Council Members, Civil Rights Groups & New Yorkers Support Override of Bloomberg Vetoes of Community Safety Act
Today, Council Members Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams, their colleagues, Communities United for Police Reform, civil rights and labor leaders, and New Yorkers held a press conference to express their support for a City Council override of Mayor Bloomberg’s veto of the Community Safety Act.
Participants indicated the need for the permanent protections for New Yorkers and accountability for the NYPD contained in the Community Safety Act. The group particularly pointed to the need to override the veto of the bill to ban discriminatory profiling in the wake of the Floyd federal court decision proving the Bloomberg administration’s stop-and-frisk policy violated New Yorkers’ constitutional rights by racially profiling hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.
The supporters highlighted the civil rights protections for communities of color that were going ignored and praised the legislation for finally providing a true mechanism of enforcement – the existing racial profiling law has no enforcement mechanism. The historic legislation would also extend these protections to LGBTQ, immigrant, disabled and homeless New Yorkers for the first time.
“Today is a historic day for New York City, where the City Council has an opportunity to turn the page on government discrimination and move forward with safety and equally-protected civil rights for all New Yorkers,” said Steve Kohut of Communities United for Police Reform and Justice Committee. “New Yorkers need to know that no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, housing or immigration status that they will be treated fairly, with dignity and respect by the police. While some who call themselves leaders have decided to appeal to the worst elements by using the politics of fear, truth and justice will not be defeated. The people of New York are counting on City Council members to stand on the right side of history.”
Whereas the federal court decision – and outside monitor who will ensure its remedies are met – will focus solely on stop-and-frisk for a temporary period until the issues addressed are resolved, the Community Safety Act would provide permanent protections for New Yorkers. It would protect New Yorkers from all forms of discriminatory profiling by the police and ensure there is long-term oversight of the NYPD related to all policies and practices.
Mayor Bloomberg has increasingly shown he is out of the mainstream and out-of-touch by refusing to acknowledge racial profiling in New York City or elsewhere. In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin verdict, people throughout the nation have engaged in a substantive dialogue about racial profiling. Many people of color in New York City and around the United States – including President Obama – have given eloquent testimony of the harms and dangers of racial and bias-based profiling. But less than a week away from the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Mayor Bloomberg has continued to fight against a ban on discriminatory profiling in New York City by making destructive and deceptive statements, fearmongering, and threatening to use his wealth.
Even after last week’s federal court ruling, Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly have refused to acknowledge the problems with their stop-and-frisk policy. Instead of recognizing what a majority of New Yorkers have expressed and a federal court has now ruled, they have consistently defended the out-of-control policy despite their own data showing its exploding use has failed to make a notable impact on gun violence. While Mayor Bloomberg has attempted to attribute the large decrease in homicides to his administration’s stop-and-frisk policy, the dramatic drop occurred before he took office – going from over 2,000 murders in 1990 to about 600 in 2001. Homicides have shown no correlation to the use of stop-and-frisk.
Last month, Mayor Bloomberg vetoed the two Community Safety Act bills to both ban discriminatory police profiling and establish independent oversight of the NYPD that were passed by a veto-proof majority of the City Council in June.
The legislation to ban discriminatory profiling – Intro. 1080 – builds upon the existing racial profiling law – strengthening it with clear enforcement mechanisms – and expanding its protections to LGBTQ and immigrant New Yorkers for the first time, along with other protected classes.
Despite misleading statements and mistruths being used by opponents to incite fear in the public, the bill does not stop police officers from identifying or pursuing a suspect by race, age, gender, or any other descriptive category. It uses the same exact “determinative factor” standard as the current racial profiling law – signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg in 2004 – that does not presently prevent officers from identifying a suspect based on race.
Opponents continue to find new misinformation to spread about the legislation to ban discriminatory police profiling, lacking any consistent or coherent argument. Despite their continued use of several of these myths, the legislation:
- WILL NOT CREATE FLOOD OF LAWSUITS: It does not allow individuals to sue for money (only for policy change), removing any monetary incentive to file a lawsuit. It will cost significant money and time to file a suit, require a high legal threshold determined by a screening panel that can dismiss lawsuits, and attorneys who file frivolous suits would be subject to sanctions.
