NYC mayor, New York leaders promise police reforms amid growing calls for change

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Hundreds of current and former staff members with the New York City Mayor's Office called for meaningful police reforms Monday during a protest and march from City Hall in lower Manhattan to Camden Plaza West in Brooklyn.

Demands from city workers for increased transparency and greater accountability when police officers are accused of excessive force echo the pleas in ongoing protests since the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

"We as a city are done," shouted one former staffer.

"I'm frustrated," stated another. "What is often just a talking point for the mayor is grueling work for us. Our demands begin with the budget because budgets are statements of priorities."

On Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced several reforms including shifting funding from NYPD to youth and social services, reforming the 50A law that prevents the public from discovering an officer's disciplinary record, moving vendor enforcement out of the NYPD to shift officers' focus on real drivers of crime rather than infractions, and establishing community ambassadors to act as liaisons between the NYPD and the public.

Protesters outside City Hall said they want more from the mayor.

"He spoke very vaguely. There were not numbers," said Christopher Collins-McNeil, a former Mayor's Office staffer. "We are talking about policies he has espoused to believe in and we have a responsibility to make sure he stands up to and enforces."

These current and former staffers are demanding de Blasio reduce the NYPD operating budget by $1 billion and reallocate that money to other essential social services; fire all NYPD officers found to have used excessive force or who covered their badges during protests; fully repeal the 50A law and release the disciplinary records of NYPD personnel who have been accused of misconduct, excessive force, or covering their badge numbers; appoint an independent commission to investigate the city's response to protests over the death of George Floyd; and require a two-thirds vote by the City Council to enact a curfew and to approve the police commissioner.

During a press briefing Monday, de Blasio addressed staffers' complaints but refused to get more specific about his plans for reforms within the NYPD.
"It has been a very tough week or 10 days, very painful very emotional. There is a lot we have to address," de Blasio said. "I still believe, fundamentally, after six and a half years of making steady change in this city, people should have faith in what we can do in the next year and a half."

Meanwhile, in Albany, lawmakers began discussing a package of bills they hope to pass by the end of the week.

Those bills include a statewide repeal of the 50A law, a ban on chokeholds, increased transparency around police arrests, and a new office under the State Attorney General to investigate deaths in police custody.

"People are starting to wake up and I hope they stay away," said Sen. Jamaal Bailey, D-Bronx, a supporter of those reforms and sponsor of several bills. "I'm hopeful that New York can lead from a policy perspective and that the federal government and other states can follow us, and that we can do what society wants. We want to be able to trust those who police us. The bad apples do more than spoil the bunch, they make you not want to buy apples."

During a press briefing Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo voiced his support for the proposed reforms.

"If they pass the bills that we've discussed, I will sign the bills and I will sign them as soon as they are passed," Gov. Cuomo said. "We are going to act in the state of New York."

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