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October 5, 2017

The New York Civil Liberties Union today announced the launch of Listening NYC, a new eight-week campaign created to inspire conversations about policing practices among New Yorkers of all viewpoints, and to drive action for the policing New Yorkers want. Through a series of public pop-up events in parks, on city streets and at other venues across the city, Listening NYC will create interactive environments that enable deeper listening, encourage open dialogue, and amplify ongoing conversations about policing.

“In New York City, we experience policing differently depending on who we are and what community we belong to,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director. “New Yorkers demand equal justice, but the NYPD’s protocols, attitudes, and interactions are not the same for everyone. Some neighborhoods are patrolled while others are profiled. Listening NYC is the first campaign of its kind to ask New Yorkers to listen to each other’s experience with police, and to use that to inspire momentum for the kind policing New Yorkers want.”

Listening NYC is anchored by a traveling, rapidly-assembled set called “The Listening Room,” in which New Yorkers across the five boroughs can share their stories and views about police interactions and policies, and listen to the experiences of others. Decks of “Conversation Cards” will prompt discussions, audio stations will share recorded stories of affected New Yorkers and police, and participants will fill out postcards with their views and top concerns that will be shared with Mayor Bill de Blasio. The listening.nyc website and the @listeningnyc Instagram channel will curate important moments in the life of the campaign and spur online discussion.

The NYCLU recently conducted a survey in communities across the city asking more than 1,000 New Yorkers about their experiences of policing. Communities of color reported over twice as much police-initiated contact as predominantly white communities, five-times more physical contact with police, and reported seeing police surveillance tools twice as often. Half of the New Yorkers from communities of color reported that calling police for help only makes situations worse, where only 17 percent of those in predominantly white communities agreed. The NYCLU set to work creating Listening NYC this year in part to link those perceptions and build a common understanding across the city.

“Our research showed a wide gulf between New Yorkers’ experiences with police, but the enthusiastic response we received doing our survey revealed people’s hunger to talk about these issues, share experiences and reach across communities,” said Johanna Miller, NYCLU advocacy director. “That’s where Listening NYC comes in. Change won’t happen until we come together, but it’s hard to understand someone else’s experience of policing when it’s so different from your own.”

Listening NYC’s “The Listening Room” set will travel to neighborhoods across New York, including Bed-Stuy, Corona, City Hall, the Upper East Side, Inwood, Stapleton, Union Square and many more. “The Listening Room” participants respond to prompts like “I believe the role of police is to ____” and statements like “police should have to tell us their names and the reason they stopped us” and “if police want to read our emails, they should have to get a warrant,” as well as questions like “should footage from police body cameras be public?” Participants will hear audio stories from New Yorkers who include NYPD officer and whistleblower Felicia Whitely, who pushed back against department arrest quotas. The campaign will invite the participation of law enforcement and elected officials as well.

In addition to these pop-ups, the NYCLU and creative design firm IDEO will also host a dynamic dialogue session entitled, Better Policing for a Better New York at Brooklyn’s BAMcafé on Wednesday, October 11. The dialogue will be in the style of Creative Tensions, a participatory format designed by IDEO and the Sundance Institute Theatre Program to foster open dialogue on challenging topics. Invited guests including impacted New Yorkers as well as guests from the entertainment, legal, law enforcement, political and advocacy worlds, will use physical actions and movements to express positions and exchange ideas. Michael Skolnik, co-founder and CEO of the Soze Agency will play a facilitating role at the event along with Adam Foss, former assistant district attorney for Suffolk County, Massachusetts and Sherriff Jerry Clayton from Washtenaw County, Michigan.

For more information about the initiative, and to find a “Listening Room” near you, and monitor social media discussions, visit: https://listening.nyc/

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