BLACK VOICES

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio Unveils Proposed Police Reforms Amid Nationwide Protests

De Blasio ended a citywide curfew Sunday and announced several changes intended to address calls for police reform.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a memorial service for George Floyd.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a memorial service for George Floyd.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday announced a proposal to cut the New York Police Department’s budget and shift the money to programs to help “communities of color,” part of a program to address calls for police reform.

De Blasio announced the reforms as protests against police brutality continued in New York and around the world.

“These will be the first of many steps my administration will take over the next 18 months to rebuild a fairer city that profoundly addresses injustice and disparity,” de Blasio said in a statement.

Over the last two weeks, every borough in New York City saw protests against police violence sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died pleading for his life under the knee of a now-indicted Minneapolis police officer. Several instances of police violence have been documented at recent New York City protests

De Blasio also lifted an 8 p.m. curfew that he and Gov. Andrew Cuomo instituted last Monday to stop reported looters. Local legislators at the time criticized the curfew,  and it has since been used as an excuse for a number of police assaults on protesters

De Blasio’s proposed reforms were intended to satisfy activists demanding racial equality and a demilitarized, defunded police force.

Among the proposals: Shift an as-yet-to-be-determined amount of money from the NYPD’s budget to “youth and social services in communities of color.” The mayor said the amount will be determined with the City Council as part of the budget process. 

De Blasio also said he would back throwing out a provision in New York law known as 50-A,” which deems officers’ personnel records “confidential and not subject to inspection or review.” The mayor’s action on Sunday followed years of reported wavering over whether to rescind the measure. 

De Blasio also said the NYPD will no longer be tasked with enforcing codes for vendors, adding that a civilian agency will take over that responsibility with hopes of “reducing interactions between uniform officers and New Yorkers, particularly immigrant communities and communities of color.”

In recent years, justice reform activists have called for the abolishment of police forces and a turn to community-based policing approaches.

De Blasio also announced the hiring of so-called community ambassadors to provide advice to senior law enforcement officials. 

De Blasio has come under fire for his handling of the protests and his cold responses to the police violence that has erupted at protests. That has undermined his occasional attempts to be seen as a reformer. 

On May 31, for example, the mayor defended officers who drove their cars into crowds of people, saying the incident could have been avoided “if those protesters had just gotten out of the way.”

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