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Where is Police Reform Two Years After the George Floyd Protests?

In the wake of the police murder of George Floyd, New Yorkers took to the streets to protest police violence as part of the country’s largest civil rights movement in decades.

In the wake of the police murder of George Floyd, New Yorkers took to the streets to protest police violence as part of the country’s largest civil rights movement in decades. In response, state lawmakers passed several bills meant to increase police transparency and accountability.

Two years later, the political atmosphere is very different. Politicians in both major political parties are pledging to increase funding, resources, and support for police departments. Many are counting on law enforcement to be the answer to many of our state’s biggest problems like homelessness, mental health care, school discipline, and more.

In the face of this return to so-called law-and-order politics, how do we advance the causes of police transparency, accountability and reform? And how do we eventually transform the role law enforcement plays in our society?


[00:00:00] Simon: Welcome to Rights This Way, a podcast from the New York Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of New York State. I’m Simon McCormack, senior staff writer at the NYCLU, and your host for this podcast, which is focused on the civil rights and liberties issues that impact New Yorkers most.

[00:00:24] In the wake of the police murder of George Floyd, New Yorkers took to the streets to protest police violence as part of the country’s largest civil rights movement in decades. In response, state lawmakers passed several bills meant to increase police transparency and accountability. Two years later, the political atmosphere is very different.

[00:00:44] Politicians in both major parties are pledging to increase funding, resources, and support for police departments. Many are counting on law enforcement to be the answer to our state’s biggest problems like homelessness, mental healthcare, school discipline, and more. In the face of this return to so-called law and order politics, how do we advance the cause of police transparency, accountability, and reform? And how do we eventually transform the role law enforcement plays in our society?

[00:01:15] Here to get into all of this with me are two guests. Michael Sisitzky is a NYCLU Assistant Policy Director and Bobby Hodgson is a NYCLU supervising attorney. Michael, Bobby, welcome to Rights This Way.

[00:01:31] Bobby: Thanks so much for having us.

[00:01:33] Michael: Thanks Simon.

[00:01:34] Simon: Of course. It is truly great to have you. And I just wanna start, um, with kind of what I laid out in the, the intro there, which is basically that in 2020, there was an atmosphere where there were widespread calls for change around policing. And now we’re in an environment where politicians are extremely cautious, at best, to criticize law enforcement.

[00:01:59] And many of them are falling all over themselves to increase funding and resources and support for police. So I wanna ask both of you – either, either one of you can, can start — how did we get here and how has this change sort of impacted New York specifically?

[00:02:18] Michael: So I’m happy to start. Um, and Bobby, feel free to jump in. You know, I think one thing that I think we’re really used to in the world of civil rights advocacy is that whenever you achieve progress, you immediately encounter reactionary forces and a backlash. This is something that we’ve seen with the intense and still ongoing attacks against New York’s historic bail reform from 2019.

[00:02:42] And it’s now something that we’re seeing playing out in similar ways to the racial justice protests, the demands for police accountability, for transparency, for reducing the size and scope of policing. We’re seeing that same backlash now play out in the wake of those protests and those reforms, and there’s a lot of factors that have been playing into that.

[00:03:01] You know, I think the pandemic has been a moment that caused a massive disruption to our society, and it came at a time where crime levels were at historic lows. And then as communities began to feel less safe, as there was a nationwide kind of trend in increases in reporting on crime — that, while rising we’re still at relative historic lows — there was this sense that the reactionary forces seized on that narrative, seized on that sense of fear, that sense of unease, that sense that people were less safe, less supported, and responded the same way that they always do, which is to say that if you feel unsafe, what is going to keep you safe is more policing, tough on crime, law and order politics. And those forces have—because of increase in attention from politicians from the media, that’s a narrative that’s really gained a lot of traction and kind of risen in opposition to push back on the reforms that they had tried unsuccessfully to hold at bay back in 2020.

