Community Safety Act public hearings wrap up
CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 4/16/2013, 4:34 p.m.
Now with two public hearings that included numerous testimonies from New Yorkers on how they have been treated by the NYPD, City Council members are moving forward to get the Community Safety Act (CSA) passed.
Public hearings at Brooklyn College and York College allowed New Yorkers from across the city to explain in detail what they have gone through at the hands of the NYPD. Testimonies were heard by members of the Civil Rights Committee, which included Staten Island Council Member Debi Rose.
The CSA is comprised of four bills that would require NYPD officers to explain a person's right not to consent to a search, prohibit bias-based profiling, require an explanation for a search and create an office of the inspector general.
The crowd at the last public hearing at York College was reported as being standing-room-only and the hearing lasted three hours. Among those who testified was Jose LaSalle, whose 16-year-old stepson had a recent encounter with the NYPD in which officers called the teen a "mutt." The audio recording of the incident has gone viral on the Internet, providing an example of how the NYPD has harassed citizens. At the last hearing, City Council Member Robert Jackson reportedly called the incident "despicable" and "unacceptable." He is calling for an investigation into the matter.
"Discriminatory policing and the lack of police accountability have continued for far too long and are completely out of control," said Djibril Toure, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform. "Whether it's the abusive use of stop-and-frisk, quotas or systemic abuses of power, our city needs the reforms and accountability provided by the Community Safety Act."
City Council Member Jumaane Williams, who is sponsoring the CSA, said that the bill is meaningful because it reforms a generation of NYPD policing that has treated several communities unfairly.
"This legislation is a crucial step that we must take toward achieving better policing and safer streets for all--a goal we collectively share," he said. "By tackling discrimination and instituting true accountability, we will empower 'New York's Finest' to focus their energies on proven strategies that help our city root out crime and violence in every corner."
New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said that the CSA provides more transparency and accountability for the NYPD and hopes for the bill's passage. There has been a 600 percent increase in the use of stop-and-frisk under Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration, which stands in contrast to the near constant and unchanged levels of gun violence during the same period.
"New York City cannot tolerate the effects that NYPD abuses have on innocent lives, on New Yorkers who are targeted for the places they live, their religious beliefs, their gender and the color of their skin," she said. "The City Council must quickly pass these important reforms."