On September 27, over 800 New Yorkers rallied outside City Hall to protest the NYPD's discriminatory policing practices and call for the passage of the Community Safety Act. The problem of biased policing in New York City is undeniable. Last year the NYPD stopped and frisked close to 700,000 people in New York, 90% of whom were people of color and 88% of whom the police did not even accuse of any wrongdoing. The actual number of stop and frisks conducted is surely higher, because officers self-report when stops take place. Biased policing practiced in such staggering numbers not only results in individual harassment and humiliation, but also tears at the fabric of communities, making them less safe and less prosperous.
The Community Safety Act is a package of bills that seeks to reform the NYPD to stop biased policing. It would require the NYPD to stop profiling people based on race, sexuality, religion, immigration status and and other categories, mandate that officers get written or recorded consent before searching someone without legal cause, require officers to identify and explain themselves and appoint an Inspector General to oversee the department. The consent provision assures that people in New York are aware of their right to refuse warrantless searches not based on reasonable suspicion and that they are not tricked or coerced into giving up that right. The Community Safety Act not only addresses the problem of biased based stops and frisks taking place on the street, but also the NYPD's program of spying on Muslim communities. By calling for an Inspector General, the public would have a point person for holding the NYPD accountable for ineffective and discriminatory practices.
The group supporting the Act, Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), is made up of diverse member organizations representing youth, people of color, the LGTBQ community, Muslims, the homeless and supporters of cvil rights and liberties, including the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. The Community Safety Act has drawn the support of a majority of the members of the New York City Council, and has the opportunity to garner even more support when the Act has a committee hearing on October 10 at City Hall. The hearing is open to the public, and a strong turn out could help gain more sponsors so the Act is veto-proof. The council will also hold additional hearings on October 23 in Brooklyn and October 24 in Queens, where members of the public can testify about their experiences with stop and frisk.
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