Discriminatory and abusive policing in New York City remains a serious problem after decades of out-of-control policies and practices that are unaccountable to residents of the city. In 1994, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton adopted policing strategies based on the unproven and controversial broken windows theory, an ideologically-driven philosophy arising from a fellow of the conservative Manhattan Institute.
Broken windows policing, which promotes hyper-aggressive enforcement of minor non-violent infractions by certain people deemed to reflect disorder, has perpetuated the abusive and discriminatory treatment of entire communities. Yet, it has continued to dramatically expand. This has resulted in policing that undermines public safety and trust including biased stop-and-frisk abuses, unconstitutional searches, racially disparate marijuana arrests and summonses, discriminatory profiling and harassment, and the use of excessive force. These NYPD policies and practices often aggressively target and disproportionaly impact communities of color, including: young people, homeless people, LGBTQ people, people with cognitive and psychiatric disabilities, immigrants, women, and Muslim communities.
The abuses in daily police interactions that occur with impunity normalize a dangerous standard of disrespect within communities that leads to escalating abuse and violence. The lack of accountability for such abuses further undermines public integrity, far too often leaving New Yorkers increasingly vulnerable to police abuse and violence and without safety in their own neighborhoods. Even in the extreme but far too common incidents when officers brutalize or unjustly kill New Yorkers, there is rarely meaningful and timely accountability by the NYPD.
NYPD stop-and-frisk abuses were ruled unconstitutional by a federal court in 2013, and remain the subject of a court monitor and needed reforms. Though the overall number of reported stops has declined, an ongoing court-ordered reform process to overhaul this product of broken windows policing continues while stops persist in being abusive and disproportiontely impacting Black and Latino communities.
Discriminatory broken windows policing disproportionately targets certain communities with arrests or summonses for low-level infractions—even when not resulting in criminal convictions, enforcement for violations as trivial as riding a bike on the sidewalk (or other violations also not equally enforced in neighborhoods) can trigger severe consequences—(job loss, eviction, deportation of permanent residents who are not citizens, etc.).
Arrests, abuses and brutality can result from civilians even requesting the reason for police stopping them in the first place, the identity of the officer, or exercising their Constitutional rights
These policing practices create and foster an atmosphere of fear and mistrust of the police, while violating New Yorkers’ human and constitutional rights, and systemically perpetuate inequality in our city. This is not an acceptable approach to public safety or progress in New York.
New York City needs an approach to public safety that is based on respect for and holistic investment in communities, not on police targeting and harassment.
Investment and Respect: We need public safety practices that are based on investment in and respect for all communities in New York City. Every New Yorker deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, not reflexively as suspects in their own neighborhoods. Investment in local infrastructure and communities' well-being is a pre-requisite to meaningful community safety.
Safety & Human Rights: Community members deserve to feel safe and have their rights protected and upheld by law enforcement, not violated.
Accountability: The NYPD must act in a just, fair and safe way that is accountable to local communities when doing their jobs. Police are not above the law, and therefore must be held accountable for their actions with timely, meaningful consequences for misconduct. There should be zero tolerance for abuse of power and brutality by NYPD officers.
Transparency: Transparency is critical to public accountability and trust. New Yorkers deserve a transparent police department both in everyday interactions and in the public reporting of their activity and data.
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign that is working to end discriminatory policing in New York. We are advancing policies that protect the safety and rights of all New Yorkers to create true community safety. We are in the courts fighting to hold police accountable for violating New Yorkers' constitutional rights. We are training communities to know their rights and to observe and document police abuse. We engage in strategic direct action, organizing and civic engagement to build the power of communities most impacted by abusive policing. And we are in Albany and at City Hall demanding law and policy changes that advance police accountability to improve safety for communities.