Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) ran her first hearing as the chairperson of the Council’s Public Safety Committee on Monday morning, starting her tenure with an offensive against the mayor’s handling of a state-ordered police reform project.
The hearing concerned the city’s Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative, a project that was mandated for all local police agencies in New York State by the governor’s executive order in June.
The order requires police departments to perform a review of practices, and directs local governments to draft a police reform plan that, in New York City, is required to be presented to the City Council for adoption by April 1.
The hearing started out with a conversation about basic logistics. The timeline of the city’s initiative was the first thing that Adams sought to scrutinize.
“The city got a very late start and it wasn’t until October that the administration started the process,” she said in her opening salvo.
Adams said she was optimistic when it was announced the partners in this initiative included Arva Rice, president and CEO of the New York Urban League; Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and executive director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies; and Wes Moore, CEO of Robin Hood — all of whom she has a high opinion of. But despite what she saw as a promising, if late, start, Adams reported that she had not heard anything positive from advocates she had talked to.
“We’ve heard again and again from advocates that they feel totally shut out of this process,” said Adams. “If the police commissioner and the mayor aren’t willing to give weight to their voices, if we don’t allow them to be part of a truly collaborative process, then I fear we’re just wasting our time,” Adams said.
The following conversation bounced back and forth mostly between Adams and Chelsea Davis, chief strategy officer for the Office of the First Deputy Mayor, the agency the mayor put in charge of leading the process. Adams painted a picture of a process that the Deputy Mayor’s Office had handed over to the NYPD to run.
“I’m concerned about the NYPD’s role here. It’s not hard to see that they’re leading this process, but I have yet to see a true commitment to reform from the NYPD. I question whether they can partner with others to reform themselves,” she said.
Davis described the first phase of the plan as a series of eight open meetings, hosted and promoted by the NYPD that consisted of a presentation on police reforms and a conversation with local stakeholders.
The Deputy Mayor’s Office also organized a series of meetings targeting neighborhoods most impacted by policing, often in economically disadvantaged communities of color, and 13 other community meetings with uniform and civilian members of the NYPD.
Part of Adams’ disappointment stemmed from the Deputy Mayor’s Office’s lack of communication prior to the meeting.
“I have nothing to review this morning,” said Adams in regard to a list of programmatic goals required by the governor’s timetable.
When Adams asked for a list of those measurable goals, Davis included the “elimination of excessive and unnecessary force, elimination of racial-biased policing, policing that respects that values of New York City,” and “policing that is transparent and holds officers accountable.”
When Adams pointed out that the NYPD has posted all the meetings so far, Thomas Giovanni from the Deputy Mayor’s Office pushed back that the office has been directing the content of the meetings and emphasized that the Police Department needs to be at the meetings.
“I think it would be inappropriate to interpose another agency in between the NYPD and community members,” said Giovanni.
Davis then called on Chauncey Parker, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for community partnerships, who listed a number of conversations with activists, academics and clergy members that he had been a part of.
“I’m not questioning the work that you’ve done,” said Adams. “We’re trying to bring together this entire collaborative to make this happen for the people of New York and to meet this executive order. So we’re six months out of a nine-month process and really it seems like the only agency that has held a listening session is the NYPD.”