August 22, 2013
New York just made civil rights history! Just moments ago the City Council voted to override Mayor Bloomberg’s veto of two Community Safety Act bills that will enact real and lasting reforms to discriminatory policing practices, including the NYPD’s abusive stop and frisk program.
The fact that a super-majority of City Council Members held firm against heavy intimidation and fear mongering by Mayor Bloomberg shows the power of community activism in calling for a new approach to policing and public safety in New York. VOCAL-NY has been working with allies from Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) to canvass neighborhoods across the city to encourage New Yorkers to contact their Council Members in support of the reforms.
The two bills that will now become law, sponsored by Council Members Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander, will create permanent and independent oversight of the NYPD (Intro 1079) and a strong and enforceable ban on discriminatory profiling based on race, sexual orientation, gender expression, country of origin, housing status and other categories (Intro 1080).
Anita Jenkins, a VOCAL-NY leader from Brooklyn, recently told me about being stopped in Brownsville a couple weeks ago while walking with her girlfriend to her mother’s house to drop-off food. The police asked Anita if she had drugs on her, grabbed her bag and searched it, and said they stopped her because they were looking for two women. She challenged the officer, explaining that she was just coming back from Katz with a pastrami sandwich for her mom and had done nothing wrong. The police threatened to handcuff her and left Anita feeling humiliated a few steps from her mom’s home.
Over half a million New Yorkers were stopped by the police last year and 87% of those stopped were Black or Latino. Nine in ten were totally innocent, and nearly all of the arrests or summons were for non-serious offenses, including illegal searches that found small amounts of marijuana. Only about one-tenth of one percent of stops lead to gun seizures.
Let’s be clear. The NYPD’s stop and frisk practices are both unconstitutional and ineffective at preventing crime, including gun violence. We don’t need to choose between keeping our communities safe and sacrificing our civil rights.
Today was a major step towards a new approach to policing and public safety in New York City. But we can’t stop now. We’re just getting started.
– Alfredo Carrasquilo, VOCAL-NY Civil Rights Organizer
PS: VOCAL-NY is heading to Washington, DC early Saturday to join the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington to call for racial and economic justice for our communities. We hope to see you there!