Arrests of Blacks persists in 2020, City Council lays out NYPD reform plan

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According to the Police Reform Organization Project (PROP), the COVID-19 pandemic is not slowing down the number of Black people being arrested as the City Council prepares to make major reforms to the NYPD.

Data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services reveals that the NYPD continued targeting low-income people of color for minor infractions in 2020. Among the findings, 87% of misdemeanor arrests involved people of color in 2020, compared to 86.5% in 2019 and 86.5% in 2018.

Through September of last year, the NYPD made 288 marijuana possession arrests, 95% involving people of color. The NYPD also issued 7,475 criminal summonses for marijuana possession with 95% of those summonses being people of color. About 88% of arrests for 4th degree weapons possession people were people of color.

People of color made up between 80% and 90% of arrests for assault, petty larceny, possession of a controlled substance. Over 52% of the NYPD’s felony arrests involved Black New Yorkers who make up 25.1% of the city’s total population.

“While the city has reduced misdemeanor arrests from the extraordinarily high numbers of previous years, we point out that the NYPD persists in its abusive & racist policing through its ongoing ‘broken windows’’ tactics,” PROP said in a statement. “These starkly biased outcomes persist despite studies showing that white people use & sell the drug in equal or greater proportion to African Americans or Latinos.”

The NYPD did not respond to the AmNews to a request for comment on the arrest data at press time.

Last week, the City Council announced it is introducing a legislative package of 11 bills and one resolution aimed at reforming the NYPD. The bill will be considered at a series of hearings this month.

In June, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order directing the city to adopt a policing reform plan.

“Without transparency and accountability, we cannot rebuild trust between the police and the communities they serve,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams, chair of the Committee on Public Safety. “The Council already uses its powers of advice and consent with some of the most powerful positions in the City. It’s time the police commissioner gets that same level of scrutiny.”

Among the bills in the legislative package are removing the police commissioner’s final disciplinary authority, investigating police officers with a history of bias, reforming the role of school safety agents and creating a non-police emergency response for mental health emergencies.

“A review of NYPD employees’ work history, including but not limited to any arrests and investigations they conducted, would impose greater accountability on those employees who have a track record of bias and prejudice,” said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson.” A person’s personal beliefs cannot and should not impact how they perform their job, especially when they have a duty to serve and protect all New Yorkers.”

Council Member and Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo is sponsoring a resolution that would remove the police commissioner’s final disciplinary authority. The goal is to allow the Civilian Complaint Review Board to impose discipline in police misconduct cases.

“In order to take a truly reformative approach to public safety in New York City, we must take aggressive steps to ensure that New Yorkers have confidence in our ability to provide real accountability within the police department,” said Cumbo.

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