- WILL NOT RESTRICT LEGAL NYPD TACTICS: Since a lawsuit cannot be brought on the basis of statistics alone, claims that the legislation will allow lawsuits against effective crime-fighting strategies, like Operation Crew Cut or the use of cameras, just because they statistically appear to target people of a certain race, age, or other protected category are simply not true.
- WILL NOT THREATEN LIVELIHOOD OF OFFICERS: Disparate impact claims cannot be brought against individual officers. Claims against individual officers would be required to demonstrate that and officer intentionally discriminated against someone, which is already the threshold under existing law.
- WILL NOT COST THE CITY: Discriminatory policing is what costs the city millions of dollars a year. The costs of defending unlawful discrimination by the NYPD are already borne by tax payers to the tune of $745 million in settlements and legal fees in 2012 alone. This bill will force the NYPD to abandon ineffective, wasteful, and harmful discriminatory practices that have already cost the city far too much.
The legislation to establish independent oversight of the NYPD – Intro. 1079 – would provide essential review of policing policies and practices, bringing the NYPD into conformity with every other city agency, police departments in other U.S. cities, and other law enforcement agencies like the FBI and CIA. Oversight would include review of NYPD policies, programs and practices, and issuing recommendations, but would not include the authority to make operational decisions or implement changes.
Opponents of the bills, including law enforcement unions and Mayor Bloomberg, have launched attacks against the legislation and the City Council veto-proof majority that support it.
They have consistently made outrageous and irresponsible claims about the bills to both the public and to rank-and-file officers, disregarding facts and the truth.
Despite opponents of the bills spreading several myths about the legal and practical effects of the legislation in an attempt to incite fear in New Yorkers, New Yorkers overwhelmingly reject the notion (86% - 9%) that they will hurt public safety according to a Quinnipiac poll on the issue.
“Studies have proven that the overwhelming majority of people who are stopped and frisked are innocent- this is a policy which does not work, wastes police resources, violates our rights, causes tension and division in our communities and in fact makes us less safe,” said George Gresham, President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, New York City’s largest union. “We call on all Council members to override this veto, for the safety, moral integrity and future of our city.”
“The recent ruling against stop-and-frisk is vindication for the hundreds of thousands of mostly African-American and Latino New Yorkers who have endured the humiliation of being arrested by the police based on unfounded and cryptic reasoning,” said 32BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa. “Today, because of the courage and leadership of Speaker Christine Quinn, the City Council will vote to override Mayor Bloomberg's veto of the Community Safety Act, which would create an inspector general for the NYPD to ensure that this practice is monitored, and to bar the police from racial profiling. As she has done many times before, Chris has again stood up for what's right for New York.”
“With this historic vote, the City Council has the opportunity to turn a page on Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy of abusive and discriminatory policing practices. The Community Safety Act is an important step toward a more just approach to policing in New York City where everyone is treated with dignity and respect,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “We hope the members of city council will stand up once again and embrace the need for better policing practices that respect the rights of all New Yorkers and build trust between police and the people they are sworn to serve.”
“The override of Mayor Bloomberg's veto of the Community Safety Act will demonstrate a historic power shift - that the power of people united across racial and ethnic lines can never be defeated,” said Jean Rice, member of Picture the Homeless.
“No matter the outcome of today's vote, the change is here and we can feel it in our communities,” said Shapriece Townsend, member of VOCAL-NY who has spoken publicly about his stop-and-frisk experiences, one that led to a wrongful arrest of a small amount of marijuana. "I've spent the last week in Council Member Rivera's district getting residents to sign petitions urging him to not be the only African-American or Latino Council Member to be on the wrong side of this historic day. From young to old, everyone I speak to is talking about the Community Safety Act, the Floyd verdict and how Kelly and Bloomberg's racist policing policies are on the way out."
