I don’t think there have been three words that have caused more confusion than the phrase, “Defund the Police.” When people hear those words, they tend to panic. Defund the police; what exactly does that mean? In short, it means reallocating police department funding so that our communities are better set up for success. For me, it also means that it is time to re-imagine our policing concept, not just in New York City but also nationwide. The public has shown outrage over the current system, and it’s not what they want. As people elected to serve the public, our government officials must adhere to their constituents’ desires.
When I am elected Mayor in 2021, I will reboot our current system, beginning with re-naming the department from the New York Police Department to the New York Safety Department, whose primary responsibility would be to ensure the safety of all NYC residents.
The concept would revolve around community policing with an understanding that it will take everyone working together and being accountable for our actions if we want to create a society in which we can all live peacefully. I want the officers to know the residents where they are assigned; I also want them to know the safety officer by name.
This familiarity would strengthen the relationship with the public and safety agents. For example, if a kid is caught skipping school, do you bring him to the local precinct or call the parent or guardian? If there is a violent crime, wouldn’t people be more apt to help the officer they know and trust or someone they engaged with for the first time during a crisis?
A separate yet similar issue revolves around arrest and ticket quotas. When the neighborhood feels harassed by its local officers resentment is inevitable. The broken window theory of policing does not work in NYC; it never will. When you have top-level staff forcing officers to make arrests, it creates an environment where they will not be able to work within the community effectively. When this is the only means of advancement, it becomes motivation to make arrests regardless of whether they are legitimate.
We must also address the way the city and unions operate. The current roles of unions need to be significantly reduced or eliminated. While I support unions and the idea of organizing, the Police Union cannot function in its current capacity. Their role is to support their union members through good or bad times. By its nature, it conflicts with the safety of the public. If dysfunctional cops are supported, it can cost our city lives and millions of dollars. This is money that would be better spent within our communities.
This reform would require that personnel live in NYC, and their salaries would reflect such a requirement. We want our city to be affordable to all. We want the officers to be the pillars of their community with the well-deserved respect of someone who is at risk daily. We want them to live among us, which will encourage the understanding and acceptance of all people within such a diverse city.
The barrier to entry would be high to make sure the quality of the officer is high. The training would be weekly and mandatory. A five day work week with one day being dedicated to continuing education. Training would include de-escalation, self-defense style martial arts, diversity, firearms and less lethal methods. There would be annual physical fitness standards, as well. We want officers who are comfortable defending themselves and have the physical stamina and ability to do such.
The department would have the highest level of technological advances, gear and knowledge to combat safety issues from mental illness to terrorism. We want our public and the people entrusted with protecting them to be safe. If the city can find money to build new jails, we should certainly be able to find the funds to protect its residents and first responders.
The legalization of marijuana in New York state and NYC could help to fund these changes partially. The defunding of the police department is not only possible; it’s critical. The will of the people is quite clear. We need to model a system that is innovative and fair to all, not just a few.