Episode 161: The Police Reform Movement In New York City
As we're joined now by Antonin Pierre of Brooklyn Movement Center which is part of the community is united for Police Reform Movement Antonin. Thanks for joining me here on W._B._A._I.. This is Ben Max of Gotham Gazette. How are you thanks for having me on? Thank you very much for joining us and I do want to mention before we get into our conversation. I said at the top of the show we had invited <hes> N._y._p._d.. Commissioner James O'Neill on the program we had a lot of interest from his spokespeople. They were not able to in the and make it happen for him to join us today but I won't make sure folks listening know that invitation was extended as well. We're hoping to hear from the police commissioner in the coming weeks but <hes> today we're going to hear from Antonin Pierre and <hes> Anthony tell us a little did about Brooklyn Movement Center before we really get into the details of of police reform and the mayor's record in what happened didn't happen in Albany. <hes> tell us a little bit about Brooklyn Movement Center so E._M._C. is a hyper local community organizing group and we're based in central Brooklyn which we define as Bettstein crown heights and I work really revolves around centering the black leadership in the neighborhood and developing organizing campaigns around the issues that people want to improve in bed stuy and crown heights and say a little bit more about centering black leadership. I <hes> have seen that along with the police accountability work and police reform work <hes> <hes> you know issues of housing and gentrification have certainly been central to Brooklyn Movement Centers Work <hes> we want to focus mostly on police reform here but <hes> can you say a little bit about what that work looks like when we think about Central Brooklyn we think about how we actually do organizing work. That's going to improve people's lives. It's hard to just work on one issue because we live multi issue lives right so that means that our work has centered on education ocean on gender-based treat her we've done citizen journalism work and we understand that what is most vital to be is to be a political home for black leadership in the neighborhood particularly as these neighborhoods are under attack when it comes to gentrification right as <hes> many of the black homeowners and longtime residents of neighborhood are actually getting pushed out so we see ourselves in some ways as sort of the last bastion against the changes changes that are coming and have been coming for long time black residents in the neighborhood and what does that what does a little bit of that work look like <hes> to to sort of try to stave off the negative <hes> consequences of gentrification is that about <hes> trying trying to educate people in the community about certain things about trying to affect city policy absolutely so a lot of our work is around <hes> affecting city policy as well as self determination work so for example our food justice I is working group has evolved into the Central Book and Food Co op which is really really looks. At how do we ensure that people who have lived in a gentrified neighborhood for a long time can have access to great unhealthy food <hes> and when we access me not just a store opening in their neighborhood but we mean a place where the food is actually the the cost is accessible that it's really a community center that offers <hes>. As really convenient center that offers childcare and cooking lessons right that we try to look at solutions that both can be within our community and also outside of our community so a lot of our police reform work has been. How do we actually work arcand big policy changes at the city level that are going to affect the lives of people in bed stuy Crown Heights so let's move into the police reform work <hes> before we get into some of the specifics <hes> what's is your overall assessment at this point and Mayor Bill de Blasios tenure <hes> of what he has and hasn't done police reform? It was clearly one of the top I would say two if not three <hes> perhaps <hes> issues is that he ran on <hes> certainly focused on curbing the use of stop and Frisk policing but he talked about police reform more broadly <hes> when he first ran for mayor so at this point almost halfway through a second term <hes>. What's your general assessment? Yeah I think the the mayor has actually done a really great job on rhetoric about <hes> police saying rhetoric about police accountability where I think we as police advocates and the mez ministration would disagree is how much of that rhetoric has actually been realized and policies that will affect people's lives so what we was we push for police accountability on lots of different France rate whether that's passing the right to know act which <hes> which <hes> requires police officers to give an I._D.. Card when they stop people in and unconstitutional searches by police or if we're talking about recourse for families of people who are who have been killed by police like Eric Garner del run small or the he'd Vassal we find is we've faced considerable opposition from the mayor's office from the Mayor's administration <hes> which is in conflict with the rhetoric of the really good and exciting inspiring rhetoric sometimes that he shares about policing and the police in conversation with the mayor's administration often gets reduced to have N._C._O.. Let's have neighborhood policing read so de Blasio says we've retrained gene. The police force in De Escalation were were retraining and implicit bias. We've launched neighborhood policing <hes> what else we're <hes> you know we've reduced <hes> arrests by tens of thousands every year her <hes> but you're saying that all is is pop positive but there's key missing pieces. Oh absolutely so will we find. Is that when you know often when we talk about when talk about community policing. He says that <hes> we they they want people to know the name of the officers on their block right and what gets really hard about that is that that's not with what communities of Color Queer Folks Trance folks folks immigrants who are constantly harassed by police. They're not asking to know the names of the officers. Were harassing them. They're asking if an officer harasses me. I want to see that person held accountable. That is the way that I know that the government actually actually cares harassing me right so there's a disconnect you know not just between the mayor and believing advocates but there's a disconnect between the mayor and how communities actually experienced policing on an everyday basis and he. He says that <hes> even if he's