“Community and civil rights groups have organized for years to address the widespread abuses of stop and frisk and other discriminatory policing practices – which would be addressed in the Act once it passes. These are common-sense and urgently needed measures that the majority of City Council has already expressed support of,” said Advocacy Program Manager Nahal Zamani with the Center for Constitutional Rights, “Moreover, these measures are complementary to reforms ordered in CCR’s federal class action lawsuit, including the appointment of an independent monitor.”
“Every week at Make the Road New York hear new stories of people who have been stopped, checked and unjustly arrested simply because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, or national origin,” said Jocelyn Mendoza, a member of Make the Road New York who identifies as transgender and lives in Brooklyn. “We hope that these abuses stop with passage of the Community Safety Act. It would be a great victory for all my community-including the thousands of young Latinos and African Americans, as well as the people in the LGBTQ community, who have been unfairly subjected to this discrimination and police abuse for decades.”
“For many of our organizations, this victory is rooted in a struggle decades in the making. Over the last year, directly affected DRUM members, as South Asians and many as Muslim immigrants, joined our allies to courageously speak at press conferences, testify at City Council hearings, and share their stories of being targeted by the NYPD,” said Monami Maulik, Executive Director, DRUM - Desis Rising Up & Moving. “The City Council members override vote on these bills today is a reflection of their accountability to communities and constituents, and we thank the members who stood by our communities."
“The people of New York City have put blood, sweat, and tears into the Community Safety Act. Despite the knowledge that Mayor Bloomberg would veto this piece of legislation, City Council Members voted overwhelmingly in support of it,” said Helena Wong, Executive Director of CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities. “Once again, we hope that our elected council members will stand together with us to protect the rights of all New Yorkers.”
“Every day at The Bronx Defenders, we meet clients and Bronx community members who have been unfairly stopped, illegally searched, and mistreated by the police,” said Robin Steinberg, Executive Director of The Bronx Defenders. “We hope that the entire Bronx delegation will stand up for sensible NYPD oversight and accountability by voting to override the Mayor's veto of both Community Safety Act bills today.”
“Police violence is a pervasive problem facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people in New York City, who are profiled for their perceived or actual gender identity and sexual orientation,” said Shelby Chestnut, Co-Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project’s Community Organizing and Public Advocacy. “Our clients and community members tell us stories every day about being profiled by police and subjected to harassment, mis-arrest, and violence at the hands of the police based on their perceived gender identity, sexual orientation, and immigration status. We applaud the City Council for their leadership in the passage of the Community Safety Act and urge them to override Mayor Bloomberg’s veto.”
“The Arab American Association of New York is ecstatic today to be part of another big win for communities of color across New York City,” said Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York. “We look forward to our continued work with our allies to ensure implementation of the Community Safety Act and bring true justice and equality to our communities.”
“Today’s override vote puts New York City where it belongs: at the forefront of the movement to develop policing policies that are smart, just and effective. We hope that in the coming months and years, other localities will follow the City’s lead,” said Brittny Saunders, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Popular Democracy.
“Every day, in all five boroughs of the City, our front-line Legal Aid staff see the continued harm resulting from improper and unlawful policing,” said Steven Banks, the Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society. “Particularly in light of the recent landmark federal court ruling that the City conducts stops and frisks in violation of the 4th Amendment and in a racially discriminatory manner, this legislation is urgently needed to provide independent oversight of the NYPD just like other City agencies have and expand existing prohibitions on police profiling to protect New Yorkers from profiling based on, for example, gender identity and expression as well as homelessness and housing status.”
“An inspector general will strengthen the NYPD by providing oversight, protecting civil liberties and working from within to effectuate positive change,” said Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “We applaud the City Council for fighting to ensure that the police department is accountable and transparent as it continues its important work of keeping all New Yorkers safe.”
About Communities United for Police Reform
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and policing practices based on cooperation and respect– not discriminatory targeting and harassment.
CPR brings together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those unfairly targeted the most by the NYPD. CPR is fighting for reforms that will promote community safety while ensuring that the NYPD protects and serves all New Yorkers.