George Floyd’s vicious murder sparked protests that swept our city and the country with millions demanding police reform and after decades of empty promises, politicians are finally taking a stand on police brutality.
Many celebrated the 2020 NYC riots as a call to action, while others were appalled at the site of their neighborhood being burned down, police cars on fire, and ransacked shops. These terrifying scenes drove away tourists from the Big Apple and their revenue. Police reform does not include looting stores to snag a free pair of Air Jordans in the name of justice. On a positive note, these protests triggered politicians to take note of police reform.
New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance will be retiring later this year and candidates Tahanie Aboushi, Eliza Orlins, and Dan Quart are three candidates who are the most eager about changing policing strategies. Their progressive police reform agenda includes expanding amnesty for crimes including drug possession, fare evasion, and petty larceny. The candidates seek to decline them because they believe such arrests result from the NYPD unfairly targeting Black and Brown individuals, the New York Daily News reports.
City Council candidate Tiffany Cabán’s plan mentions relocating NYPD funds. The NYPD budget would go towards community programs, expanding employment opportunities, addressing mental health, and providing housing security. She told the Queens Post, “My goal at the end of the day is to ultimately get to a place where we are no longer funding police — period.”
During the VOCAL-NY Live Stream, Mayoral candidate Eric Adams stated, “I’m an ex po po.” Adam’s police reform goal includes removing $500 million from the NYPD budget and using those funds for crime prevention programs. He is also eager to recruit police officers of color. Similar to Adams, candidate Shaun Donovan plans to relocate $500 million from NYPD to public safety initiatives (Shaun for NYC). His campaign mentions his goal of removing police officers from school properties and replacing them with child development professionals. Candidate Kathryn Garcia is one candidate who wants to require all NYPD candidates to be residents of NYC (Gothamist). She supports NYPD officers to be trained on implicit bias. Candidate Maya Wiley advocates for investing in more after-school student activities and increasing the number of social workers and guidance counselors (Gothamist).
Today, the NYPD also acknowledges the need for change. They released a “disciplinary matrix,” that took an immediate effect. This guideline addresses racial profiling, excessive use of force, and other power abuses along with the penalties officers will face should they be guilty of misconduct. Additionally, a new officer misconduct database is available for public view on the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board website. In 2019, over half of NYPD officers are men and women of color (NYC Demographics: US Census Figure). The leadership of the NYPD is looking more like the communities they serve, which is already a step toward combating systematic racism. These initiatives by the NYPD are efforts to increase transparency and accountability.
Many CUNY students are asking, do we need the police? In January 2020, Alicia Grullón, an organizer of the People’s Cultural Plan said, “Our five demands are: to abolish educational apartheid; to free and fully fund CUNY; to make the MTA for New Yorkers, not the rich; no cops or military in our schools; we want to disarm, disinvest and abolish the NYPD.”
Defunding could reduce the number of on-duty officers responding to serious crimes and public safety concerns. This would delay responses to 911 calls which would negatively affect underserved and low-income neighborhoods, causing the residents to protect themselves. Wealthy communities could hire security guards and home security systems. Should there be less officers, there could be a greater community divide. Could there be a flourish in violent crime if there are fewer armed police officers to deter criminal activity?
After years of seeking change the District Attorney, City Council, and Mayoral candidates finally have a clear path on how they will improve public safety. Their new vision on reallocating law enforcement funding into the community should reap the change the world desperately needs.