[00:03:59] Bobby: I think Michael said it very well. I mean, the thing I would add is there is a speed at which any progress can be made, and it is unfortunately always slower than the speed at which progress should be made. And so, as you said, we had a moment when a lot of doors opened and people recognized the need for reform, for accountability, for transparency, which I know we’ll get into a little bit more later, and made some drastic legislative changes and took to the streets and called really loudly for the types of reforms that, to be clear, people had been calling for, for a very long time. And that was, you know, part of a decades-long movement to try and address the way that people are policed in our society.

[00:04:41] And that was a moment of real opportunity, potential, and change. And things really did get changed concretely in, in the way that our laws are written. But you know, what flows from that is still up in the air because it takes time. Um, and so I think necessarily the narratives that media might alight on or that people will take the opportunity to highlight, they can’t be the same thing for two years, three years, four years – the amount of time it takes to actually start to, you know, see some of the concrete changes that people called for, or even take the first steps in opening up a meaningful conversation about what police accountability looks like and what policing themselves has looked like for many years.

[00:05:20] Because that takes some time, I think people also just start to pull at different threads, and the forces that Michael identified who want to scale back any reforms that might have happened or might have been possible have taken the opportunity to try and use the momentum that they have. I still think – and we’ll definitely get into this – that there is a continued, steady, and overwhelming sense that the reforms people called for in 2020 are still necessary.

[00:05:47] And we are still sort of taking all the steps you need to be taking behind the scenes, and as sort of like a community of allies working towards a better vision of what accountability and change would look like, these are steps that are gonna happen regardless of some of the highs and lows of how the public might be talking about it at that particular moment.

[00:06:07] Simon: And picking up on that and picking up on the accountability thread, I think some of the reason that politicians are hesitant to criticize police is, is that much of their misconduct is hidden, and even when that misconduct does come to light, police are rarely punished for it. So back in 2020, um, in the midst of the widespread, uh, Black Lives Matter protests, State legislators passed a bill repealing something called 50-a.

[00:06:36] So Michael, can you explain what 50-a was and why repealing it was important?

[00:06:43] Michael: Sure. 50-a was a section of the state’s civil rights law that shielded records of police officers from public scrutiny. Um, it also applied to firefighters and correction officers, but really much of the focus with 50-a has always been the barrier that it imposed to accessing records of police misconduct and discipline.

[00:07:04] Basically, in short, the law said that all personnel records used to evaluate the officer’s performance toward continued employment or promotion are confidential, couldn’t be disclosed absent the officer’s consent or a really difficult to obtain court order. And the idea at the time, it was passed back in 1976, and the supposed justification was to protect officers from being embarrassed on the witness stand when they were testifying, um, and having a defense attorney that was pointing out acts of misconduct or discipline in that officer’s record that could be used to question their credibility as they’re testifying on the stand.

[00:07:39] That was the idea at the time, but the way that 50-a ended up working was that it became this supercharged exemption to the state public records law — the freedom of information law, or FOIL. Like, the normal way that things work is that when a government agency has a record, it’s public, you get to see it.

[00:07:56] They might be able to redact some portions of it, but the default presumption is that because this is a public record, it’s entitled to public review, public scrutiny, you get to see what’s in it. 50-a said you cannot do that for police discipline and misconduct records. So we saw police departments that were withholding obviously kind of the basic information on complaints of misconduct on whether investigations were carried out fully or efficiently, whether there was any discipline imposed on officers found to have engaged in misconduct. There were also, you know, some making, uh, really incredulous arguments that 50-a meant that they didn’t have to turn over body camera footage, or even data on use-of-force rates, because all of those are conceivably records that they could use to analyze an officer’s performance.

[00:08:40] So in practice, this basically meant that police discipline in New York was a matter of state secrecy. The only way we ever found out if officers were held accountable for misconduct was often just through leaks to the media. You know, we saw this following the killing of Eric Garner, where the family and advocates had requested records of past misconduct and discipline concerning the officer who killed Eric.

[00:09:05] And that was withheld by the NYPD, but it was eventually leaked to the media. This was an officer who had a known history of misconduct within the NYPD, a number of complaints that had been substantiated by the city’s independent oversight body, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, that had been ignored by the NYPD.

