What Comes After Reform

By Elizabeth Adams, Candidate for NY City Council — CD33

Yesterday, the Council Committee on Public Safety held a hearing to hear public testimony on various police reform bills, including Int 2220–2021, Int 2209–2021, and Res 1538–2021. The package of bills on the table for public comment were targeted at the question of accountability. How can we expect the institution responsible for causing generations of harm with impunity to reform itself?

It is jarring to hear the NYPD and their allies on the council and in the Mayor’s office continue to disparage the need for disciplinary changes. The safety and health of our communities cannot improve if Commissioner Shea can continue to avoid the Council or if the CCRB does not have the power to act on its mandates. The bills up for comment are about acting on a commitment: our city’s commitment to democratic processes of accountability and our city’s commitment to give recourse to those who have been harmed by the NYPD. We have to stop holding law enforcement to a different standard than everyone else.

Yesterday’s hearing is one point in a long road of changes under the Council’s jurisdiction. As a Legislative Director on the Council I was proud to work on Intro 2220, which ends the defense of qualified immunity, making it easier for victims of police misconduct to bring civil action against police officers. The other bills being heard would:

  • Require the Police Commissioner to be approved by the Council
  • Shorten the term limits of the Police Commissioner to four years
  • Require that records of civil litigation against officers be made public

We have been waiting 7 years for this administration to take on police reform and it has not come. We can no longer wait on this Mayor to act — it is time to create an actual system of checks and balances and empower the full authority of the CCRB and agencies that will actually hold the NYPD to account.

There’s something outside of my testimony, however, that I want to emphasize. These reforms are not enough to get to the root of the issue. They improve accountability, but the fundamental conversation needs to be about limiting the harm the NYPD has a chance to inflict in the first place. I am committed to significantly divesting from the NYPD budget to re-invest in mental healthcare, housing services, and public education, and to continue conversations with organizers and community leaders to consider deeper refunds to public health and safety. The mistakes of last summer’s budget marked the beginning of the conversation for incoming and potential Council Members on what their role is in meeting the demands of the Movement for Black Lives. While I am glad to see movement on this package of bills, the work continues.

I grew up in New York City and have spent my life fighting for my community. I’m running to represent District 33 in the NYC Council.

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