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Originally Published: December 10, 2014

Changes needed to public oversight of police misconduct and criminal justice system

We are at a loss to understand the inexplicable grand jury verdict in the Eric Garner case given what we saw on the video of the police taking down an unarmed New Yorker and killing him during an attempted arrest for a minor violation.  That he died at the hands of the police, who are charged with protecting the public, is unacceptable.  Our condolences go out to the Garner family.

New Yorkers deserve to be free from the fear of crime, but also free from the fear of police.

We stand in solidarity with many New Yorkers who are outraged not only over the death of Eric Garner but the systemic treatment of people of color by the police.  Citizens Union believes compulsory reform needs to take place promptly in how New York City’s police serve and protect.  Crime commendably continues to decline, but something is dreadfully wrong when two black men die as a result of recent police action, and a grand jury finds no criminal fault in the case of Eric Garner.

Citizens Union since 2008 has proactively championed greater public oversight of police misconduct, which resulted in the Civilian Complaint Review Board gaining the power to prosecute the cases of misconduct it substantiates. Last year, we came out in opposition to the overuse of stop, question and frisk.  We were concerned over its deleterious impact on persons and communities of color and the resentment and alienation it created in its aggressive form.

We are pleased to see Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton commit to retrain the entire police force in response to the Eric Garner case, and are open to enacting other reforms needed to repair the widening gap of trust between the police and the public. We are also pleased to see Governor Cuomo call for needed reforms in our criminal justice system, and encourage those deliberations to allow for public input and participation.

New Yorkers must productively challenge our indignation to bring about constructive change in how the police do their needed job of protecting and serving. Changes must also be made to how public oversight of police misconduct is handled and how our criminal justice system responds to investigating deadly actions of our police force.

Citizens Union looks forward to participating in this moment in our city’s history to actively bring about the change we all seek. We will continue to champion needed reforms to ensure that the public interest is best served.

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