[00:09:24] And this was an officer who was out on the streets with a known history of misconduct that the public had no access to and had no understanding that this is the type of person that they could encounter when they’re dealing with an NYPD officer. And that’s really what inspired so much of the passion and the anger around 50-a in 2020, was the sense that we can’t even have an informed discussion on police accountability in New York when only one side has access to the information and when there just isn’t that level playing field.

[00:09:55] So that was really the, the motivation behind the calls to repeal 50-a, was to give the public the tools that we need to understand what happens when you file complaints against police officers who engage in excessive force, who lie on official statements. What are the mechanisms that we have in place to ensure that they are held accountable and that they are not abusing the really extraordinary amount of authority that they have and that they operate under New York law?

[00:10:23] And once we have that information, we can better hold individual officers accountable and better hold the entire system accountable to make sure that they are responding appropriately when officers violate the public trust.

[00:10:35] Simon: Michael, I know you said when we have that information, so it was repealed in 2020. What happened after it was repealed? And how is the NYCLU now involved?

[00:10:47] Bobby: So much. Um, so Simon, obviously, you know, Michael just described this landmark moment when this law that had existed that essentially put all of these incredibly important documents in a lockbox that no one from the public could see for 40 years, it gets repealed. Everyone assumes that at that moment, you know, suddenly there will be this flood of documents, and suddenly the public in every community will be able to understand how its particular police force polices itself or doesn’t.

[00:11:15] And you know, we, as part of that at the NYCLU created a statewide 50-a project, where we submitted FOIL requests, the freedom of information law that Michael was talking about before, to over a dozen jurisdictions around the state — some small, some large, including the NYPD, including New York City’s Department of Corrections, which of course oversees Rikers, including the state prison system — and we said, give us the, you know, the past few decades of all of your disciplinary files, all of your records of complaints, dispositions, et cetera, along with a bunch of different policies that were related to that. Here we are over two years later. Overwhelmingly, we have gotten very little documents, and that is because these police departments, oftentimes aided in litigation by unions representing the officers or corrections officers, have basically thrown the kitchen sink of arguments at various courts saying, ‘We wanna reinstate 50-a by 20 different names.

[00:12:19] They are invoking every aspect of the FOIL law that they can to suggest that existing exemptions somehow cover almost all of their discipline records. They’re making arguments that when the legislature repealed 50-a in 2020, what it actually was doing was leaving secret every single record that existed before 2020 and only prospectively releasing them, which of course is not what the legislature was doing, and many legislatures were very clear about that.

[00:12:47] Basically we at the NYCLU and of course many other advocates and activists on the ground in their own communities, many journalists have been seeking disciplinary files to start, you know, that very first step of getting a look at what the police have been doing to police themselves for the past several decades.

[00:13:06] I, I’ll say there are some bright spots. We have gotten some documents. There was a very, very early initial release by New York City’s CCRB, the civilian oversight agency that fields certain complaints of misconduct against police officers, where tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of records of complaints that had previously been shielded by 50-a, basic summaries of them were made public, and the NYCLU had to go to court to be permitted to release those. And we did in the summer of 2020. But the picture is still very much partial and there’s so much work to be done, to be getting at these documents. And to be more specific, we’re going to court, we’re going to court all around the state to fight for the release of these documents.

[00:13:50] And that’s a, a frustratingly slow process for a lot of the people who deserve to see these things over two years ago.

[00:13:56] Simon: Just, um, so folks know that we’ll put links in the show notes, including to the Civilian Complaint Review Board database that Bobby just mentioned there. That is quite as, as Bobby said, quite a comprehensive, or at least the most comprehensive look that we’ve ever had into NYPD discipline or, or lack thereof.

[00:14:13] And Michael, there’s new legislation around this 50-a battle. Is that right?

[00:14:17] Michael: That’s right. So Bobby mentioned some of the challenges that we’ve been seeing in our FOIL requests and ongoing litigation to try to get these records out into the public. And the frustrating thing about the legislative process here is that it was clear all along, as Bobby said, that the legislature in 2020 fully repealed 50-a, made all of these records presumptively public.

