The nonprofit newsroom, THE CITY, hosted a panel discussion in Flatiron about the future of policing in New York City under a new mayoral administration. Moderated by THE CITY Deputy Editor Hasani Gittens, the Nov. 10 discussion explored police reform efforts that have worked and how they could be implemented by the NYPD.
Panelists included Mark Winston Griffith, executive director of the Brooklyn Movement Center and a member ofTHE CITY’s board of directors; Jullian Harris-Calvin, director of the Greater Justice New York program at the Vera Institute of Justice; and Alex Vitale, professor of sociology and coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College.
“It can be difficult to talk about policing without falling into some of the same stereotypes, inequalities and euphemisms that come up in these types of conversations,” said Gittens. “However, given that we have a new president, governor and in a few months, a new mayor, it’s a prime time to have a solutions-based discussion on how we can address many of the same problems that continue to persist.”
The conversation opened up with a question from Gittens about how Mayor-elect Eric Adams should approach policing in his first 100 days as mayor.
“The mayor-elect has a vision of law and order that we’ve tried and have found to have failed,” said Griffith, who is also a spokesman for Communities United for Police Reform. “We have to create mechanisms outside of the NYPD. You have to bring down the scale, the size, the budget and footprint of the NYPD in order to reduce the impact and harm it’s having.”
“Our perspective at Vera is thinking about who police are, what they should be focusing on and how communities can take a central role in defining what public safety is and defining public safety solutions without focusing solely on incarceration, arrests and the many other stages of the criminal justice process that are used to drive mass incarceration,” said Harris-Calvin.
“As long as we continue to have the wrong people in the right positions, people will continue to be cynical when it comes to police reform,” said Raymond, who was speaking on his own behalf and not representing the NYPD. “However, as someone with 13 years experience in the department, I know that there are justice-minded officers in the department who want reform. It’s about finding these people, empowering them, and giving them the positions that are needed to make this work happen.”
“We have to stop using the police to solve every problem under the sun,” said Vitale. “We have to have community-based processes to actually solve problems and not just have abstract conversations about civil rights. Until we have a city government that actually is interested in doing something to fix the problem, it’s going to be up to us to have our own community-based conversations where we start to demand real solutions to our problems.”
The panel discussion comes on the heels of the election of Adams, who will be the second Black mayor of the city. He’s been one of the many voices in the long-standing debate over police reform. The former NYPD captain, who campaigned on his public safety expertise, has promised to have the backs of officers while also taking on the department’s sky-high overtime spending. He’s also expressed a determination to make the disciplining of errant cops stricter and quicker — something reformers have sought for years.
“THE CITY was founded two and a half years ago to address the health of our information infrastructure and civic space,” said Nic Dawes, executive director of THE CITY. “ We were built to try and tackle that problem, not only through accountability reporting, but also through practicing a different type of accountability that comes from having a good civic conversation and imagination that is about evidence-based solutions to some of the toughest problems we face. Convening this conversation is just as much a part of our work as the invaluable reporting our team does day in and day out on the issues that matter to New Yorkers.”