At New York City Council Hearing Today, Families of Ramarley Graham, Saheed Vassell, and Delrawn Small Joined Police Reform Advocates to Call for Changes to NYPD Discipline System
Today, family representatives for Ramarley Graham, Eric Garner, Saheed Vassell, and Delrawn joined advocates from Communities United for Police Reform to participate in a New York City Council hearing on reforming the broken NYPD disciplinary process for police officers who engage in misconduct and perpetrate harm against New Yorkers. The advocates included speakers from the following groups: Make the Road New York, Girls for Gender Equity, Legal Aid Society, New York Civil Liberties Union, Center for Constitutional Rights, and Bronx Defenders.
New York City Council Member Donovan Richards, who is Chair of the Committee on Public Safety, asked the NYPD to stay for the first public panel where the families were scheduled to testify. Representatives for the NYPD said no, and walked out.
At the hearing, the families called for the firing of all cops involved in killing their loved ones, and they outlined ways the NYPD discipline system consistently fails those who are harmed by officers. They also supported the Council resolution to repeal of 50-a, a widely criticized police secrecy law that the NYPD often invokes to block the release of misconduct and disciplinary records for police officers who engage in misconduct and harm New Yorkers, especially in communities of color.
Increasingly, these families impacted by police violence are working together to demand justice and to push the de Blasio administration, City Council, and NYPD to deliver greater police transparency and accountability. Their powerful testimonies today came as the City Council is considering a new package of bills to reform the broken NYPD disciplinary process.
“Today's hearing is important because it's the first time the NYPD has been put on the hot-seat about their broken discipline system that literally lets officers get away with murder unless families like mine fight non-stop. No family should have to go through what I've gone through, what the mother of Eric Garner is still going through with de Blasio and the NYPD playing games with the lives of our children - but we keep seeing it again and again. It was so disrespectful but not surprising that the NYPD refused to stay and listen to families whose loved ones have been murdered by NYPD officers. The NYPD likes to talk about "engaging and talking with the community" but that's only on their terms - and not when we're talking about police accountability. The NYPD cannot police themselves -- We need to repeal 50a, we need the Council to push hard to ensure we see real discipline when officers murder Black children, and when they beat and sexually abuse New Yorkers of color,” said Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham, who spoke today on behalf of her family and Eric Garner’s family.
“The NYPD’s choice not to put the officers who killed my son on modified duty sends the message that they have no regard for my son’s life. If they cannot take a pre-disciplinary action that protects New Yorkers, we have no hope they will discipline these officers or any of the others involved unless they are forced to,” said Eric Vassell, Saheed Vassell's father.
"The people most affected by unlawful policing in New York City have uniformly called for real police accountability. City Council should answer calls from the community by requiring the NYPD to implement disciplinary guidelines that are transparent to the public and informed by those most impacted by police abuses,” said Jenn Rolnick Borchetta of The Bronx Defenders.
“Today’s hearing is an important first step in demystifying the NYPD disciplinary process and shedding important light on what NYPD does - and more importantly what it fails to do - when the public complains of police misconduct. We look forward to using the information we learn from these builds to build community-based reforms for the police accountability system,” said Cynthia Conti-Cook, Staff Attorney, Special Litigation Unit, The Legal Aid Society.
“Safety for youth of color has been precariously held in the hands of those who routinely criminalize their neighborhoods and in some cases, like those previously aforementioned today, kill people who look like them. The calls provide transparency and accountability from communities most impacted by police violence has never been louder, and it is this council’s duty to answer those calls,” said Darian X, Make the Road Community Justice and Safety Organizer.
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.