[00:14:39] We shouldn’t have to be having these fights right now, but to the extent that police departments, police unions, and some courts are getting the issuewrong, what the legislature can do is restate the original intent behind the repeal of 50-a, but kind of in bigger, bolder letters this time. So there’s a bill, uh, that’s being carried by Senator Jamaal Bailey and Assemblymember Jessica Gonzalez Rojas that does that clarification that reminds police departments that they actually do have to turn over all records of misconduct — whether the complaints are substantiated, unsubstantiated, whether the complaint was filed before 50-a was repealed or after it was repealed — making it clear that all of these excuses that police departments are continuing to use would be fully cut off and they would not be able to continue hiding the vast majority of misconduct records from the public.

[00:15:34] And I think, you know, it’s, it’s kind of worth emphasizing just how critical it is to get access to what those unsubstantiated and other types of records look like, because that’s really the vast majority of cases that move through police, investigative, and disciplinary processes. You know, so I mentioned that we got the CCRB’s kind of history of complaints and did some analysis, uploaded those records to our website and going through those records, what we found was that since 2000, the CCRB was only ever able to actually substantiate 7% of complaints.

[00:16:10] And it was only 2% of all complaints in that database that resulted in discipline being imposed by the NYPD. So if police departments and police unions get their way and say that they, you know, only have to turn over records that are substantiated and resulted in discipline, to use that NYPD and CCRB database example, that’s just 2%.

[00:16:31] Of all of the complaints that have been filed, it tells us nothing about what departments are doing to actually investigate and substantiate those complaints. It doesn’t tell us about whether the systems we have in place are operating effectively, whether the complaints are not being substantiated because of a lack of resources for the investigating agency because of corruption or nepotism within police departments.

[00:16:54] Whether they just don’t actually take discipline and misconduct seriously, we need to have access to those underlying records, because again, these are people who are public servants who have a badge, a gun, they have the authority to take people out of their homes, out of their communities, lock them up, use deadly force against them.

[00:17:13] We need to have access to the underlying records of all of these complaints to know whether they’re being taken seriously because of the really astonishing amount of power that we give these public officials in the first place.

[00:17:27] Bobby: I mean, Michael’s point is a great one because just taking this example of, police departments are saying in every case where we ourselves did not impose discipline on an officer, we are not gonna release any form of any of these documents, not even let you know the number of other complaints that are out there. And the argument they are making to the court is that there is no public interest in understanding anything about a complaint that didn’t end up in the police imposing discipline on one of their own officers. And on the flip side, they’re saying it is an unwarranted invasion of an officer’s privacy to release any of that information to the public.

[00:18:05] Uh, this is an existing FOIL exemption. So on its face, this is a wild argument that should be so troubling to so many people because, as Michael said, the idea that the public gleans no important information from the fact that there are 20,000 complaints versus 15 complaints that didn’t result in discipline is just on its face ludicrous. And you know, from the drips and drabs that had come out publicly prior to the repeal of 50-a, we know this already. Part of the debate in the legislature involved this fact that over the course of several years in New York City, there had been about 4,000 complaints of racial profiling like made against NYPD officers.

[00:18:48] And of those, zero were substantiated. So under the theory that these police departments are, are advocating for, that’s a number that no one would ever know and none of those 4,000 complaints should ever see the light of day. And that just cannot stand, that is not what the legislature meant when it repealed 50-a, but that’s the kind of thing that we’re facing and that that has held up the release of all of these documents for so long.

[00:19:11] So it is incredibly important to understand, as Michael said, why a complaint might not be substantiated, what’s going on with these investigations, and ultimately, what does this tell us about whether and how the police are policing themselves or aren’t? That’s just key to having any sort of informed conversation about where we go next.

[00:19:31] Michael: I can just add a bit more on the legislative intent and process here. What makes this so baffling is that there was no disagreement in the legislature about what was happening with the repeal of 50-a back in June of 2020. There were differences of opinion from folks about whether to support it or not, but the supporters said that they were advancing the repeal of 50-a because they wanted to get access to histories of allegations of misconduct against officers who are currently on the force, including looking at patterns of unsubstantiated complaints to see if there were types of misconduct that were being ignored at rates that kind of didn’t pass the smell test. And then on the flip side, you had opponents who were saying, we are not going to support the appeal of 50-a because it is making unsubstantiated records public, because it is opening up all of this to public scrutiny and public view.

