A Call to Police Chiefs
June 5, 2020
A Call to Police Leaders
Communities across the country, including our own, are angered and appalled as we witness an unending stream of callous, disrespectful, and often deadly encounters between police and civilians. While many of these events occur elsewhere, both individual experience and published research reports tell us that there is not a community in Westchester County that is not afflicted by disturbing police-civilian encounters, racially biased policing practices, and a problematic lack of transparency by its law enforcement agencies.
This is a call for you to make a firm and public commitment to transparency, accountability, and a zero-tolerance approach to police misconduct. While we are wary after decades of refusals to reform, we remain willing to partner with our law enforcement leaders who embrace the tenets of accountability, transparency, equal justice, and respect for all human life. Below you will find a list of specific reforms that we wish to see implemented immediately here in Westchester. Achieving these recommendations will send a strong message to all members of our community that our leaders are committed to fundamentally redefining the relationship between our police department and our community. This is tough work, but if we commit to it, we can build a stronger community: one that is rooted in the fundamental ideals of liberty and justice for all. In peace and commitment to partnership for the safety of all, Residents and organizations of Westchester County:
AntiRacist Alliance; Black Westchester; Blacks in Law Enforcement; CD17 Indivisible; Indivisible New Rochelle; Indivisible Scarsdale; Indivisible Westchester Districts 6 & 7; Indivisible White Plains; Indivisible Yorktown Heights; Larchmont/Mamaroneck Indivisible; NYCD16-Indivisible;
PISAB/The People’s Institute; for Survival and Beyond NY/Northeast; SURJ Westchester Coordinating Committee; WESPAC; Westchester Black Political Conference; Westchester Coalition Against Islamophobia; Westchester Coalition for Police Reform; Westchester for Change; Westchester Martin Luther King Jr. Institute for Nonviolence (list of groups still in formation)
We expect you, as leaders with authority and responsibility for law enforcement in Westchester County, to assume full responsibility for meeting the highest possible standard of accountability, transparency and equal protection to all residents and visitors to our county. Our specific expectations are detailed below. Make publicly available the current policies and patrol guides of all law enforcement agencies under County jurisdiction, including but not limited to policies on: de-escalation tactics, implicit bias, use of force, department diversity, enforcement of low-level offenses, field interviews, search and seizure, use of surveillance technology, and the penalties for violating these policies.Make public the training materials used for police officers: including hours spent training on de-escalation, implicit bias, and use of force. Commit to collecting comprehensive data on all police stops – including the rationale for the stop and the race, ethnicity, age, and sex of people stopped – and making that data publicly available. Pass legislation/Require officers making police stops to provide an identification card, state the reason for the interaction, and to state that you may not be searched without your consent without probable cause. Pass legislation/Require a full, independent investigation into any police-civilian interaction that results in civilian injury or death. Advocate for legislation that would make the measures outlined above mandatory throughout New York State, including Repeal 50-a, (the law which currently cloaks police officers’ disciplinary records in secrecy), the Right-to-Know Act, which requires officer identification during police stops, and the Police-STAT Act, which requires that police departments collect and report data on police stops so that they can be monitored for patterns of racial profiling. We remain committed to working to advance racial justice and hold our police officers accountable, and we invite you to join us in this fight.
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