A coalition of civil rights and social justice organizations in New York City came out Thursday against a City Council plan to hire 1,000 police officers. The group of organizations, which collectively represent communities of color, the LGBT community, low-income residents, youth, the homeless and immigrant New Yorkers, said adding the officers amid growing concerns about police accountability in New York and across the nation would be a bad move.
Instead, the coalition wants the tens of millions of dollars needed for the new officers to be redirected to community programs and city services that coalition members say are underfunded. They also called on city officials to get serious about policing reforms that have been debated since Eric Garner’s chokehold death and Akai Gurley’s shooting death by New York Police Department officers last year. Garner, whose death sparked protests nationwide, was killed last July in Staten Island in a chokehold tactic that was banned for police use in 1993. Last November, Gurley was fatally shot by a rookie police officer in a darkly lit stairwell of a housing project in Brooklyn.
“Adding 1,000 new positions within the police department not only raises significant concerns for communities that have yet to see public accountability for the department, but it also would come at the expense of more beneficial long-term investments in the safety and well-being of our neighborhoods,” the groups said in a letter to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the City Council on Thursday.
The letter was signed by nearly 60 groups, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Arab American Association of New York and the Legal Aid Society, who said the fundamental accountability problems have allowed New Yorkers to be abused, targeted and killed. The group also named city youth services, such as the Summer Youth Employment Program, housing and homeless services, and seniors services as just some of the areas that are in need of funding.
The City Council announced Monday that the 1,000 officers would be a part of its formal budget. The recruits would cost $68.7 million next year and $95 million in 2017. “The council’s plan to increase headcount while also including cost-control measures is fiscally responsible and will go a long way toward ensuring public safety and better community relations,” Mark-Viverito told the New York Daily News. Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t include additional officers in his budget proposal this year. The current police force is more than 35,400 strong.
“While there has been a focus on the issue of ‘police-community relations,’ there has not been enough attention paid to addressing the concrete and underlying issues of discriminatory and abusive policing,” the coalition’s letter to the speaker and City Council said. The NYPD has one of the highest officer-to-resident ratios in the country, more police officers than the total number of police in 45 entire states, and a headcount that rivals that of the FBI, a statement released by the coalition said.