Riko Guzman said today on the steps of City Hall that when he was 11 years old he was with friends on his Bronx neighborhood sidewalk “doing nothing” when a police officer stopped and frisked him.
“I was approached by my own heroes,” said the Bronx member of the Justice Committee, a Latino-led organization that works on police accountability.
Guzman joined with other Latino and African American local elected officials, community leaders and reformers earlier today to urge passage of a package of City Council bills that could change the way the New York Police Department does its job.
U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez said the police use of stop-and-frisk is doing little for public safety. Instead, community members “view the police as a threat and enemy, not as an ally to make their community safer,” she said.
The bills, known collectively as the The Community Safety Act, are sponsored by City Councilman Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn, who noted that advocates of the bills are “not anti-police.”
“We just want to make policing better,” he said.
Some critics of the bills say they rely on overly broad language to determine whether an individual can sue the NYPD for stop-and-frisk tactics. In a New York Post article published yesterday, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. said the bills were “dangerous and irresponsible” and could cost the city millions in lawsuits.
But Williams said that the bills would simply address the need for a policy change.
According to a video from the Communities United for Police Reform, the primary organization supporting the bills, the legislation will mandate police officers explain that they can only search a person with consent or a warrant; must give a reason for their search; show a card with their name and rank; and provide information about the Civilian Complaint Review Board if the person would like to report the search.
The legislation would also create a new position of inspector general to have policy oversight of the NYPD.
But the primary goal of the legislation is stopping police profiling not just on the basis of race but also religion, gender, household, employment, immigration status, and ethnicity. More than 1.2 million of police stops during the past several years targeted African-Americans and Latinos, supporters of the legislation say.
Police reform groups and community organizations [including Make the Road New York] will be holding a rally at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday in support of the legislation, starting by 250 Broadway and proceeding to the steps of City Hall.
Williams pointed out that none of these bills are going to solve the issue of stop-and-frisk and the need for police accountability.
“What they will do is allow the City Council to make a strong showing that there is a problem here and it needs to be addressed,” he said.
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