defensive about some of the accountability as you indicated officers not being removed from the force <hes> we'll get into some of those specific examples in a moment <hes> but he said <hes> he hears there's from people every day and <hes> you know it's born out in some of the arrests numbers that you know policing on the ground is far different <hes> than it was. Is that your experience is that your organization's experience your coalitions experienced. I has there been a demonstrable change in how policing is done on the ground in areas like central Brooklyn really what's really difficult about that. Is that <hes> I think the mayor's solutions around around policing are very individualized right like what we're looking for. Are these broad reforms that <hes> well actually Giresse the way that all officers police so when you know when you have the mayor talking about training folks <hes> and what happens is you have these folks who are trained for example in crisis intervention and then you have this case like in April of colosio traffic in who was killed in the Bronx <hes> by <hes> <hes> one of the officers who who killed him had crisis intervention training right so when we talk about like what the demonstrable different is. It's not gonNA come from training. It's going to come from policies that officers have to abide by and if they don't abide by accountable and so let's talk <hes> let's let's go onto accountability then so <hes> obviously the highest profile <hes> example of this is the death of Eric Garner <hes> officer Daniel Pantaleo. Oh who <hes> was sort of floating around in limbo for a really long time continuing to collect a paycheck even earning overtime at a desk job after he was took a taken off of active duty <hes> and then finally an and N._y._p._d.. Administrative trial prosecuted by this <hes> Civilian Complaint Review Board wrapped up recently. We're waiting to to find out the results of that. Speak a little bit about your perspective on how that was handled and what should have been <hes> <hes> different in your in your mind yeah absolutely so when we look at <hes> Garner so this case of Eric Garner being killed. Possibly I think it's one of the highest profile cases of police killing in the past decade and the video of Garner was seeing around the world right and for when you you have this case in your backyard and it taken five years to have an administrative trial for one of the officers by the C._r._v. which discounts all of the officers were involved either on the scene or after Eric was murdered by the police so what feels really difficult in this conversation is. It's you know when you you take the mayor's rhetoric. Take his what he says about police accountability what he says is important about police community relations and you match it up with a family. That's been grieving for five years without any recourse any kind of -bility and now has some shot at accountability through this you process which they may not you know areas family may not even find out the outcome of this trial because of a police secrecy law called fifty eight that exists at the state level right so what we see here is is there is a way that mayor de Blasio. Oh has deprioritize really getting justice for Garner's family and that's the stomach right so we also have they'll run small. WHO's <hes> killed three years ago this month? We decided Vassil who was killed in April two thousand eighteen by the police. And all of the officers killed these people have <hes> remain on the forest they continue collecting paychecks Pencil Eos pitch six figures now and the real question for the administration is how how do they go to families and say that we're interested in transparency and accountability without some real clear prioritizing of getting that transparency transparency and accountability for those families and also add you know the the the when there are deaths <hes> police involved deaths those obviously as the three examples or four examples you just named and there's others over the last few years <hes> those obviously become the most high profile but we've also seen you know variety of other examples and news reporting about lists of officers that repeatedly lie under oath or under investigation or examples of brutality that don't rise <hes> to death <hes> they're real questions at Brown how the department handles accountability across the board not just in a police involved death but also <hes> all the way down the line and I should add to that that you know commissioner James O'Neill has been <hes> defensive on that front quite a bit but unable well <hes> at least they say to really support some of what they say because of that fifty eight law so let let's move into that in a second in terms of <hes> the state legislature in some of the agenda that you were hoping to see this year that that didn't move at the state level <hes> but it's important to note this issue of Police Accountability and transparency around <hes> really extends you know well beyond these most high profile issues where there's police involved deaths and Commissioner Neil L. has said I believe on different occasions that many officers have been removed from the force but we don't necessarily find out about it and that's something that I think advocates around this <hes> fifty eight aspect of the civil rights law. <hes> you know really want to see change so we can get a lot more daylight there yeah absolutely it's it's curious as say that many <hes> police officers have been removed from the forest only because many of the families who we've worked with <hes> B._M._C.'s DMC C._p._R.. Our friends at the Justice Committee <hes> have not seen justice right so to be able to to remove what I'm assuming are the the the most <hes> egregious examples right to remove someone who was acting under the influence or <hes> <hes> I think in places where they're really egregious mis and like clear misconduct to remove those folks off the forest dot to remove folks who abused power to abuse their you know being the only employees of the of the city who are allowed to use deadly force that really sends a message to people that it's okay <hes> so that feels really important and under fifty you you know fifty s really interesting because <hes> fifty a we call it. The Police Secrecy Laura <hes> New York State is one of two states Delaware being other who have these laws that shield the <hes> police officers <hes> disciplinary records ACAR is from the public and what feels really tough about this. Is that the there's a lot of leeway. There's a lot of discretion how fifty eight could be used and the mayor's administration Blasios Administration. I should say