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Campaign Updates

New York City Passes Landmark Reforms for Police Accountability

NY City Council passes NYPD Oversight Act and Anti-Profiling Act, taking major steps to reduce biased-based profiling

New York, NY

After years of organizing and advocacy, New York City communities are celebrating the passage of landmark reforms to increase NYPD accountability this morning. The measures—passed early this morning– respond to concerns about the Department’s biased-based policing tactics voiced by residents of targeted neighborhoods, community and courtroom advocates and City lawmakers alike. Each bill passed with votes from a supermajority of members, a strong show of support that should enable the Council to overcome a mayoral veto.

In an 40-11 vote, the Council passed the Intro 1079, the NYPD Oversight Act often referred to as the “Inspector General” bill. The legislation will empower the City’s Department of Investigation to review and investigate NYPD operations, policies, programs and practices. The Department will also be able to issue recommendations for improving these policies and practices. With passage of the bill, the NYPD will join other major law enforcement agencies—like the Los Angeles and Chicago police departments and the FBI and CIA –that are already subject to independent oversight.

The Council also passed Intro 1080, the Anti-Profiling Act, which will protect New Yorkers from unlawful and discriminatory targeting by the NYPD. The legislation, which passed with 34 votes, expands existing protections, extending coverage to City residents who are targeted on the basis of their age, immigration status, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or housing status in addition to race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. In addition, the new measure gives New Yorker a meaningful way to ensure that the NYPD follows that law. Individuals who are targeted can now enforce the profiling ban in court and call for changes in NYPD policies and practices.

“These bills represent a major step forward” said Brittny Saunders, Senior Staff Attorney for Immigrant & Civil Rights at the Center for Popular Democracy. “They put New York City at the vanguard of public safety policy, where it should be.” “The new legislation,” Saunders continued “makes it clear that it is the Department’s responsibility to keep all New Yorkers safe without violating the rights of any of them. That’s what the law requires.”

The bills’ passage is the result of years of work by the members of Communities United for Police Reform (“CPR”) a coalition of major base-building groups, including Make the Road NY, VOCAL NY, NY Communities for Change, Streetwise and Safe and Picture the Homeless, and a range of other legal and policy groups, including CPD, Bronx Defenders, the New York Civil Liberties Union, Center for Constitutional Rights and the Legal Aid Society. Since joining the campaign last year, CPD has provided legal, policy and communications support and will continue to fight alongside other member groups to guarantee safety and respect for all New Yorkers.

The new legislation is also part of a growing national movement for state and local policies that address the needs of immigrant communities and communities color. “Policies that prevent bias-based policing are an important part of the puzzle,” said Nisha Agarwal, CPD’s Deputy Director of Immigrant & Civil Rights, “But they are most effective alongside others that limit cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities and prevent deportations that needlessly tear families apart and end up costing us all.” Agarwal went on to note that these types of protections, in conjunction with policies to protect the rights of workers to organize and care for themselves and their families when ill, are gathering momentum in cities and states nationwide. “A lot of attention has been devoted to federal immigration reform, as it should be,” she said “but we’re partnering with groups at the state and local levels to move measures—like the CSA bills—that are making meaningful change for immigrants and people of color.”