Police Accountability Advocates Slam Charter Revision Commission for Failing to Approve Crucial Reforms that Would Increase Public Safety in New York City
New York, NY – Police accountability advocates today slammed the Charter Revision Commission for failing to approve reforms this week that were recommended by dozens of organizations committed to increasing public safety for New Yorkers.
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) released the following statement today:
“We’re outraged that Charter Revision Commissioners appointed by Mayor de Blasio voted against approving any meaningful police accountability reforms by voting against allowing the Complaint Review Board (CCRB) to investigate and recommend discipline against police officers who provide false statements and engage in related misconduct. de Blasio’s harmful efforts over the past several years to block police accountability at all costs have now extended to the Charter Revision Commission. This is unacceptable, and cannot be allowed to stand. We are calling on the Charter Revision Commission to use their next meeting on June 18 to revisit the vote and approve changes to the City Charter that would allow the CCRB to investigate and recommend discipline against officers who provide false statements and engage in related misconduct; and also require that when the Police Commissioner deviates from CCRB recommendations, his reasons for deviations must be made publicly transparent, not just communicated privately to the CCRB,” said Monifa Bandele, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), which represents thousands of New Yorkers committed to increasing police accountability and public safety across the city.
“The Charter Revision Commission has both an opportunity and an obligation to use its power to recommend changes to the City’s Charter that will increase police accountability and transparency, especially at a time when police officers continue to harm New Yorkers, often face few if any consequences for their actions, and police misconduct continues to be hidden from public view. None of the measures approved at last night's meeting meaningfully advance police reform. The few items related to policing that were passed are window-dressing changes that will not materially improve the conditions of New Yorkers who face abusive policing every day. From Eric Garner to Delawn Small, too many New Yorkers of color, especially Black New Yorkers, have been killed or brutalized by police in recent years. These acts of police violence are consistently enabled by a web of lies and false charges that NYPD officers routinely levy against New Yorkers when they brutalize and kill. And the police officers who commit these acts are routinely protected from accountability by the NYPD and the de Blasio administration,” said Bandele of CPR.
The CPR statement today comes on the heels of a joint letter that more than forty organizations sent to the Charter Revision Commission earlier this week calling for a number of changes to the City Charter that would increase police accountability when officers harm New Yorkers, and create real fiscal transparency of the City’s policing and public oversight of the city’s purchasing, procurement and use of surveillance technologies used to police New Yorkers.
Below is an overview of these recommended changes to the City Charter:
1) Increase police accountability for killings, brutality, sexual violence, gender-based violence and other police misconduct – and the systemic culture of related misconduct that obstructs investigations and promotes cover-ups – when officers harm members of the public.
A. Expand Civilian Complaint Board (CCRB) authority to prosecute on “other related misconduct” in police misconduct cases that CCRB has jurisdiction to investigate – particularly misconduct that can impede or obstruct investigations and/or contribute to cover-ups.
It is unacceptable that when CCRB substantiates and prosecutes a complaint against an officer alleged to have used a chokehold, like Daniel Pantaleo who killed Eric Garner, CCRB is not authorized to also investigate other related misconduct that officers like Daniel Pantaleo may have engaged in related to the same incident (e.g. failure to provide aid, lying in official reports, etc.). Instead, other possible misconduct that fall outside of CCRB current jurisdiction must be referred to the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) – which is rarely acted on. Examples of other related misconduct that CCRB should be authorized to investigate and prosecute when they are part of a FADO investigation that is being conducted include: lying in official reports; false statements; failure to provide aid/intervene; failure to follow body-worn camera/other protocols; failure to document stops and consent searches; leaking sealed information; intimidation of witnesses and complainants, and more. Maintaining the narrow parameters for misconduct that CCRB can investigate in FADO cases contributes to a cover-up culture at the NYPD that facilitates continued police misconduct without accountability or discipline of officers.
B. Provide CCRB with explicit authority to investigate, and if warranted, prosecute complaints against school safety agents, and other “peace officers”. School safety agent complaints are currently sent to the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau, providing no transparency or faith in disciplinary action when school safety agents harm children and young people in NYC schools.
C. Require public disclosure and transparency when the Commissioner deviates on CCRB findings and discipline recommendations. The reason for deviation should be made public (as was intended when CCRB’s Administrative Prosecution Unit was created in 2012).
D. Enable CCRB to determine discipline in cases that they prosecute (via their Administrative Prosecution Unit).
2) Create fiscal transparency of the City’s policing -- and ensure opportunities for public oversight of surveillance-related technologies purchased by the NYPD and other City agencies.
A. Amend the Charter procurement process so that it requires public transparency, equity impact statements, public input, and opportunity for the City Council to veto and prevent purchase or renewals of surveillance technologies. There is currently no systemic transparency or public oversight of City purchases of surveillance technologies. We have shared proposed language to amend Chapter 13 of the Charter – much of it modeled after legislation that has been passed In other municipalities, including Seattle, San Francisco, and Oakland. If procurement in the Charter is not changed this year to enable oversight of surveillance technologies, we will be enabling a dangerous context of unaccountable policing and increasing surveillance to grow that will be incredibly hard to roll back in the future. In recent years, it's been discovered that the NYPD (and possibly other City agencies) have been investing secretly and unaccountably in various surveillance technologies. It is critical that New Yorkers be provided the opportunity to vote this November to allow the public to decide what types of surveillance technologies City agencies should be permitted or prevented from acquiring and using on New Yorkers.
B. Require NYPD reporting of private sources of income and expenses paid by those sources and other sources of income not currently subject to Council oversight. The NYPD’s budget is supplemented every year by funding from private sources that is not subject to public oversight – and the NYPD has refused in the past to disclose details of that income and items paid. For example, the first body worn camera pilot program was paid for by the Police Foundation – and the NYPD refused to make public the evaluation findings. This type of governmental secrecy undermines public trust and should not be permitted by City agencies.
C. Require detailed units of appropriation in NYPD budget so that New Yorkers understand what the NYPD’s budget of over $5 Billion is spent on.
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.