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Citizens Union believes that the best way to ensure the safe and democratic application of policing is to strengthen and streamline systems of oversight and accountability, both within the NYPD and among the independent entities that monitor police misconduct. Public safety is dependent on New Yorkers having faith in law enforcement. 

Policing is an important, but hardly the sole, driver of whether those who live, work or visit the city or its communities feel safe. Citizens Union believes public safety is a broad problem that must be addressed through a number of agencies and a wide range of stakeholders. This approach requires a fundamental shift of emphasis, from over-reliance on the NYPD to a structured, multi-agency approach.

Citizens Union has been studying police accountability and performance in New York City for more than a decade. In reports and position statements since 2008, we have urged strengthening the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), highlighted how the NYPD downgrades discipline for police misconduct, addressed the overuse of “stop, question, and frisk”, and stressed the need for consistency across the police oversight system and the department’s internal procedures. Many of our recommendations have been implemented, including the 2012 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that granted prosecutorial power to the CCRB, which CU was instrumental in pushing for. We have also advocated for the State Legislature to repeal Section 50-a of the civil rights law, which prevented police disciplinary records from being made public. It was finally repealed following the 2020 George Floyd protests.

Citizens Union’s most recent reports on police reform, both published in 2021, detailed a new agenda to improve NYPD governance and accountability and provided recommendations for the then-incoming mayor to recalibrate the City’s approach to public safety and policing.

2024 Reform Agenda – Police Reform 

Empower independent oversight bodies to effectively investigate police misconduct

  • Provide the CCRB with prompt and full access to footage from body-worn cameras, police officers’ employment history and disciplinary records and all other documents and materials in the possession of the NYPD relevant to its investigations. 
  • Update the NYPD’s information and data storage technology to allow police oversight agencies to access data relevant to their mission.
  • Merge the Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD and the Commission to Combat Police Corruption into the Civilian Complaint Review Board. 
  • Expand the CCRB’s jurisdiction to include traffic and school safety agents and other civilian employees of the NYPD. 

Ensure discipline measures imposed are commensurate with the gravity of wrongdoing

  • Transfer disciplinary hearings involving police officers from the NYPD to the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH). 
  • In cases in which the Police Commissioner proposes to depart from a discipline recommendation of the CCRB involving suspension or termination, provide the CCRB with the right to appeal to a deputy mayor, who would have final authority over the penalty.

Establish meaningful public oversight over the New York Police Department

  • Make the appointment of the Police Commissioner subject to the advice and consent of the City Council.
  • Create a legal framework for policing, by establishing policies through publicly accessible law and regulation covering such areas as use of force, handling of demonstrations and the imposition of disciplinary sanctions.
  • Create a statewide authority to certify and decertify police officers.
  • Increase budget transparency by breaking down the NYPD budget into more specific units of appropriations.

Improve the effectiveness of policing in the City’s various communities

  • Maintain and expand pilot programs that effectively shift responsibilities from the NYPD to other city agencies in areas like mental health, homelessness outreach, and schools and youth.
  • Invest in alternative models for community-driven public safety, such as the Mayor’s Action Plan and Cure Violence programs, currently run by The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.
  • Provide local community stakeholders a decision-making role in developing and improving public safety plans.


Recent Activity – Police Accountatbilty 


Citizens Union, Other Good Government Groups Call on City Council to Reject Budget Cuts to New York City Oversight Agencies in the Mayor’s FY24 Executive Budget

May 24, 2023 - Citizens Union, along with Common Cause, League of Women Voters of the City of New York, NYPIRG, and Reinvent Albany, sent a letter to Council Speaker Adams and several committee chairs expressing concerns over Mayor Eric Adams' proposed significant budgetary reductions to key oversight agencies
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Citizens Union, Other Good Government Groups Call on City Council to Protect Funding for Oversight Agencies

March 29, 2023 - Citizens Union and other groups sent a letter to Council Speaker Adams and several committee chairs expressing concerns over the preliminary budget proposed by Mayor Eric Adams for Fiscal Year 2024, which includes significant budgetary reductions to key oversight agencies of New York City government. The groups believe that reducing agencies' resources and personnel will severely hinder their ability to ensure accountability, ethics, and good governance across the municipal workforce, and prevent waste and corruption.
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Memo in Support of Intro. 0938-2023, Giving CCRB Access to NYPD body-worn camera footage

March 27, 2023 – Citizens Union supports this bill because it would reduce the limitations investigative agencies face in accessing police officers’ body-worn camera footage through codifying the timing, type, and uses of such access. By providing prompt and full access to body-worn camera footage, Intro. 0938-2023 would ensure the CCRB arrives at a clear and fair interpretation of events in a timely manner and prevent the Police Department from unjustifiably denying access to effective investigative resources.
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CU Testimony – 2023 budget oversight hearing – City Council Public Safety Committee

March 20, 2023 - Testimony before the City Council Committee on Public Safety for the FY2024 Preliminary Budget Oversight Hearing – CCRB budget
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Memo in support of S8428/A9050, a bill clarifying the intent of the 50-a repeal, April 2022

April 13, 2022 - Group Memorandum in Support of S8428/A9050, an act to amend the public officers law, in relation to the disclosure of law enforcement officer's disciplinary records.
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Citizens Union Issues Report Outlining Public Safety and Policing Recommendations for New Mayoral Administration

New York, N.Y. (December 23, 2021)— Citizens Union, New York’s preeminent good government group, today released Public Safety and Policing in New York City: Recommendations to the New Mayor, a report outlining recommendations for the incoming Mayoral administration designed to promote public safety and make the NYPD more accountable and responsive. The report builds on Citizens Union’s comprehensive Agenda for Police Reform to make the NYPD more transparent and accountable, which the group released in March. You can read that report here.
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Memo in support in of Intros. 2440-2021 (CCRB powers) and 2297-2021 (NYPD officer qualifications)

November 22, 2021 - CU Memorandum of support for to bills before the City Council, Int. 2440-2021 (Adams), authorizing the Civilian Complaint Review Board to initiate complaints, and Int. 2297-2021 (Moya), in relation to qualification for service with the Police Department
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Citizens Union Issues Report Outlining Agenda for Police Reform

March 23, 2021 - Citizens Union, New York’s preeminent good government group, today issued a report outlining a comprehensive agenda for reform to make the New York City Police Department more transparent and accountable
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Citizens Union Celebrates Passing of Ranked Choice Voting and Reforms to the Civilian Complaint Review Board

November 5, 2019 - Citizens Union is pleased that New York City voters have embraced reforms to make our city elections more democratic, and increase oversight of the police department.
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Citizens Union Announces Positions On Ballot Proposals For 2019 General Election

October 7, 2019 - Good Government Group Supports Ranked Choice Voting, Increasing Oversight of NYPD, Modifications to the City Budget, and Changes to Land Use Review; Opposes Proposed Changes to Ethics Rule.
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Memo of Support for A2513/S3695, an act to repeal section 50-a of the civil rights law, relating to personnel records of police officers, firefighters and correction officers

March 25, 2019 Summary: A.2513 (O’Donnell)/S.3695 (Bailey) would repeal Section 50-a of the Civil Rights Law. Click here for the…

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City & State Elected Officials, Civil Rights, Good Government & Community Groups, & New Yorkers Impacted by Police Brutality Call for Repeal of State Police Secrecy Law That is One of Worst in Nation

June 8, 2018 - Group condemns NYPD’s misuse of state law 50-a with frequently changing and new interpretations, urge Mayor de Blasio to support concrete policy reform that repeals state law.
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