has used <hes> has worked with a really. A broader interpretation of fifty eight that as I mentioned before like wouldn't doesn't even allow people who are <hes> whose whose family members have been killed by police to find out the outcomes of disciplinary trials and that has not been the case under more recent mayors. There's so it is important to state the way that the mayor's uses fifty as very different and <hes> repealing fifty a has been part of our legislative agenda and when I say our E._M._C. Well C._p._R.. State Legislative Converge On data and some of the bills we are hoping password to repeal fifty eight <hes> the police stat acts which would allow for public reporting of racial disparities and police stops and police killings of civilians and you know when we look at these two bills they're fairly basic bill right data and reporting we want to know the numbers right we wanna know demographics and for the state legislature not to really prioritize and make possible this is passing passing a data bill and passing the bill and Police Secrecy Laws that are archaic throughout the Union throughout the United States if feels <hes> if feel like the state legislature really missed an opportunity here to send a strong wrong message that they're more interested in serving communities than police and so on fifty eight. Do you have any indication as to with the new democratic control of both the the longstanding control of the state assembly but now the new control of the state Senate of course under also Democratic governor why that would move the mayor state is one of his top albany priorities. He was successful on a variety of other of those priorities hardee's <hes> any insights into why that was not <hes> successful now and I think that's actually a great question for leaders and Carl hasty and we've got a couple more minutes here so let's talk about <hes> something also coming up at the city level. This is the two thousand Nineteen Charter Revision Commission <hes> We've reported at Gotham Gazette about a specific <hes> reform to the this feeling Complaint Review Board which investigates police misconduct and at times prosecutes cases like we're seeing <hes> in the Daniel Pantaleo case around the death of Eric Garner <hes> there are certain potential reforms to the CR that at this charter revision commission is going to put before voters this November but there's one particularly controversial one that we reported at Gotham gazette that the mayor's administration representatives on the commission actually wanted struck down but it looks like it's moving ahead into the ballot and that's something that you <hes> have really advocated for you. Explain that to listeners yeah yeah we've advocate Anna. I really want to give a big props to <hes> Iris Baez Mother of Anthony by killed by police in nineteen ninety for <hes> and also <hes> the mother of Mohammed Bah whose killed by police in twenty twelve who really really fi and to the bitter end to make sure that this ballot initiative could come up and the initiative which I'm hoping <hes> or I should say this. The ballot initiative really allows the C._R._V. to prosecute police officers who in the course of an investigation make false statements <hes>. <hes> so police officers who maybe were already being investigated if they make a false statement they lie than they would be prosecuted they would this this initiative passes they would be prosecuted and you know it's it's curious really. The mayor's office fought this particularly because of the rhetoric the rhetorical dedication to transparency so I'm you know I'm really looking forward to what the electorate has to say about this particularly because <hes> I can't imagine why folks went why public police officer public employees police officers were allowed to use deadly force to actually be held accountable if they lie in the course of a public investigation allegation and their argument <hes> some of the folks have argued that these issues if the C._C._b.. Flags them they can be handled internally at the N._y._p._d.. In terms of internal departmental investigations <hes> do you have insights into whether that actually happens <hes>. Is that something that we just don't know how often that happens because of some of the secrecy in the fifty eight that that they you know <hes> is used sometimes to to hide those personnel records yeah I. I don't have any kind of inclination of that. I think that would be something that we would ask the mayor's office and the N._y._p._d.. To report more clearly on and it feels here that <hes> you know it doesn't it doesn't seem enough right. It doesn't seem like an adequate response to people who live in a city where the police are. It's it feels to them. It feels the civilians like the police are allowed to lie and kill people and do whatever they want without facing accountability early so there is accountability happening that is actually the kind of transparency that people would want and if it's if the mayor's administration isn't being transparent about it then we have no other. We have no other assumption to make that it's not happening well. There's a lot of other <hes> aspects of police reform work we could get to were at a time but <hes> thank you for for all those thoughts <hes> and for joining us and we'll of course be following your work <hes> Antony Pierre of the Brooklyn Movement Center which is part of Communities United for police reform. Thanks so much for taking some time here on W._B._Z.. And we are now in our last moments of this week show we've <hes> dug into a couple important topics one much more <hes> <unk> immediate in terms of looking at for the outcome of the Queen's District Attorney Democratic primary recount and one that has immediacy to it of course but is also a long ongoing <hes> struggle between of her among a variety of forces which is of course what to do about policing in New York City and very interesting thoughts on the mayor's record <hes> I think as I indicated some of the arguments that the mayor and his administration might make <hes> <hes> but you know there's there's a lot to be dissected there in the coming weeks and months especially as we see the results of the departmental administrative trial of Daniel Pantaleo if we see them <hes> I think it's assumed that at some point we will see them but they don't have to be made public and and that could <hes> could get quite interesting if we don't find out the results of that for quite a while but we'll return to these subjects and more thank you for listening here on W._B._Z.. To another episode of Maxim Murphy this is Ben Max from Gotham Gazette. We will talk with you again next week.