De Blasio takes Obama pledge to improve policing

Stephon Johnson | 9/10/2020, midnight
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio took a pledge to improve police oversight and address extrajudicial police force.
Mayor Bill de Blasio Facebook

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio took a pledge to improve police oversight and address extrajudicial police force.

On Monday, Aug. 31, the mayor spoke with reporters on adapting the Obama Foundation’s (former President Barack Obama) pledge directed toward mayors and city councils around the country to review use of force policies, engage the community with diverse ranges of input in the review, report the findings of the review back to the community and through that, reform police use of force.

According to de Blasio, he received a request in June from Obama to consider taking the pledge. He said he’s adhered to the pledge through his actions the past several months.

“Today, where we are publishing our response to this pledge that specific actions will be taken, and among those actions are new initiatives to bring the voices of the people of this city into our police academy as our recruits are being trained and as our officers are being retrained to literally bring neighborhood voices in as part of the training process,” said de Blasio, “to have local efforts with community committees to develop new policies that will work for police and community alike, to have a deeper dialogue to change some of the ways we do things so that everyone can work better together to use CompStat in new ways.

“CompStat has been the underpinning of our success now for a quarter-century in fighting back crime, but CompStat can be used in so many powerful ways to also measure how the NYPD is doing and its relationship with communities and how to improve that relationship,” continued de Blasio.

New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said that much of what Obama wanted cities to pledge to were already being used by the police department.

“If you think back a couple of years, when he empaneled and asked for outside experts to come in and take a look at our discipline process––the Blue Ribbon Panel, as it was called––when you look at the Obama pledge and many of the concerns and the Blue Ribbon Panel, there’s a tremendous amount of overlap here,” said Shea on Monday. “And the good news is that many of the items that are contained in the pledge we’ve been committed to doing for several years now.

But for anti-police brutality activists, it’s a case of ‘believe it when I see it.’”

Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) recently won the right to intervene in a lawsuit brought by police unions against the repeal of 50-a in New York (which had kept police disciplinary records away from the public). Represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, a federal court said CPR could intervene in what the organizers said is an attempt to “re-entrench police secrecy.”

“We appreciate that the court allowed Communities United for Police Reform to intervene in the police unions’ litigation that aims to roll back the repeal of New York’s main police secrecy statute, 50-a,” said CPR representative Mark Winston-Griffin in a statement. “The fact that the injunction request was largely denied is an important step in ending the police unions’ attempt to use the courts to continue to hide police misconduct and subvert the will of New Yorkers and the New York state legislature.”

Representatives for the police feel that releasing those misconduct records would violate their privacy. When the lawsuit first hit the court, We Are All New York (a group made up of police, firefighter and correction officer’s unions) representative Hank Sheinkopf claimed, “It would leave these essential public servants with fewer rights and protections than other city employees.”

With the legal fight still ongoing, activist Josmar Trujillo told the AmNews that de Blasio must live in a different New York than he does.

“It’s hard to imagine who is more delusional here: de Blasio, for thinking that in his second to last year his promises of reform could be taken seriously; or Obama, for thinking that he could set up a foundation to implement changes in policing he couldn’t even muster as president,” Trujillo said in an emailed statement to the AmNews. “Unfortunately, these theatrical games will distract some people from the serious fight of divesting from policing as an institution.”