NEW YORK (AP) – New York attorney general Letitia James on Wednesday proposed sweeping changes to strengthen oversight of the New York City police force, including the formation of an independent commission to approve the city’s budget department and would have the final say on officer discipline.
“The police should not control themselves – full stop,” James Democrat told reporters. “It is really important to think about major reforms and not to tinker around the edges.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo asked James to investigate whether NYPD agents used excessive force to quell the unrest and apply a city-wide curfew following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death led to weeks of protests in the city which at times became violent and prompted numerous allegations of police misconduct.
James has not ruled out criminal charges while his investigation continues. In the meantime, she described several reforms aimed at restoring New Yorkers’ confidence in law enforcement.
She said none of her recommendations are binding on city leaders, but presented her report as a plan to transform accountability into the country’s largest police service.
In addition to a new oversight committee, James called for the decriminalization of “quality of life” crimes such as jaywalking and a statewide certification process that would prevent “bad officers from simply being transferred from one agency to another ”.
“Everything should be on the table,” said the attorney general. “The ultimate goal must be to democratize the police to create trust and trustworthy systems.”
A message was sent to the NYPD for comments.
Pat Lynch, president of the Benevolent Police Association, said that James’ report “tells only one side of the story and presents heated proposals that have been part of the anti-police program for decades.”
“If the aim is to bridge the gap between the police and the public, this will not be achieved without having taken significant account of the point of view of the police on the street,” he said in a statement. .
James’ report follows heartbreaking testimony that New York City police slammed peaceful protesters to the ground, punched a woman in the face, and punched people with batons.
The Attorney General said she had received over 1,300 submissions in the past month and that most of the complaints involved NYPD officers using excessive force, “indiscriminate use of pepper spray, brandishing handguns” fire at demonstrators and pushing vehicles or bikes at demonstrators “.
Other complaints concerned “disturbing practices related to arrests”, including the use of “extremely narrow ties” to mistreat detainees and to detain demonstrators in cramped cells.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea told James last month that fewer than 10 officers were subject to disciplinary action for alleged misconduct against protesters, including one suspended without pay and later charged with assault after been photographed pushing a woman to the ground. Shea said he was “very disturbed” by the incident.
The police oversight commission that James proposed would redirect the power of the department’s commissioner to a new board of directors with representatives appointed by city council, public counsel, monitor and mayor.
“The commission should also hire and, if necessary, fire the commissioner of the NYPD and approve all promotions above the rank of captain,” said the report.
James also recommended that NYPD officers be forced to live in the five boroughs “so that they better reflect the communities they must serve and protect”.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city has complied with James’ investigation and highlighted recent police reform measures, including the dissolution of the plainclothes anti-crime unit.
The city recently approved a budget that will transfer $ 1 billion from police to education and social services over the next year, following demands by protesters to cut police spending.
Source: AP News