Families call for firing of officers who killed their loved ones, divestment from policing, and investment in communities
Today, in response to Mayor de Blasio’s release of his “Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Plan” and the pending City Council vote on March 25, almost two dozen family members of New Yorkers killed by the NYPD over the last three decades sent this letter to the New York City Council:
Dear Members of the New York City Council,
We are family members of New Yorkers who have been killed by the NYPD over the last three decades. Since our loved ones’ deaths, we have all been in the streets fighting for justice and systemic change to end police violence, ensure police accountability, and build true safety for our communities. We want to make sure you know: Mayor de Blasio’s “Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Plan” will NOT achieve this. To truly transform policing and bring real safety for New Yorkers, police accountability, investment in Black and brown communities, and reducing the outsized power, budget, and scope of the NYPD must be prioritized.
Unfortunately, similarly, while the City Council’s package of police reform legislation that you will vote on on March 25 includes some minor reforms, nothing in it will address core issues of police violence and accountability, cut the funding and power of the NYPD, or ensure our communities have the services and infrastructure we need and deserve.
We – the families – are united in strongly opposing the mayor’s plan. It is nothing more than a public relations stunt, aimed at shining the NYPD and de Blasio administration in a positive light while failing to strengthen police accountability and reduce police violence against Black, Latinx, and other communities of color in our City. Many of the reforms in includes are merely cosmetic, while others will create greater harm and expose our communities to further violence and criminalization by increasing the NYPD budget and expanding its role in New Yorkers’ lives, especially in the lives of our youth. Many City Councilmembers have stood with us in the past as we've fought for justice for our loved ones. We are calling on the City Council to stand with us now in opposing the Mayor’s plan. Do not allow the NYPD and the de Blasio administration to claim it as “sweeping reform” when it will not protect Black and brown New Yorkers.
Rather than ensuring abusive officers will be fired from the NYPD, this plan sings the praises of reforms like the NYPD disciplinary matrix - which excuses egregious injustices like unconstitutional stops, excessive force, and sexual harassment with slap-on-the-wrist discipline - and the “Officer Profile Dashboard” - which aims to valorize police officers and pass it off as transparency. It’s a joke and an insult that de Blasio claims to be bolstering accountability when officers involved in the killings of Allan Feliz, Antonio Williams, Delrawn Small, Eric Garner, Kawaski Trawick, Mohamed Bah, all of our loved ones, and so many other are still collecting city paychecks, paid out taxpayers’ pockets.
The Mayor's plan includes numerous provisions for yet more training, when history has shown: more training does not work. The NYPD said it would “re-train” after Anthony Baez was killed in an already-banned chokehold, yet Eric Garner was killed in an eerily similar manner two decades later. The NYPD said it would re-train officers regarding interacting with those in emotional distress after Mohamed Bah and Saheed Vassell were killed, yet CIT (Crisis Intervention Team)-trained officers killed Kawaski Trawick in 2019. Adding more training for officers won’t reduce police violence. It will just mean that more resources will be directed to the NYPD when they should be directed to our communities.
The Mayor’s plan fails to remove the NYPD from homeless outreach, expands the policing of youth - which will also increase the NYPD’s budget - and fails to remove police from schools. Many of us were forced to bury our children because of the NYPD. We live every day, in fear that this will happen again, to us or yet another family, and the Mayor’s plan will make this more likely by continuing the school-to-prison pipeline, expanding surveillance of our youth, and subjecting our young people to further criminalization.
Do not let the Mayor and the NYPD’s co-optation of terms like “reconciliation” and “restorative justice” fool you. The way this language is used implies that the harm is over and now it's time to move on and disregards the power imbalance between the NYPD and Black, Latinx, and other communities of color. Harms perpetrated against our communities by the NYPD are a current and daily reality and reconciliation and restoration cannot happen until there is accountability and real change.
Some of our loved ones’ names are on page four of the plan and it states it was written in recognition of them and others who have lost their lives to the NYPD. We will not stand for the Mayor, the NYPD, or any councilmember or elected official to invoke our loved ones’ names to serve their own political purposes. It is unconscionable.
As families who have suffered unspeakable trauma when the NYPD took our loved ones’ lives and then again as we have fought tooth and nail for accountability and justice - we know all too well that accepting the Mayor’s plan and allowing it to be promoted as meaningful change will cost lives - and more families will join the club none of us ever wanted to be in.
In the same vein, passing a package of legislation that only includes minor tweaks and acting as if it equals “sweeping reform” will harm our communities more than it helps.
Transforming policing and creating systemic change to bring about real community safety must ensure real police accountability, dramatically decrease the size, scope, budget, and power of the NYPD, and include investment in services and infrastructure for Black, Latinx, and other communities of color. Please stand with us in opposing the Mayor’s “Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Plan” and any plan that does not accomplish this. Anything less is harmful and will only serve as NYPD and mayoral propaganda.
Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham (killed by NYPD in 2012)
Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez (killed by NYPD in 1994)
Mercy Baez, cousin of Anthony Baez (killed by NYPD in 1994)
Hawa Bah, mother of Mohamed Bah, (killed by NYPD in 2012)
Victoria Davis, sister of Delrawn Small (killed by NYPD in 2016)
Victor Dempsey, brother of Delrawn Small (killed by NYPD in 2016)
Samy Feliz, brother of Allan Feliz (killed by NYPD in 2019)
Ellen Trawick, mother of Kawaski Trawick (killed by NYPD in 2019)
Gladys Williams, stepmother of Antonio Williams (killed by NYPD in 2019)
Shawn Williams, father of Antonio Williams (killed by NYPD in 2019)
Hertencia Petersen, aunt of Akai Gurley (killed by NYPD in 2014)
Eric Vassell, father of Saheed Vassell (killed by NYPD in 2018)
Lorna Vassell, mother of Saheed Vassell (killed by NYPD in 2018)
Carol Gray, mother of Kimani Gray (killed by NYPD in 2013)
Natasha Duncan, sister of Shantel Davis (killed by NYPD in 2012)
Angie Hicks, aunt of Shantel Davis (killed by NYPD in 2012)
Nancy Pacheco, sister-in-law of Jayson Tirado (killed by NYPD in 2007)
Darlene Armstead, sister of Clifford Glover (killed by NYPD in 1973)
Margarita Rosario, mother of Anthony Rosario and aunt of Hilton Vega (killed by NYPD in 1995)
Joyce Huang, sister of Yong Xin Huang (killed by NYPD in 1995)
Caroline Lopez, mother of Carlos Lopez Jr. (killed by NYPD in 2003)
Tsukasa Oyamada, father of Ryo Oyamada (killed by NYPD in 2013)
Tomoko Suzuki, sister of Ryo Oyamada (killed by NYPD in 2013)