New Initiative Asks Over-Policed Communities to Weigh in on Police Reform

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
October 24, 2016 1:00 pm

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The New York Civil Liberties Union and the Public Science Project today launched a major two-week research and outreach project in two New York City neighborhoods disproportionately targeted by the NYPD. The action includes a first-of-its-kind survey asking Brownsville and South Bronx residents how NYPD policing impacts them and whether they trust police with their safety. It also connects residents to lawyers and community organizers armed with rights and legal information.

“We need to hear what New Yorkers think about the police, who they call when they need help and what they think real reform should look like,” said NYCLU Advocacy Director Johanna Miller. “A vital national conversation is happening about policing. As the killing last week of Deborah Danner by police tragically reminds us, the NYPD should be no one’s model.”

The NYCLU joins with participatory research experts at the Public Science Project and community partners to systematically survey the opinions and experiences of 1,000 people who live or work in Brownsville and the South Bronx. These neighborhoods have experienced enormous police presence, both during the stop-and-frisk era, and now through vertical housing patrols, police surveillance and the presence of militarized equipment. The survey asks residents to share how NYPD policing impacts them, what resources their community relies on to keep safe, and whether they trust police with their safety.

A major flaw in the NYPD’s policing model has been its over-reliance on quotas. Although the practice was outwardly banned in 2010, it persists. A lawsuit filed this year by 12 NYPD officers contends that officers are told to target minority neighborhoods and meet minimums for issuing arrests and summonses, or they are punished. In such a culture, many people of color feel threatened by the police rather than protected. Last year police killed 102 unarmed black men across the country.

“We are in the middle of a historic and seismic shift in how communities, especially communities of color, interpret the role of police in their neighborhoods,” said Brett Stoudt, assistant professor at Jon Jay College of Criminal Justice and Associate Director of the Public Science Project. “We need to understand and support these changes. The NYPD, the largest police force in the country, has yet to implement any meaningful reforms since the death of Eric Garner galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement.”

In addition to surveying residents, the project will provide access to attorneys who can assist people with filing notices of claim and complaints to the Civilian Complaint Review Board if they have been abused by the police. Staff on site will provide residents Know Your Rights materials on police stops and law enforcement interactions as well as information on NYPD surveillance equipment and resources for legal and other support.

The NYCLU will also document stories and experiences highlighting the dehumanizing aspects of the NYPD’s policing model as part of a new social media campaign called #CitizenQuota. Organizers at the sites will share information on the NYCLU’s work to reform police practices, its youth organizing projects and its new Organizing Institute – an important new program to develop community leadership on civil rights issues.

“With policing tactics like stop-and-frisk becoming a central issue in this year’s presidential campaign, it’s important that the communities most impacted are heard,” said Brandon Holmes, an organizer with the NYCLU. “It’s important that they have a say in what police reform should look like and how it should work.”

For two days in each location, participants will be offered free meals from the Snowday food truck, operated by formerly incarcerated youth fellows with the Drive Change organization. The truck’s staff will share their experiences with residents and provide information on Drive Change, which offers employment training and support to young people leaving adult jail and prison.

The initiative begins today in the Brownsville neighborhood and will run for five days before moving to the South Bronx, where it will run until November 4.

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