By Stephon Johnson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News
A new report by a police watchdog group is calling on the NYPD’s new inspector general to open investigations into police policies and practices that they consider to be “problematic.”
Titled “Priorities for the New NYPD Inspector General: Promoting Safety, Dignity and Rights for All New Yorkers,” the report by Communities United for Police Reform (the same group responsible for advocating for an inspector general in the first place) wants the new appointee to investigate “discriminatory marijuana arrests, unlawful searches, surveillance of Muslim communities, low-level enforcement, use of excessive and deadly force, and disciplinary policies and outcomes in cases of misconduct.”
A section of the report, focused on selective enforcement of minor offenses, suggests that summonses and arrests for infractions like riding a bike on the sidewalk are disproportionately doled out in communities of color and not enforced similarly in elsewhere. Communities United for Police Reform also alleges that the increase in enforcement for minor infractions has replaced stop-and-frisk, which has decreased significantly. The report states that the focus on minor offenses takes away man power in addressing major crimes.
Another focus of the report involved the possession of condoms as evidence of prostitution-related offenses. While the NYPD announced a slight change in that policy last month, New York City Anti-Violence Project Co-Director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy Shelby Chestnut wants an outright ban on the practice.
“The New York City Anti-Violence Project’s latest Hate Violence Report documents the pervasive issue of police violence against LGBTQ
[lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer] and HIV-affected New Yorkers, including a multi-year trend of police misconduct, with 68 reports of police misconduct in 2013 and 78 in 2012,” said Chestnut in a statement. “We hope to work alongside Inspector General Philip Eure to ban the use of condoms as evidence in all cases including prostitution, prostitution in school zones, loitering for the purposes of prostitution, promoting prostitution and sex trafficking cases.”
Once again, Communities United for Police Reform also called for investigations into what they feel is overaggressive and discriminatory work by the police that has resulted in the deaths of people like Ramarley Graham, Reynaldo Cuevas, Noel Polanco and Tamon Robinson. Communities United for Police Reform believes that the practices aren’t always based on race, as they also affect people with psychiatric and/or mental disabilities.
According to statistics from the Civilian Complaint Review Board, excessive physical force is the highest force-related complaint against NYPD officers, making up 70 percent (3,695) of the total of force allegations brought against them.
Monifa Bandele of Communities United for Police Reform said that the report shows the need for the new inspector general to act immediately.
“In order for interactions between communities and the police to improve, and for real public safety to be achieved, there must be public accountability. It is also essential that abusive, discriminatory and ineffective policies and practices are eliminated—that is where this report is focused,” said Bandele in a statement. “Whether it is the persistence of discriminatory arrests of Black and Brown New Yorkers for possession of small amounts of marijuana—in part caused by unlawful searches—or the continued attempts to broadly surveil Muslim communities, there is a range of policing policies and practices that continue to be harmful to communities throughout our city and counterproductive to public safety.”
Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson agrees.
“After years of hard work by everyday New Yorkers who spoke out and raised their voices, the new office of the inspector general creates an incredible opportunity for a much-needed change of NYPD policies,” Robinson said in a statement. “Our communities deserve and demand a Police Department that values their lives and respects their dignity.”