The New York Civil Liberties Union today sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio proposing a platform for statewide and citywide police reform focusing on de-escalation of policing practices and meaningful accountability for police wrongdoing.

“The world is asking if black lives matter, and New York must answer with a resounding yes,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “We must learn from the Eric Garner tragedy and adopt immediate reforms that change street level encounters between police and communities of color, and bring accountability to officers who abuse their authority.”

Based on decades working on police accountability, the NYCLU developed a set of reforms to shift toward a community policing model that relies broadly on de-escalation. If followed, it can end some of the worst abuses of broken windows policing and bring meaningful accountability for wrongdoing.

The broad reforms that elected officials must take to change the way communities of color both experience and view the police include:

  • Broadly de-escalate policing including mandates and trying for:
    - Less aggressive police responses to low-level offenses;
    - Re-training police officers to modify their all-too-common behavior when they engage in street encounters;
    - Decriminalizing behaviors in penal law that that poses no serious risk to public safety, like possessing minor amounts of marijuana or riding a bike on a sidewalk; and
    - Barring most custodial arrests for minor offenses that can be dealt with using a ticket or summons.
  • Limit police authority in schools: Ensure kids are not arrested for minor incidents and prohibit police using force or handcuffs on kids in almost all circumstances.
  • Pass the Right to Know Act, which requires police to identify themselves and explain why they are stopping someone and whether that person has a right to refuse being searched.
  • Increase transparency, including reporting on the racial breakdown and use of force in conjunction with summonses.
  • Independent accountability: Transfer final authority for disciplining police from within police departments to an independent entity with civilian oversight.
  • Veto S7801/A9853, which would enable police unions to negotiate the terms of police discipline in collective bargaining agreements.

“New York can be a model for what’s possible to the rest of the country. But our elected officials can’t let this moment get away or settle for the easy route,” Lieberman said. “Our letter outlines some important first steps toward making our city and state places where people’s basic rights and liberties are protected – even promoted and cherished.”