By Evan Goldstein, Drug Policy Alliance
In the early hours of last Thursday morning, the New York City Council did something historic that will benefit the millions of people living in New York City. They stood up to the aggressive, racial biased policing of the New York Police Department and passed two pieces of landmark legislation that will bring more oversight and fairness to NYPD policing practices.
The number of stop-and-frisks in NYC exploded over the last decade, increasing from less than one hundred thousand stops in 2001 to nearly seven hundred thousand in 2011. What's more is that only 10% are arrested or given a summons, and 87% of people of color. And as we know, most of the bogus marijuana arrests that happen in New York are a result of stop-and-frisk.
The legislation, which is part of the Community Safety Act to reign in bad policies of the NYPD (including stop-and-frisk), was advanced by a coalition DPA is part of called Communities united for Police Reform (CPR). CPR, representing dozens of organizations that focus on issues such as drug user rights, homelessness, LGBTQ rights, and young people, also made our marijuana arrest reform bill their top state priority and helped mobilize folks within the coalition to advocate for the passage our bill.
One of the bills that passed, the Inspector General bill, creates an independent monitor that evaluates the policies and procedures of the NYPD. The other bill expands the classes that are protected from racial profiling. Both passed with at least 2/3 of the City Council, the majority needed to override Mayor Bloomberg's promised veto.
These bills have the Mayor and Police Commissioner scared. Up until the 11th hour, Bloomberg and Kelly were personally calling Council Members urging them to oppose the bills, and the NYPD captains and detectives union vowed to pull all endorsements of Council Members who supported the racial bias bill.
And even after the bills were passed, the Mayor Bloomberg has double-down on his support of stop-and-frisk, saying "I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little," drawing criticism from civil rights activists across the state and a damning editorial response from the New York Times.
This is an exciting time for NYPD reform, and DPA is thrilled to have participated in the passage of these bills, which could provide the first real reform to the unchecked unconstitutional and racially biased policing of the NYPD.