Rebanding the Anti-Crime Unit is Not the Answer Say Families in Letter to Mayor
Mayor Eric Adams
City Hall Park New York, NY 10007
CC: Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Philip Banks, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell
Dear Mayor Adams,
We, family members of New Yorkers murdered by the NYPD over the last three decades, urgently call on you to stop your revamp, re-brand, and expansion of the NYPD's Anti-Crime Units as “modified plainclothes units” because we do not want any more families to suffer as we have.
These specialty anti-crime units are characterized by a mandate to aggressively and proactively target low-income Black and Latinx communities and long history of engaging in racial profiling, unconstitutional stops, harassment, and violence. Modifying officers’ uniforms and re-branding these units with different names will not change the fact that they are, by design, inherently violent and discriminatory. Such police units will only create a greater public safety threat to our communities, which have, for decades been targeted for abusive policing and suffered from poverty, divestment and the wide range of safety concerns that come with them.
Over the last 25 years, specialty anti-crime units in either plainclothes or modified uniforms — like your revamped units — have murdered Amadou Diallo, Carlos Lopez Jr., Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham, Shantel Davis, Kimani Gray, Eric Garner, Saheed Vassell, Antonio Williams and too many others and have harassed and abused members of our communities on a daily basis. Other mayors and the NYPD have supposedly dismantled, but actually revamped and re-branded these units before and they have only continued and increased their violence. We have no reason to believe that anything will change with the new “modified plainclothes” units, which you are calling “Neighborhood Safety Teams.”
We, the families, have been sharing our concerns about these specialty anti-crime units with you since even before you took office. It is of utmost importance that you heed our concerns. Regardless of modified uniforms and re-branding, we anticipate another avoidable tragedy now that they are in our communities. This is a matter of life and death for our families and communities.
Our hearts ache for all families who have lost loved ones to gun violence - whether the gun was fired by an officer or a civilian. Public safety must be a top priority in New York City. However, over-policing and criminalization with hyper-aggressive tactic and units has never worked to ensure true safety and it will not work now. It will only cause more violence and harm.
The only way to solve gun violence is by taking a new, smart and holistic approach to public safety that is rooted in equality and focuses on ensuring all New Yorkers have what we need to thrive. This will take all of us working together.
We appreciate that your blueprint reflects attention to our call for increased funding for youth employment and non-law enforcement violence interrupter programs, but the preliminary budget you released on February 16 appears to fall short in both these areas and also makes damaging cuts to schools and mental health clinics for the elderly. In the immediate, you can help address gun violence by fully funding the Summer Youth Employment Program and year round workforce development in low-income communities of color, ensuring historic levels of investment in non-police violent interrupter programs, funding an increase in guidance counselors, social workers, and restorative justice programs in schools to reduce youths’ contact with the criminal legal system, and working with advocates to produce a revised FY23 budget that focuses on addressing the root causes of gun violence. This is step one. From here we must work together to develop a multifaceted approach to ensuring all New Yorkers have access to quality community-based health and mental health care, food, housing, jobs, and education and to develop new solutions that uplift New Yorkers rather than criminalize them.
We need to innovate rather than allow history to repeat itself. We do not want any more families to be forced to join our ranks. We, the families of New Yorkers murdered by the NYPD, call on you, Mayor Adams, to stop your plan to revamp and expand the “modified plainclothes” units that are being referred to as Neighborhood Safety Teams. Instead, you should work with us and advocates to develop a holistic plan for public safety that priorities dignity and well-being for all.
Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham, killed by NYPD in 2012
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
Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez, killed by NYPD in 1994
Mercy Baez, cousin of Anthony Baez, killed by NYPD in 1994
Natasha Duncan, sister of Shantel Davis, killed by NYPD in 2012
Angie Hicks, aunt of Shantel Davis, killed by NYPD in 2012
Samy Feliz, brother of Allan Feliz, killed by NYPD in 2019
Shawn Williams, father of Antonio Williams, killed by NYPD in 2019
Gladys Williams, stepmother of Antonio Williams, killed by NYPD in 2019
Ellen Trawick, mother of Kawaski Trawick, killed by NYPD in 2019
Ricky Trawick, father of Kawaski Trawick, killed by NYPD in 2019
Moses Pinero, uncle of Noel Polanco, killed by NYPD in 2013
Jesse Hernandez, brother of Iman Morales, killed by NYPD in 2008
Olga Negron, mother of Iman Morales, killed by NYPD in 2008
Carol Gray, mother of Kimani Gray, killed by NYPD in 2013
Nancy Pacheco, sister-in-law of Jayson Tirado, killed by NYPD in 2007
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
Tomoko Suzuki, sister of Ryo Oyamada, killed by NYPD in 2013
Tsukasa Oyamada, father of Ryo Oyamada, killed by NYPD in 2013
For example, in 2020 plainclothes officers used hyper-aggressive measures and excessive force to enforce social distancing.