New York City cannot address the NYPD’s long history and continuation of unconstitutional and racially discriminatory policing practices without substantive engagement with the communities most heavily impacted by those practices, particularly Black and Latinx communities. Following the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota and daily protests calling for an end to police violence, Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order 203 giving the Director of the Budget the authority to withhold state and federal funding from localities unless they pass a police reform plan by April 1, 2021. Without substantive collaboration with communities impacted by abusive policing or adequate time for input, Mayor de Blasio released draft versions of a New York City Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative plan that, if approved and implemented, would expand the power and funding of the NYPD. We condemn this plan and demand that the New York City Council pass a resolution that fosters real change.
In its August 2013 ruling that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policies and practices violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, the court found evidence of racially discriminatory intent in the NYPD’s policy of targeting young Black and Latinx New Yorkers. Eight years later, racially discriminatory policing by the NYPD remains an issue in our communities. The Center for Constitutional Rights, in collaboration with our grassroots partners in the New York City police accountability movement, recognizes that community-designed public safety strategies, not more funding and programs for the NYPD, is the only way to end these abusive practices. During the Joint Remedial Process in our case Floyd v. City of New York, we saw that people impacted by discriminatory policing have a vision for safety in New York that goes beyond policing, yet those voices have largely been ignored during this reform and reinvention plan development process.
We encourage the New York City Council to take meaningful steps to end these discriminatory practices by rejecting all portions of the City’s reform plan that would expand police funding and reach through programs with no track record of fixing the problem of racially discriminatory policing and that are likely to make the problem worse. These include:
The launch of the Neighborhood Policing App to enable “external collaboration and communication around quality of life issues” (NYC Reform Plan Pt. 1 at 18): This app will very likely result in an expansion, rather than reduction, of the NYPD’s “Broken Windows” quality-of-life enforcement tactics that have severely and disproportionately harmed Black and Latinx communities over the past 25 years. A similar app used by the BART Police in the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-2010s resulted in the severely disproportionate targeting of Black public transit riders for so-called “quality of life” enforcement by BART officers.
Expansion of NYPD “racial bias” trainings (NYC Reform Plan Pt. 1 at 22): The City should not spend even more money on an expensive NYPD anti-bias training that has already failed – a 2020 study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the University of Cincinnati found no reduction in racially biased behavior NYPD officers who underwent the training by. Police reform experts have long and widely recognized that training interventions will do little to address the problem of discriminatory policing unless combined with supervisory and disciplinary changes that hold officers accountable for violating the principles taught in those trainings. The City and NYPD have spent many years and millions of dollars on anti-bias trainings; it’s now time for them to focus their attention and resources on real changes to supervision and discipline.
Expanding the use of body-worn cameras to New York City Sheriff’s Deputies (NYC Reform Plan Pt. 2 at 20): Again, the City should not expend additional funds to equip even more law enforcement officers in New York City with body-worn cameras –data from the federal monitor in the Floyd stop-and-frisk litigation show they have done little to reduce unconstitutional and racially discriminatory pedestrian stops. Body-worn cameras, together with the NYPD’s facial recognition technology, pose a real threat to the privacy rights and civil liberties of New Yorkers of color who are most often the subjects of police body camera recordings.