Top NYC Union Leader And Human Rights Activists Denounce Bloomberg For Opposing Anti-Racial Profiling Law

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[New York City]

Communities United for Police Reform joined council members, civil rights leaders, and New Yorkers opposed to racial profiling to denounce Mayor Bloomberg for vetoing the Community Safety Act and expressed support for council members’ plan to override his veto.

“Stop and frisk under Mayor Bloomberg has become the largest racial profiling program in America,” said Alfredo Carrasquillo, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform. “And now New York City has the opportunity to shift course, and lead the way in addressing racial profiling in the wake of Trayvon Martin's tragic death by making sure this anti-profiling bill becomes law. Words are not enough at a time like this, it's time for action.”

Following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, people throughout the nation have engaged in a substantive dialogue about racial profiling. Many people of color in New York City and around the United States – including President Obama – have given eloquent testimony of the harms and dangers of racial and bias-based profiling.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg has fought against a ban on discriminatory profiling in New York City by making destructive and deceptive statements, fearmongering, and threatening to use his wealth.

On Tuesday, Mayor Bloomberg vetoed the two Community Safety Act bills - to both ban discriminatory police profiling and establish independent oversight of the NYPD – that were passed by a veto-proof majority of the City Council last month.

The legislation to ban discriminatory profiling – Intro. 1080 – builds upon the existing racial profiling law – strengthening it with clear enforcement mechanisms – and expanding its protections to LGBTQ and immigrant New Yorkers for the first time, along with other protected classes.

Despite misleading statements and mistruths being used by opponents to incite fear in the public, the bill does not stop police officers from identifying or pursuing a suspect by race, age, gender, or any other descriptive category. It uses the same exact “determinative factor” standard as the current racial profiling law – signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg in 2004 – that does not presently prevent officers from identifying a suspect based on race.

Opponents continue to find new misinformation to spread about the legislation to ban discriminatory police profiling, lacking any consistent or coherent argument. Despite their continued use of several of these myths, the legislation:

WILL NOT CREATE FLOOD OF LAWSUITS: It does not allow individuals to sue for money (only for policy change), removing any monetary incentive to file a lawsuit. It will cost significant money and time to file a suit, require a high legal threshold determined by a screening panel that can dismiss lawsuits, and attorneys who file frivolous suits would be subject to sanctions.

WILL NOT RESTRICT LEGAL NYPD TACTICS: Since a lawsuit cannot be brought on the basis of statistics alone, claims that the legislation will allow lawsuits against effective crime-fighting strategies, like Operation Crew Cut or the use of cameras, just because they statistically appear to target people of a certain race, age, or other protected category are simply not true.

WILL NOT THREATEN LIVELIHOOD OF OFFICERS: Disparate impact claims cannot be brought against individual officers. Claims against individual officers would be required to demonstrate that and officer intentionally discriminated against someone, which is already the threshold under existing law.

WILL NOT COST THE CITY: Discriminatory policing is what costs the city millions of dollars a year. The costs of defending unlawful discrimination by the NYPD are already borne by tax payers to the tune of $745 million in settlements and legal fees in 2012 alone. This bill will force the NYPD to abandon ineffective, wasteful, and harmful discriminatory practices that have already cost the city far too much.

The legislation to establish independent oversight of the NYPD – Intro. 1079 – would provide essential review of policing policies and practices, bringing the NYPD into conformity with every other city agency, police departments in other U.S. cities, and other law enforcement agencies like the FBI and CIA. Oversight would include review of NYPD policies, programs and practices, and issuing recommendations, but would not include the authority to make operational decisions or implement changes.

Opponents of the bills, including law enforcement unions and Mayor Bloomberg, have launched attacks against the legislation and the City Council veto-proof majority that support it.

They have consistently made outrageous and irresponsible claims about the bills to both the public and to rank-and-file officers, disregarding facts and the truth.

Mayor Bloomberg has even threatened to use his extraordinary personal wealth and super PAC to seek political retribution against council members who vote to override his veto.

Despite opponents of the bills spreading several myths about the legal and practical effects of the legislation in an attempt to incite fear in New Yorkers, New Yorkers overwhelmingly reject that notion (86% - 9%) according to the most recent Quinnipiac poll on the issue.

