the biggest racial profiling program in the country. It must be stopped,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “Stop-and-frisk is illegal, unethical, ineffective, and gives license for officers to harass and intimidate innocent black and brown youth. Our children should not have to fear both the robbers and the cops.”
“This past summer, tens of thousands of New Yorkers from all walks of life marched in silence and solidarity for justice in our communities,” said George Gresham, President, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “The package of legislation before the New York City Council, known as the Community Safety Act, would enact reforms needed to improve public accountability and trust with the NYPD. We applaud City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for calling public hearings on the legislation and we urge swift passage of these important reforms.”
“National Action Network support efforts to pass legislation that will enforce police accountability and community relations and we are proud to stand with Communities United for Police Reform in support of the passage of the Community Safety Act,” said Tamika D. Mallory, Executive Director of National Action Network.
“The police department must not ignore the concerns of the community about racial profiling and unlawful searches and real legislation must be passed to ensure a safer New York for everyone,” said Kyle Bragg, Vice President of 32BJ. “New Yorkers should be able to walk down the street without fear of being stopped, frisked and arrested. Police tactics that indiscriminately target people who are young, Latino, Black or appear to be immigrants strike fear into the heart of immigrant communities and working-class neighborhoods, undermining the community trust essential to effective policing. We demand an end to these systematic violations of our rights.”
“Everyday at The Bronx Defenders, we meet clients and Bronx community members who have been unfairly stopped, illegally searched, and mistreated by the police,” said Robin Steinberg, Executive Director of The Bronx Defenders. “In the West Bronx, police use force during stops at the highest rate in the city. We are fighting for the Community Safety Act to increase NYPD accountability and make New York City safer for all of us.”
“For too long, ‘stop and frisk’ and other discriminatory police tactics have made too many New Yorkers feel unsafe in our own neighborhoods,” said Brittny Saunders, Senior Staff Attorney for Immigrant and Civil Rights, The Center for Popular Democracy. “Today, we gather to demand safety and respect for all New Yorkers. The Council has a powerful opportunity to show how local leaders can work with communities to find to solve a problem that’s critically important to the future of this city and so many across the country.”
“Many people are unaware that they can refuse to consent to a search by the NYPD; this lack of knowledge results in thousands of unlawful marijuana arrests every year,” said Kassandra Frederique, policy coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance. “The Community Safety Act creates more transparent police practices that will reduce thousands of unlawful arrests, creating safer and healthier communities.”
“The job of the NYPD is to protect our communities not to target them,” said Marie Pierre Chair of NYCC Board, Chair Brownsville Chapter. “Every New Yorker wants to be safe in their neighborhood but when young people of color don't have the freedom to walk the streets without harassment—that’s not safety. The NYPD needs to find effective policies that don't rely on racial profiling to protect our communities.”