What to Know
- Mayor Bill de Blasio ended NYC's curfew early and promised changes to the NYPD after over a week of protests in the city and around the country
- Tens of thousands have marched through streets and crowded parks since protests began and they're expected to continue to show up
- De Blasio revealed a four-point plan over the weekend to reform the largest police department in the U.S.
Hundreds of current and former staff of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio joined protesters Monday in demanding immediate police reform as the mayor proposed policy changes to the NYPD following more than a week of citywide protests.
De Blasio's four-point plan to reform the largest police department in the U.S. includes redistributing NYPD funding to youth and social services, reforming 50-a to increase transparency of police discipline, shifting enforcement of street vendors away from police, and focusing on hiring community ambassadors into the senior level of the NYPD. But protesters say the mayor's plan is vague and doesn't mean their demands.
"Despite these symbolic gestures and platitudes, his own words contradict his calls for reform. The Mayor’s minimization of the NYPD’s handling of this current crisis is an insult to New Yorkers who continue to experience violence at the hands of the NYPD," read a statement by city workers who planned on protesting at City Hall Monday morning.
Current and former city staffers released a letter last week that detailed their own four objectives toward reform and accountability within the NYPD. The group supports the $1 billion cut from the NYPD in addition to the firing of officers found to have used excessive for at protests and the release of official disciplinary records of all NYPD personnel who have been accused of using excessive force, covering their badge numbers, or other misconduct.
"We have joined together in writing this letter because we could not remain silent while the Administration we served allows the NYPD to turn our City into an occupied territory. Our former boss might not hear the cries for justice from Black and brown New Yorkers, but we do," the letter reads in part.
"I'm not going to give you a number today," de Blasio said, refusing to give specific details on NYPD funding cuts. Monday morning the mayor said the $1 billion in NYPD cuts proposed by some lawmakers and activists is "not in the ballpark of what" he has planned.
"We're going to change some of the fundamental approaches to policing. We're going to speed up police discipline. These things I think are going to be really seen and felt by the people in this city as being the right direction," the mayor said in a later interview with NY1.
De Blasio said that the reason the police budget was so high was due to programs like neighborhood policing — which required more personnel, and was done to "build a different relationship between police and community," which some areas wanted, he said — as well as fighting terrorism. However, there were some programs that he did acknowledge should not be under police control, like street vendors and social distancing.
As for the other issues, de Blasio said that repealing the 50-a law would take care of a lot of problems and that "a whole world of transparency opens up," including getting the disciplinary system to proceed faster. While he said that the lack of information about officers who do wrong is "an unacceptable reality," he did not say disciplinary records would be released, nor did he say if unedited police bodycam footage or 911 calls would be made public.
"I want it to be clear if anyone's done the wrong thing and what the consequences will be," de Blasio said. "We have now a law that's going to change that's going to allow for the kind of transparency that say here's who is going to a trial, here's what's going on in the trial. Here's the outcome of the trial. This is exactly what we've been needing all along."
Unsurprisingly, the commissioner of the NYPD was not nearly as willing to make any sort of concession when it comes to his department's budget, saying he gets "beyond concerned" when the topic of defunding police comes up — something that has been happening more frequently lately.
"When you hear these terms, I think they're from people who really don't understand what's going on, on the ground," NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea told NBC New York. "The people of New York City, I believe, want to see cops. And they consistently ask me to see more cops, not less ... Lord help us if cooler heads do not prevail."
Shea did say that giving more money to children is a good thing — "I think investing in kids is crime fighting" — but overall said that the department "doesn't have time for the noise" coming from those calling for the NYPD's budget to be cut (something that was likely to happen anyway given how much the coronavirus has hurt the city's overall budget), especially from lawmakers who until only recently were calling for more cops.
While the mayor said details on the proposed policy changes would be worked out in the budget process in the coming weeks, protesters who took to the streets after George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody will continue to show up despite the threat of coronavirus.
More big crowds lined the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn on Monday, with one protest starting around lunchtime at Washington Square Park. That group grew tremendously throughout the afternoon, numbers doubling and possibly even tripling, and by the evening had thousands of participants marching from Greenwich Village to Flatiron and Gramercy before eventually making their way to the Upper East Side by nightfall. Thousands from the Brooklyn protest crossed the Brooklyn Bridge from Borough Hall, ending at the steps of City Hall as they demanded change.
A later group closed Brooklyn-bound lanes of the Manhattan Bridge after they crossed over on bicycles.
On Tuesday, nearly 20 families of New Yorkers killed by police since 1973 — including the families of Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham, Amadou Diallo, Akai Gurley, Kimani Gray and more — will join the call for City Hall to make the changes protesters are calling for.
At his briefing on Sunday, de Blasio thanked protesters who he said were predominantly peaceful five days in a row.
"Yesterday and last night we saw the very best of our city," de Blasio tweeted, announcing that the city's curfew scheduled to end 5 a.m. Monday was lifted a day early as NYC enters Phase I of reopening since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
"In New York City, it takes too long for there to be accountability for officer’s who do the wrong thing," de Blasio said, emphasizing each investigation will follow the facts.
Peaceful protests continued over the weekend with thousands of protesters, most of them wearing masks, walking through Manhattan chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “George Floyd.” Police at multiple protests in Brooklyn on Sunday were not wearing riot masks, which had been standard at protests for the past week. Some officers posed for photos with vest-wearing bikers, and barricades at the Trump hotel at Columbus Circle were moved for protesters and replaced when they passed through the area.
Police officers arrested and charged a driver for allegedly striking protesters around 10:30 p.m. Saturday in Brooklyn. They say the man was taken into custody after reports he struck a 24-year-old bicyclist near Brooklyn Avenue and St. John's Place.
The person struck and injured in the assault was transported to a nearby hospital but is expected to be OK, officials said. According to police, the driver moved onto a sidewalk to avoid protesters kneeling in the street but still encountered a handful who attempted to stop him, and that's when the cyclist was struck.
Almost every day since the start of protests in New York City, up to a dozen protests and rallies have taken over the city concurrently. One of the largest groups of protesters, with more than 10,000 people, marched Saturday evening in a group that stretched from the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge, across the bridge, past City Hall and up onto Canal Street.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. previously said his office will not prosecute protesters arrested for unlawful assembly or disorderly conduct. Vance said his office must "enact public policies which assure all New Yorkers that in our justice system and our society, black lives matter and police violence is a crime."
In a statement released late Friday afternoon, the district attorney’s office said its policy is “designed to minimize unnecessary interactions with the criminal justice system, reduce disparities and collateral consequences in low-level offense prosecutions.” The DA said anyone with evidence of violence against officers or property will be charged appropriately.