Activists, union leaders, and leaders of community-based organizations denounced Bloomberg's veto:

“In the wake of the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, it’s even more of a shame that the Mayor vetoed these bills and that he has been employing fear tactics in an attempt to defend profiling by the police,” said George Gresham, President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, New York City’s largest union. “We must act now to make sure that innocent people are no longer targeted simply because of the color of their skin. Statistics show that profiling does not work, wastes police resources, violates our rights, causes tension and division in our communities and in fact makes us less safe. We strongly urge the City Council to override the Mayor’s veto, because both these bills are urgently needed, for the safety, moral integrity and future of our city.”

“In passing the Community Safety Act with veto-proof majorities, the City Council stood up for the civil rights of all New Yorkers,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “These common sense reforms will bring badly needed transparency and accountability to the NYPD. They will help ensure that young men of color enjoy the same presumption of innocence when they are walking home from the store that any other person would expect. And they will in no way interfere with lawful police tactics. We will work with council members to secure this victory against Mayor Bloomberg’s heavy-handed campaign of scare tactics and misinformation.” 

“The last time I was stopped and frisked it made me feel less than human, like I was less than a person,” said Keeshan Harley, an 18-year-old college student and Make the Road New York member. “Targeting young black men like me doesn't solve the problem. Just because my skin is Black and I carry myself a certain way, I dress a certain way, I follow a certain trend, I listen to certain music, that doesn't mean I'm a bad person. It's just who I am.

“Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) is deeply concerned by Mayor Bloomberg's decision to veto the Community Safety Act bills aimed at preventing discriminatory policing by the NYPD,” said AIUSA Senior Campaigner, Thenjiwe McHarris. “Everyone, regardless of their race or ethnicity is entitled to be treated with respect and dignity.”

Djibril Toure, CopWatch Director, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, said: “National and local action must be taken to curb the racial profiling that has not only become commonplace within law enforcement in New York City and across the nation, but has also shaped and influenced the practices of those desiring to be police, like George Zimmerman.”

“Whether it's Stand Your Ground or Stop and Frisk, we will continue to demand an end to racial profiling policies that jeopardize the safety of Black youth like Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Sean Bell and Ramarley Graham,” said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorOfChange. “In NY, the relentless hard work of ColorOfChange members and our partners has brought us very close to successfully reforming Stop and Frisk--despite Mayor Bloomberg's massive wealth and his outrageous attempt to buy Council votes. We support our Council Members and we urge them to demonstrate their commitment to Black and brown New Yorkers by quickly overriding Bloomberg's veto of the Community Safety Act.”

“We are in a critical time in American history and we have a simple choice: we go forward as one people dedicated to justice and equality for all,” said Kevin Powell, president of BK Nation. “Or we remain divided by the racial profiling that took Trayvon Martin's life and stop and frisk policies that affect so many young Latino and Black males here in New York City. We need to be about safety, yes, but not at the expense of innocent and fragile lives. There has to be another way. A civil and humane way.”

“Profiling of Black and Brown youth of color, whether we are straight or LGBTQ, whether we are homeless or live in public housing, whether we HIV positive or negative, whether we are immigrants or not, does not make any of us safer,” said Mitchyll Mora of Streetwise and Safe. “We are counting on New York City Council to stop Mayor Bloomberg from trying to turn back the clock on this historic legislation and to help keep youth of color, including women of color and LGBTQ youth of color, safe from police profiling of all kinds.”

“The verdict in the Trayvon Martin case has sparked a nationwide call for an end to racial profiling,” said Vivian Truong, Asian Youth in Action Program Coordinator, CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, “CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities stands with Black, Latino, Muslim, LGBTQ, and immigrant New Yorkers to call for the passage of the Community Safety Act now. We need to ensure that all New Yorkers are protected from discriminatory policing practices.”

“NYPD’s own record states that Blacks and Latinos are illegally stopped and frisked at record numbers. Mayor Bloomberg stating that whites are stopped too much and that Blacks and Latinos are not stopped enough shows just how dishonest and deceptive he really is,” said Carlos Rivera, Picture The Homeless member. “I don't know what planet Mayor Bloomberg lives on, but he surely is in denial of what racism and discriminatory profiling is.”

“The people of New York City have spoken. The New York Police Department cannot criminalize our skin color or our faith as a matter of policy,” said Faiza N. Ali from the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition. “And they will be held accountable for abusive and ineffective policing practices that put all New Yorkers at risk. We urge the City Council to override the Mayor's veto and bring necessary police reforms to ensure a safe and just City for all communities.”

 

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