[00:20:22] So, you know, the legislature knew what it was doing. The supporters and opponents agreed on the outcome of what would happen even if they didn’t come to the same position on the bill itself. So the fact that police departments are now trying to invent these new excuses about what the legislature intended, the legislature was clear with their intent all along.

[00:20:40] So it’s a bit of, uh, groundhog’s day with now having to go back to the legislature and kind of repeal 50-a again in, uh, those clearer terms. But to be clear, 50-a was repealed. The legislature opened up all of these records to public view, but if we have to clarify it one more time, just so the message gets driven home for folks, that’s something that we hope the legislature can pass and accomplish in the coming session.

[00:21:03] Simon: And some of this misconduct is actually, you know, people can see it for themselves via video, for example. I think one of the things that was most striking, not surprising, about the protests in 2020 was the truly vicious response from the police. Bobby, can you talk about what that reaction looked like and what the NYCLU has done and is doing in, in response?

[00:21:31] Bobby: Sure. Um, so as you said, Simon, a lot of us have seen the videos, and if you haven’t, you, you should check them out. In response to people protesting against police violence in 2020, NYPD officers around the city ran over people, beat people, pepper sprayed people, tossed peaceful protestors to the ground, you know, in one particularly egregious incident in the Bronx, in the Mott Haven neighborhood, officers intentionally trapped a huge group of protestors. Um, they did something called kettling, which is where they essentially circle up around a group of people and then tell them they have to leave or they’ll be arrested, don’t give them the opportunity to leave, and then rush in and arrest them all as a group.

[00:22:18] These are violent tactics. These are just plainly illegal tactics and unconstitutional policing tactics, but unfortunately, both reporting at the time, and you know, further investigation have shown that in a lot of cases, these tactics were explicitly approved or praised by, you know, certainly the NYPD higher-ups, and, and even the mayor at the time, Bill de Blasio.

[00:22:39] And they’re also part of a long history of the NYPD policing protest in a way that’s violent, that’s unlawful, and that not only chills the rights of people who wanna go out in the streets and peacefully protest, but also is actively harming and injuring a lot of people. Um, so in response to this, we represent a number of people who were part of those protests in a lawsuit against New York City and the NYPD, trying to force them to change their policies and change the way that they police protests, to reduce police presence, to put some limits on the ways that they can interact with protestors, and to stop these types of violent tactics from continuing to be the sort of defacto reaction of the NYPD to people who are out there peacefully protesting. So we represent a number of plaintiffs in a case called Payne versus de Blasio that we brought in, you know, in federal court in Manhattan that is still ongoing, where we are trying to, again, get the police to change what it’s doing.

[00:23:40] A number of other people are involved in similar cases, unsurprisingly. There’s sort of a groundswell of people affected by these types of tactics who are going to the courts for relief. So, you know, we’re bringing our case alongside the Legal Aid Society, uh, in our, in our Payne case, but there are over a dozen cases that have been filed – many of them have, have been consolidated with ours and are moving forward alongside ours in the courts. But unfortunately, you know, obviously, getting change through lawsuits and through court action is, is a frustratingly slow process. So we’re, we’re still in the middle of that, but what we’re trying to do is raise up the voices of the plaintiffs that we’re representing, telling their stories, you know, showing the ways in which the NYPD’S tactics affected them and ultimately try and get some change on the books.

[00:24:26] Simon: I think as you said, it’s a, it’s a slow process in the courts. It’s just, to me it’s striking how many of the things that sparked the 2020 protests still persist. For example, one of the police killings that fueled the protests was the death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by police after a no-knock police raid on her home.

[00:24:49] Michael, can you talk about what no-knock warrants are and also why they so often lead to innocent people getting injured or even killed?

[00:24:58] Michael: Sure. Um, so it’s probably helpful to start with what warrant executions and processes look like more generally and how, you know, people generally conceive of police, like showing up to someone’s home. They knock on the door, they announce themselves, they say that they have a warrant that allows them to enter, to search the premises, to arrest a person.

