Open Letter to Gov. Cuomo from Families of NYers Killed by Police Re #SaferNYAct Victories
We are parents, sisters, aunts, and other family members whose children, siblings, nephews, nieces, and loved ones were murdered by police in New York state over the last three decades.
You know many of us because we helped lead the fight in 2015 that forced you to do an executive order for a special prosecutor for police killings. We met with you as a group, we argued with you, we and our coalition negotiated with you, and most of us were present at your July 2015 executive order signing.
While a few of us have seen officers who killed our family members go to prison, be fired, or be forced out of their police departments, none of us have seen justice for the murders of our loved ones. All of us continue to fight for justice for our loved ones while we also fight to prevent any more police murders.
Last Friday you signed bills that us families helped to champion in the past years, including the repeal of 50a and special prosecutor. We have fought for years for these bills along with many organizations from across New York State that are part of the Safer New York Act coalition.
It’s good that you signed these bills. We expect you to sign the police STAT act – which was also passed by both the Senate and Assembly – immediately, too. And we need to set the record straight. It’s not okay for you to try to take credit for the movement’s work or to pretend you have been a champion for police reform.
Over the years, you have been one of the most consistent obstacles to us and the movement being able to get these strong police accountability laws on the books.
In fact, year after year we have had to fight against your attempts to water down and undermine the special prosecutor legislation we won this week. Your office has done the same almost every year with the Police STAT Act, slipping weak language into your budget proposals, thinking we wouldn't notice. We've had to fight back and waste energy mobilizing against your weak and harmful proposals every year – proposals that you never even tried to discuss with us before putting forward. We beat you every time and prevented your bad special prosecutor and other proposals on our bills from moving forward.
On 50a repeal, you never lifted a finger to help in the years we have fought for repeal. If anything you have played politics with 50a, only mentioning it to poke at Mayor de Blasio. Even a little more than a week ago, you tried to discredit the repeal 50a movement by telling reporters that the law didn't need to be changed.
The movement - which includes us families but is not only us - won the repeal of 50a. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins brought their members back and ensured their members passed the three bills we care most about - the 50a repeal, the police STAT bill, and our special prosecutor bill.
You didn't help. Instead, you've blocked progress on our bills and police reform issues for years. New Yorkers and the country should know that.
Also – it’s unacceptable that you thought you could invite just two family members of your choosing to the signing of the bills and try to make it seem like you were honoring the families who helped lead the way to these victories.
Governor Cuomo, we're fed up with politicians like you, and others patronizing many of us who have to live with the pain of having a family member killed by police – while you try to take credit for our work and our leadership until the next photo op.
We will not let you erase our collective work and leadership – and we won’t let you decide who represents us. Only we as a collective can decide that and we refuse to let you or others try to undermine the power and unity of us families. And you’re on notice: we will not let you rewrite history about how these bills became law.
50a repeal, the police STAT act and our special prosecutor bill became law because us families fought for them and because the movement fought for them – in spite of your attempts to block, water down and obstruct these important police reform bills. We and tens of thousands of New Yorkers from many organizations across New York state lobbied, marched, made calls, tweeted, and went to Albany too many times to count to make sure that NY took a step forward to begin to address the harms of policing. You need to understand that us families had to lose pay from work to go to Albany, carrying infants and babies with us to make sure these bills passed – and to fight back against your bad proposals.
And we’re not done. We’ll be coming back to Albany to make sure that more strong laws that we support are passed. We’ll be telling the truth everywhere we go about how the people own this victory – not you or anyone else who didn’t put in the blood sweat and tears that we have put in for years, as a united Safer New York Act movement.
1. Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo (killed by NYPD 1999)
2. Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez (killed by NYPD in 1994)
3. Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham (killed by NYPD in 2012)
4. Carol Gray, mother of Kimani Gray (killed by NYPD in 2012)
5. Hertencia Petersen, aunt of Akai Gurley (killed by NYPD in 2014)
6. Victoria Davis, sister of Delrawn Small (killed by NYPD in 2016)
7. Kisha Walker, godsister of Sean Bell (killed by NYPD in 2006)
8. Hawa Bah, mother of Mohamed Bah (killed by NYPD in 2012)
9. Natasha Duncan, sister of Shantel Davis (killed by NYPD in 2012)
10. Angie Hicks, aunt of Shantel Davis (killed by NYPD in 2012)
11. Lorna Vassell, mother of Saheed Vassell (killed by NYPD in 2018)
12. Eric Vassell, father of Saheed Vassell (killed by NYPD in 2018)
13. Gladys Aponte Williams, step mother of Antonio Williams (killed by NYPD in 2019)
14. Shawn Williams, father of Antonio Williams (killed by NYPD in 2019)
15. Nancy Pacheco, sister-in-law of Jayson Tirado (killed by NYPD in 2007)
16. Shaina Muñoz, niece of Jayson Tirado (killed by NYPD in 2007)
17. Margarita Rosario, mother of Anthony Rosario (killed by NYPD in 1995)
18. Carmen Morales, mother of Hilton Vega (killed by NYPD in 1995)