As a community-based organization that works closely with families of victims of police violence and organizes teams of New Yorkers to legally monitor and document police activity, we find Commissioner Bratton’s comments at yesterday’s Aspen Institute forum outrageous and offensive.
On a daily basis, our members and constituents – who live in low-income Latino/a communities and other communities of color – experience unjust stops, searches and arrests, harassment and brutality at the hands of Bratton’s NYPD officers. In the worst cases these interactions escalate to fatal levels, depriving families of loved ones and communities of contributors. These experiences lead many to equate the NYPD with greater danger, rather than greater safety.
The Justice Committee encourages all New Yorkers to support public safety by watching and filming police activity as a means of deterring and documenting abuse, a practice we call “Cop Watch.” Cop Watch-ing is 100% legal and constitutionally protected. It is about witnessing violence and loving your neighbor, not interfering with the police. Bratton’s mischaracterization of this practice raises serious questions about why he wants to avoid public scrutiny and demonstrates his unwillingness to take responsibility for his officers’ disrespect of and violence against our communities.
Through decades of work with families, we know well how hard low-income parents of color work to take care of and raise their children in a society that devalues their lives and continually under-invests in resources, services and opportunities for them. Bratton’s attempt to point the finger at parents serves as a distraction from the historic and systemic lack of police accountability that allows police violence to continue by creating a culture in which officers feel they can brutalize us with impunity. His comments criticizing parents are condescending, racially coded and completely unacceptable for a public official tasked with overseeing those who are supposed to “protect and serve.”
There is no way to even begin to discuss improving police-community relations when New York’s Police Commissioner shows such blatant disrespect for New Yorkers, while at the same time failing to hold his officers accountable and perpetuating discriminatory policing and targeting of our communities.