[00:25:19] Process is, you know, the officers will make their case to a judge that they have probable cause to go into someone’s home and search it or arrest a person who’s there. But the general process is they do that by showing up in uniforms, saying who they are, and letting the person know what’s happening in that circumstance.

[00:25:37] What a no-knock warrant is what it sounds like. The officer skips the knocking part. They don’t announce themselves. They’re able to just immediately force their way inside of a home without any warning. They really emerged as a far too common tactic in the racist war on drugs. Um, and we see them used time and time again because officers are claiming they need to go into a home to search for drugs because drugs can be easily disposed of, discarded, that’s critical evidence. So to make sure that we can gather that evidence of drugs in someone’s home, we need to be able to barge in and not let the person know that we’re coming. And what happens is that you have officers who are using battering rams to break down someone’s door.

[00:26:25] They’re going into someone’s home and throwing flash bang grenades as a distraction tool. Not withstanding the fact that these are devices that can cause really severe burns and even death, they’re going in not visually identified all the time as law enforcement. So you have, you know, a home that has from the perspective of the occupants just been invaded.

[00:26:45] You have no idea what’s happening. This could be a raid that’s occurring in the middle of the night. You hear your door being beaten down, flash bangs going off, and it leads far too often to the types of chaos and confusion that then lead to escalation and death as we saw in the case of Breonna Taylor.

[00:27:04] So, and that’s obviously one of the clearest examples of when these warrants go horribly wrong, but it doesn’t even need to rise to the level of someone being killed to see just how problematic these warrants are. You know, the NYPD has come under scrutiny in the past couple of years for some truly botched no-knock raids where officers showed up to the wrong address and broke down someone’s door in a search for drugs.

[00:27:28] There was another case where officers who were convinced that there was, um, a massive amount of controlled substances in someone’s home that they were trying to search, and they came away from that no-knock raid with just a small amount of marijuana that had been recovered. So there was—the scale and the intensity of these raids was so far out of proportion to the purported seriousness of any kind of wrongdoing.

[00:27:51] And the fact is officers, you know, are just over relying on these types of. In ways that have really been disproportionately targeted against communities of color, people of color who have long born the brunt of every type of law enforcement intervention. But the danger here, the targeting of communities, the risk that these types of raids can lead to violence and death have reached a level where it’s time to just cut off the potential for police to use these types of tools going forward.

[00:28:20] So there’s a bill that we are supporting in the New York State legislature. It’s being carried by Assemblymember Danny O’Donnell and Senator James Sanders. And what it does is basically set a blueprint for other states to follow in terms of how to tackle the issue of no-knock warrants. It says that when law enforcement are applying for a warrant, they cannot obtain a no-knock warrant for controlled substance offenses, period, off the table. No more using this as a devastating tool in the war on drugs. The only circumstances where someone might be able to still obtain a no-knock warrant is when officers can really show that there is an imminent and extreme risk to someone’s life.

[00:29:02] Only circumstance where it’s being permitted under this framework. What the bill also does though is make changes to the way that warrant execution happens in general. So there’s the problem of no-knock warrants of officers just barging in in a militarized style raid. There’s also the problem of officers who don’t have a no-knock warrant, but instead what they do is kind of a quick knock warrant, where they’ll knock on someone’s door and give like a minimal amount of notice, and then moments later just barge in and effectively do the exact same thing that a no-knock warrant would’ve authorized them to do. So the bill that we’re supporting would actually impose a mandate that officers who are executing a knock-and-announce warrant actually do have to wait at least 30 seconds to give the person inside time to respond and acknowledge and be aware of what’s happening so that they’re not caught by surprise, so that it’s not just something that has the immediate potential to escalate because of the chaos and confusion of an officer immediately barging in.

[00:30:00] Simon: And we’ve only touched on a fraction of policing issues, so I do urge folks to visit As we wrap up, um, I want to get both of your thoughts turning back to, to where we started here on how can we seize back the momentum that existed in 2020, and how can people who are eager to continue the, the push for changing, transforming, reducing the size and scope, and eventually transforming law enforcement. Um, how can they get involved in this fight?

