“This system is not working. It’s time for the people to say, give us an independent elected review board and give equal opportunity to the victims.” Juanita Young’s heartfelt testimony before the Mayor’s City Charter Revision Commission regarding police violence sums it up. The city desperately needs to replace the toothless, appointed Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB).
Young has fought for police accountability since cops murdered her son Malcolm in 2000. Unfortunately, her tragic story is shared by countless others who have lost loved ones at the hands of the “New York’s finest.”
Real accountability needed. The Freedom Socialist Party is working in a diverse coalition of individuals and organizations that has drafted legislation to amend the city charter to create an Elected Civilian Review Board (ECRB), whose decisions would be binding. The ECRB would work with an independent special prosecutor for criminal police acts.
This fight for meaningful police oversight is not new. “I was deeply involved with the very same issue in the ’60s,” said Arnold Weiss, a campaign volunteer. “With an enormous amount of work and pressure, we managed to get a commission, but the old line forces managed to water it down to produce the ineffective commission that we have today.”
City Council member Inez Barron, who represents the East New York district in Brooklyn, is the primary sponsor of the Elected Civilian Review Board legislation. Her district includes the police precinct that year-after-year has the most complaints of cop abuse.
Ongoing use of social media brings people of all ages to meetings and events. Recently a Brooklyn-based group of musicians sponsored a fundraiser for the Campaign which drew more than 100 people and raised almost $2,000. “The May benefit concert organized by the Sound Mind Collective was another great moment of seeing community support,” said one of the performers, Nikhil Yerawadekar.
Many of the attendees were completely new to the Campaign, drawn to support it because of daily and endless reports of police misconduct.
Several NYC newspapers have recently published articles which detail rampant “testilying” on the part of NYPD officers. Giving false testimony under oath has become an epidemic. One Brooklyn cop told The New York Times: “There’s no fear of being caught…you’re not going to go to trial and nobody is going to be cross-examined.”
Another particularly outrageous development is the fact that the Police Benevolent Association recently sued the CCRB in order to prevent it from having any jurisdiction in matters of sexual misconduct. This followed on the heels of a case in Brooklyn where two cops picked up an 18-year-old and raped her in their police van.
Moving forward. This summer, street outreach is in full swing.
Black Lives Matter Greater NY, an endorsing organization, was instrumental in kicking off a petition drive designed to pressure the City Council president to facilitate urgent passage of the Elected Civilian Review Board. Other recent endorsers such as the Racial Justice working group of Democratic Socialists of America and the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys UAW Local 2325 are actively campaigning for the ECRB.
Grassroots organizing is linked with ongoing lobbying of City Hall. Angie Connors, a member of the City Council working group, noted, “The testimony given at the Charter Commission meeting is a big development. The more vocal we are, on Twitter and in other ways — the more they [politicians] are required to pay attention to us.” The working group continues to identify and meet with City Council members seeking co-sponsors.
Inside City Hall, and outside on the streets, the demand for real accountability for police abuse grows. To get involved, contribute or find out more information, go to www.stoppoliceviolencenyc.org or the Facebook page HoldPoliceAccountableNYC.