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Councilman seeks NYPD reform

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 4/16/2013, 4:34 p.m.
Last week, City Councilman Jumaane Williams announced he would continue his fight against what he...
Stop and frisk, Occupy protestors branded by NYPD

Last week, City Councilman Jumaane Williams announced he would continue his fight against what he considers discriminatory practices by the NYPD.

Williams launched legislative efforts to raise NYPD accountability at a stated meeting of the City Council, introducing three bills aimed at ensuring safer streets and better policing for all New Yorkers.

"Today marks a huge step forward on the road to reform," said Williams. "This effort addresses the concerns and fears of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who have been unfairly impacted by unjust policing. I am proud to stand behind this legislation, and I look forward to helping to build the political will needed to ensure its passage and implementation."

The first bill will create an enforceable ban on bias-based profiling by the NYPD, broadening the currently protected communities to include a prohibition on profiling based on age, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, housing status and other characteristics.

A second bill would require NYPD officers to explain to a person their right to refuse to consent to a search when there is no warrant or probable cause, as well as to obtain proof of the consent when given.

The final bill would require NYPD officers to provide their name and rank to subjects of law enforcement activity as well as the specific reason for the activity. At the end of the encounter, the officer would have to provide the person with a business card with the officer's information and the phone number of the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Williams had first-hand experience of the heavy hand of the law during last year's West Indian Day Parade, when he, along with public advocate official Kirsten Foye, charged that they were roughed up by the NYPD for crossing a police checkpoint even after showing their city-issued IDs. The incident was caught on tape.

"Recent statistics show that almost 90 percent of New Yorkers stopped and frisked are innocent," said Williams. "We need to empower the 90 percent that are innocent with legal protections, stronger oversight and better policing practices. In fact, I am convinced that this legislation will improve community policing by creating stronger relations between the police and the community."

Several politicians are supporting Williams' bills, including Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez, Margaret Chin, Julissa Ferreras and Stephen Levin, Rep. Yvette Clark, State Sen. Eric Adams and Assemblyman Karim Camara.

Williams is partnering with the group Communities for United Police Reform in his efforts to get the bills passed. Steve Kohut of the group's Justice Committee said the legislation is long overdue.

"Stop-and-frisk and police discrimination are out of control in New York City. This long-overdue legislative package will stop the NYPD from targeting hundreds of thousands of people--the vast majority of whom have done nothing wrong--and submitting them to humiliating searches and harassment in their homes, at schools and in neighborhoods across the city," he said.