[00:30:33] Bobby: Um, you know, I think we can certainly start, or one of the places to start is by, you know, following through on the promise of the things that actually were achieved in 2020. Some really important stuff happened. 50-a fell after 40 years. It’s a little frustrating at how slowly some of the revelations that might be made as a result of that are happening, but if we keep working at it, they’re gonna happen.

[00:30:57] And as these documents that are being kept secret come out, they are gonna reveal the types of things, unfortunately—there is no question that when four decades worth of police misconduct records that were kept secret are made public and communities are able to see what the police department in their own city, in their own town has been doing. When they go and say, ‘this happened to me, it was wrong. I would like to file a complaint of misconduct’, and that was either ignored or dismissed or not investigated, these types of revelations are happening now and they’re gonna keep happening, and they’re gonna happen a lot more in the coming years. And when that type of revelation happens and it’s showing up on the news, that is gonna reignite the types of things that people were saying and feeling in 2020.

[00:31:45] And it, it’s gonna amplify the voices again, which is what’s so powerful and what sort of creates this movement in the first place. Amplify the voices of people who’ve been affected by misconduct, by violence, by lack of accountability, um, at the hands of the police and everything we can do to increase that transparency, keep that conversation going and point out in really meaningful and specific ways all of the things that everyone agrees should not be happening, but that continue to happen. I think that’s one part of step, step one, and, and it, it does center on the idea of getting the stories of people who were affected by police violence and police misconduct out there and building on and being ready to move forward on the ways in which that’s gonna ignite the public’s really justified and righteous anger at injustice.

[00:32:32] That’s at the center of every time when, when real progress does get made.

[00:32:34] Michael: Yeah, I think Bobby’s exactly right and you know, the real critical importance of transparency on all of these levels is we need to actually understand just how much we have invested in and given over every problem in society to the police to resolve. So when we start to get more information, you can start to see what the actual result is, when you’re relying on law enforcement to police our schools, to respond to unhoused New Yorkers, to respond to people in mental and emotional distress, and see what the outcomes are, see the scale, the degree, the intensity of misconduct that occurs in so many of these interactions, it also helps us to better, you know, make the case and show that police officers are not actually the go-to cure-all tool that we’ve too long relied on them to be.

[00:33:29] There is a mismatch between the way that we deal with societal problems and the actual causes of those problems. So it’s a longer term kind of next step here. But you know, what we really need to be grappling with is the fact that – we all know this – the safest communities are not the ones that have the biggest police presence, they’re the communities that have the most resources, strongest health and social safety nets, the most accessible supports for people in crisis.

[00:33:57] You don’t solve homelessness by sending cops to go harass unhoused people who are just trying to survive on the streets. You solve it by actually meeting their underlying needs for housing. You don’t resolve someone experiencing a mental health crisis by sending cops to arrest them or escalate the situation or commit any of the other various types of misconduct that too often occur in those interactions. You resolve those issues by actually getting the person mental health expertise, people who can provide them with trauma informed and culturally competent care. We need to kind of rethink this cultural default where we only respond to the kind of symptoms of poverty and crime, and not actually make the investments that are cutting off the root causes of those problems at the source. So it’s again, a, a much longer conversation.

[00:34:51] But the reason why we’d focus so much on this transparency and accountability work is because those are often the areas where police are kind of failing us the most in the way that they currently are set up to respond to those crises. They’re not equipped for it. They’re not designed for it. And when we rely on a carceral tool to respond to non carceral problems, that’s where we see so much misconduct, so much need for a better intervention. So a longer term goal there, but it starts with just getting access to the basic type of information that we need to actually have those conversations moving forward.

[00:35:27] Simon: Well with that, Bobby, Michael, thank you so much for being on Rights This Way.

[00:35:32] Michael: Thank you, Simon.

[00:35:33] Bobby: Thanks for having us. This was great.

[00:35:36] Simon: Thank you for listening. You can find out more about everything we talked about today by visiting, and you can follow us at NYCLU on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. If you have questions or comments about Rights This Way, you can email us at Until next time, I’m Simon McCormack.

[00:35:58] Thank you for fighting for a fair New York.

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