Latino Leaders Gather at City Hall to Call for Police Reform and Passage of Community Safety Act

Latino Leaders on steps of City Hall call for NYPD reform

On Monday September 24, Latino leaders, including Congressional, State and City elected officials, community, labor and faith representatives gathered on the steps of City Hall to demand reform of discriminatory policing practices in New York City including stop and frisk, call for passage of the Community Safety Act package of bills currently before the New York City Council, and encourage New Yorkers to attend the Rally and Advocacy Day for Community Safety on Thursday, September 27. The speakers were joined by community members from CPR member organizations, including Make the Road NY and the Justice Committee. 

Following is the press release released by Communities United for Police Reform.

Latina/o Labor, Faith and Community Leaders Call for Reforms to Curb Discriminatory Stop-and-Frisk Policing and Improve Police Accountability

September 24, 2012 A coalition of Latina/o elected officials and community and labor leaders today announced its support for a legislative package of police reforms – known as the Community Safety Act – and called for all New Yorkers to stand up against discriminatory policing by participating in a major advocacy day on Thursday, Sept. 27.

“Today, we join together in calling for significant reforms to the ‘stop-and-frisk’ policy,” said Rep. Nydia Velazquez.  “These disturbing and disproportionate practices undermine our communities’ trust in law enforcement and have not been effective in making our streets safer.”

“The destructive practice of stopping and frisking law-abiding people of color around our city must be stopped,” said Hector Figueroa, Secretary Treasurer of SEIU 32BJ. “No one, including our young people, should ever feel targeted because of the color of their skin.”

New Yorkers of all backgrounds, including people of color, immigrant, LGBT, Muslim, and homeless New Yorkers, are descending on City Hall this Thursday to rally and advocate for the City Council to pass the Community Safety Act, a package of bills that would help end discriminatory policing and achieve more effective accountability and oversight of the NYPD.

“Being targeted by those who are supposed to ‘protect and serve’ is nothing new to me: I have been stopped and frisked about 19 times since the beginning of 2012 alone,” said Riko Guzman, a Bronx member of the Justice Committee. “This kind of policing doesn’t get guns off the streets and promote safety; instead it feels like an occupation of my community. I feel strongly that we need real police reform and the Community Safety Act can help achieve that.”

“Stop and Frisk does not work as a policing policy, it’s racist and violates basic civil rights,” said Rev. Dr. Samuel Cruz of Trinity Lutheran Church of Brooklyn & Union Theological Seminary.

On Thursday afternoon, hundreds of New Yorkers will participate in a rally outside of City Hall organized by Communities United for Police Reform to support the passage of the Community Safety Act.  The rally will be followed by meetings with council members to explain the damage discriminatory policing and lax police oversight have on communities throughout New York and urge that they pass the bills.

The Community Safety Act consists of four bills:

·         Intro 799 that protects New Yorkers against unlawful searches that those subjected to stop-and-frisk often experience. These illegal searches have contributed significantly to the explosion of low-level marijuana arrests, primarily among Black and Latino youth, despite the state’s 1977 decriminalization of private possession in small quantities.

·         Intro 800 that creates a strong ban on profiling by the NYPD and expands protections against profiling based on age, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, housing status, language and disability, in addition to race, religion or ethnicity.

·         Intro 801 that requires NYPD officers to identify themselves and explain their actions.

·         Intro 881 that establishes an Inspector General for the NYPD to provide independent oversight.

“I am proud to stand with my Latino colleagues who are standing up for their community's desire for better policing and safer streets,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams, the sponsor of the Community Safety Act. “The Community Safety Act addresses the concerns expressed by all of New York City's historically disenfranchised communities by increasing accountability, improving relations with the NYPD and banning bias-based profiling. Just as important, this legislation will help our law enforcement have a better focus on effective strategies to ensure the safety and security of all New Yorkers. I hope all of my colleagues, Latino or otherwise, will sign onto the Community Safety Act.”

Sonia Ivany, President of the NYC Chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement stated: “Hardworking, law-abiding and dedicated Latin@ members of our community feel strongly that the City Council should pass the Community Safety Act now! Too many of our members and their families are unjustly and disproportionately impacted by stop and frisk and other forms of police discrimination.”

During the past several years of the Bloomberg Administration, the NYPD has made more than four million stops of New Yorkers through its stop-and-frisk abuses, with close to 90% of stops resulting in no summonses or arrests.  More than 1.2 million of those stops were of Latina/o New Yorkers.

“We have to focus on protecting our communities and putting policies into place that are effective,” said Senator Gustavo Rivera. “Stop and Frisk has been proven ineffective and has created insecurity and mistrust between the police and communities they are tasked to protect. I support the Community Safety Act, a common sense legislative package that can help restore trust that Stop and Frisk has done away with.”

Low-level marijuana arrests have also skyrocketed under the Bloomberg Administration, totaling more than those occurring under Mayors Koch, Dinkins and Giuliani combined. A high number of these occur as a result of unlawful searches and despite the fact that private possession of small quantities of marijuana is not a crime. These arrests cost the city approximately $75 million in 2010 alone at a time when Mayor Bloomberg has cut funding for after-school programs and child care services.  Thousands of Latina/o youth have been caught up in these unlawful searches and resulting arrests that have left a disproportionate number of Latina/os disadvantaged in seeking housing, jobs, and an education, as well as placing immigrants at risk of deportation.

“It’s getting to a point you see cops and you automatically know, they’re gonna search you,” said Justin Rosado, a member of Make the Road New York and Brooklyn resident. “Every kid is not a criminal. Every kid’s not doing something bad, but NYPD always treats us like we are.”

“We stand with Communities United for Police Reform because our community needs to understand the impact that stop and frisk has on our youth and our neighborhoods,” said Juan Cartagena, President & General Counsel of LatinoJustice. “We urge the Latino community to help us call for the passage of the Community Safety Act. This is a step in the right direction to rectify police abuse of stop and frisk.”

Also on hand at the press conference were Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito, Rosie Mendez, Diana Reyna, Ydanis Rodriguez, Luis Garden Acosta of El Puente, and Santos Crespo, president of Local 372.

Organizers and supporters of the Thursday, Sept. 27 advocacy day and campaign to pass the Community Safety Act pointed to the fact that the Bloomberg Administration’s use of stop-and-frisk and other discriminatory policing practices constitute a widespread violation of civil and human rights of New Yorkers, and fail to keep communities safe from violence.  They also highlighted other legally dubious practices and patterns by the NYPD that have occurred under the Bloomberg Administration without accountability and resolution.

“The NYPD’s illegal, discriminatory policing and lack of accountability is negatively impacting hundreds of thousands of people in our city every year, making our communities less safe,” said Joo-Hyun Kang, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform.  “Due to the crisis of stop-and-frisk abuses, discriminatory profiling, unlawful searches, and the lack of effective oversight for the NYPD, New Yorkers from across the five boroughs will be making their appeals for reform heard at City Hall on Thursday. This diverse campaign for police reform will be urging the City Council to move our city forward by passing the Community Safety Act.”