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 It was finally repealed following the 2020 George Floyd protests.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.
- March 2021: Agenda for Police Reform – Governance and Accountability
- December 2021: Public Safety and Policing in New York City: Recommendations to the New Mayor
Legislative Agenda – Police Reform
In 2023, Citizens Union will continue to advocate for reforms that ensure proper discipline for police misconduct and a structured, multi-agency approach to public safety.
Citizens Union supports the following reforms to policing. To see Citizens Union’s full 2023 policy agenda click here.
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 the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, who would have final authority over the penalty – CU priority
- Ensure proper compliance with the new charter-required reports by the Police Commissioner in cases of divergence from NYPD trial judge and CCRB disciplinary recommendations – CU priority
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 – CU priority
- 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.