Who's Watching the NYPD?
John Blasco is the Lead Organizer at FIERCE, a North Star Fund Movement Leadership Grantee and a member organization of Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), of which North Star Fund is the fiscal sponsor. Through Movement Leadership, North Star Fund is helping effective organizations like FIERCE take their work to the next level. We provide general support and training that builds movements and facilitates progressive change in our community. The following post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg referring to -- a New York City Council bill that would create a NYPD Inspector General office with the responsibility of providing independent oversight of the NYPD as well as assessing the impact of its practices on the rights of New Yorkers.
, a national guardsmen who was fatally shot recently on the Grand Central Parkway by NYPD Detective Hassan Hamby. The detective claims Polanco reached down toward the car floor, leading him to fire his weapon, although a passenger in the car disputes Polanco ever took his hands off the steering wheel before the shooting occurred. Regardless, no gun was found and another unarmed New Yorker's life was taken by the NYPD. If this sounds familiar, it's because it occurs far too often. Back in February of 1999, 23-year-old Guinean immigrant was shot at 41 times by NYPD officers and killed for apparently aiming a "gun" that was actually just his wallet. Unfortunately Diallo was not the first, as many have suffered the same fate between his tragic death and that of Polanco's.
As a Queer Latino Organizer, I know that the case of 17-year-old Alvin isn't an anomaly and is representative of a larger problem of discriminatory policing and inadequate police accountability that stems from a lack of oversight.
Many LGBTQ youth of color are constantly stopped and harassed by NYPD officers in the streets of the West Village in New York City, a neighborhood that has historically been a safe space for queer and trans youth. of people stopped in the West Village were African American and Latino, despite the fact that only eight percent of residents in that neighborhood's police precinct are African American or Latino. Many of those stopped are LGBTQ youth of color, and on many occasions they are called derogatory, homophobic and oppressive names. It is not unusual for police to kick them out of the neighborhood -- because they don't own property or live there -- using the threat of arrest.
The NYPD is watching us, but who's watching the NYPD? It's not enough to say the Commissioner is doing a great job and we don't need strong, independent oversight of the department. LGBTQ youth of color and many other communities say pass the -- a package of landmark legislation in the City Council to bring real accountability to the NYPD, including oversight by an Inspector General. How many more extreme tragedies need to happen and how many New Yorkers' rights need to be violated before the City Council and the Mayor take action on this critical issue? How many lives will be altered; how many people alienated by a department supposed to serve and protect them?