It was only the third and fourth days of January 2017 when two “police-involved shootings” claimed the lives of two Black males in Brooklyn. As Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neill tout a reduction in crime in the city overall, at the same time members of Communities United for Police Reform are demanding police policy evolution and accountability.

Just as news broke about the Tuesday night/Wednesday morning police killings of two Black men, activists and a watchdog group renewed demands for immediate action, citing just days-old news stories such as Bronx DA Darcel Clarke’s grand jury call in the police killing of Deborah Danner, the Legal Aid Society suing NYPD for concealing police discipline records and charges that the CCRB massaged report on police use of Tasers.

Chief of Patrol Terence A. Monahan said the police were called to a home on East 99th Street in Canarsie at approximately 9:30 p.m., “for a non-violent emotionally disturbed person,” and let in by a woman in the house.

He added, “As the officers entered, the male emerged from a back room and retrieved a 13-inch knife from the kitchen and advanced toward the officers. One of the officers deployed a Taser at the male which had no effect. The male continued to advance toward the officers with the knife and a second officer discharged his firearm and requested an ambulance. EMS arrived and transported the male to Brookdale Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased. The male was identified as James Owens, 63.”

Just hours later Monahan was holding another news conference to explain a second police slaying. This time it was the shooting death of 18-year-old Joshua Martino. The top cop said, “Earlier this morning at 3:40 a.m. plain clothes officers, a sergeant and two police officers, were on patrol in the vicinity of Atlantic and Grand avenues in Brooklyn. The officers heard gunfire coming from the vicinity of 990 Atlantic Ave. and saw a male firing a gun into a lounge [Beehive]. The officers exited their vehicle and identified themselves to the suspect, who ran from the officers. The suspect turned on the officers with his gun in hand and the two police officers discharged their weapons, striking the suspect in the torso.” 

Claiming that “a .38 caliber revolver was recovered from the suspect,” Monahan added, “The male was taken to Brooklyn Hospital where he was pronounced deceased.”

Speaking on Hot 97 Wednesday morning, just hours after the two shootings, de Blasio said, “Crime has gone down in so many ways in New York City. We have the lowest shootings we have had the lowest number of shootings we have had in decades. And at the same time as we’ve had extraordinary reductions in crime, here is what also happened: stop-and-frisk continues to go down. It has gone down 93 percent since I took office. It was over 200,000 people stopped the year before I came in. We’re only at 13,000 people stopped in 2016. So you have stops going way down. You have arrests going way down. There have been 20 percent fewer arrests over the last three years. But at the same time, crime goes down, gang violence is going down, shootings are going down, gun seizures are going up. So we’re doing it because police and community are communicating, respecting each other—a lot less negative interaction, a lot more partnership.

Meanwhile the aggrieved New Yorker subscribers of HYPERLINK “http://www.changethenypd.org/”www.changethenypd.org slammed the de Blasio administration’s “continued failure to address ongoing NYPD abuses, misconduct, racial disparities and lack of accountability.”

“A decrease in crime statistics is a good thing, but the de Blasio administration has failed to help end ongoing police abuses against our communities because it refuses to address the abuses, the continuing racial disparities in policing and the NYPD’s failure to hold officers accountable for violence and abuse of power,” stated Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham, who was shot and killed by officer Richard Haste in 2012. “Almost five years have passed since over a dozen NYPD officers killed my son Ramarley Graham, abused my family and engaged in other related misconduct, and yet Mayor de Blasio has simply maintained the business-as-usual NYPD culture that allows these officers to continue collecting taxpayer salaries with pay raises. The de Blasio administration’s recent actions to hide disciplinary measures and misconduct records of officers may result in my family never being able to get answers or accountability for the murder of Ramarley by NYPD officers, all while Mayor de Blasio hides behind ridiculous excuses that make no sense.”

Mark Winston Griffith, executive director of Brooklyn Movement Center and representative for Communities United for Police Reform, stated, “Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner O’Neill have yet to deliver substance that changes how our communities experience policing, and their appointment of a handful of officers in each precinct to so-called neighborhood policing doesn’t change that. It doesn’t address police abuses or the lack of accountability for them. Members of our communities remain disproportionately targeted by hyper-aggressive, discriminatory broken windows policing. Meanwhile, we’ve yet to see Mayor de Blasio address these racial disparities in policing or the failure of NYPD to consistently and meaningfully hold officers accountable for abusing, brutalizing and even killing our community members. Training and ‘neighborhood policing’ may sound nice, but until there’s substance to address abuses, racial disparities and NYPD accountability, they will remain buzzwords with little impact in communities.”

Jesus Morales, a member of Picture the Homeless, who successfully sought legal redress for NYPD abuses of him and other homeless New Yorkers that was just recently settled with the city, said, “I’m glad that with this settlement, the city is acknowledging that something bad happened. People need to know how much the police abuse homeless people. They assaulted me while I was asleep, and they tossed my belongings in a dump truck, and it’s not right. I’m not an animal. None of us are. And this settlement won’t make the cops stop what they’re doing. For what I suffered, and what hundreds of people are suffering every day, the Mayor needs to act now to stop these out-of-control cops who are brutalizing us.”

Tina Luongo, attorney in charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at Legal Aid Society stated, “All New Yorkers want public safety. … However, in order to really build trust with the people of this city, especially communities of color, greater attention has to be paid to address police abuses and the department’s lack of accountability and transparency that leaves some communities vulnerable. This administration’s actions and continued fight to conceal information about police discipline and misconduct are inexcusable and represent a departure from many past administrations. Mayor de Blasio’s previous pledges to advance transparency and police accountability makes this even more dismaying. Discriminatory policing that allows significant racial disparities to persist continues, whether it’s NYPD disproportionately targeting Black and Latino workers for gravity knives or cis and trans women of color under loitering statutes. We have yet to see reforms to address police abuses pursued with the equal comprehensiveness and intensity given to lowering crime, and true safety for all cannot be achieved without such a commitment to action.”