Michael Blake Backs Formal Complaint Letter to Mayor & Police Commissioner Over COVID Policing Policies

The Honorable Bill de Blasio
Mayor of New York City
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Mr. Dermot F. Shea
NYC Police Commissioner
1 Police Plaza Path
New York, NY 10007

Dear Mayor de Blasio & Commissioner Shea,

The Members of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus write to express our immense concern over the continuous displays of disproportionate violence by law enforcement in communities of color in New York City. At a time when government’s priority to keep all residents safe could not be any higher, we are witnessing more and more examples of the dehumanization of Black bodies by those sworn to serve and protect.

As elected officials who represent millions across the state, we are on the frontlines of our communities working to ensure New Yorkers are receiving the help and resources they need to weather the COVID-19 pandemic safely. We are coordinating the delivery of supplies, sharing valuable information, and encouraging safety measures—like social distancin —that will help us all. In doing so, we each do our part to instill confidence and trust in government. However, several recent reported incidents demonstrate how even a few mishandled interactions between police and members of the community can erode trust to the point of no return.

The videos and accounts of the Manhattan arrest involving Officer Francisco Garcia on May 2nd, and the Brooklyn arrests on May 2nd and 4th, may be just a few of the “hundreds and hundreds of [police] encounters every day,” as stated by Commissioner Shea, but they are the exact type of interactions that demonstrate disparate treatment towards people of color – a tale of two cities, one might call it – and specifically Black men who are historic targets of excessive force across the country. Elsewhere in New York City, police officers have been seen passing out masks to those without and issuing verbal warnings to predominantly white crowds gathered in public spaces; and we are all aware of at least one large gathering at a Jewish funeral in Brooklyn where officers and the Mayor broke up and de-escalated the scene without the use of physical violence.

As the New York Police Department is heralded as the finest in the country, there is no excuse for any police encounter that does not demonstrate the highest standards in de- escalation techniques. If new training is necessary, we call on your administration to implement it. If the retraining of certain officers is needed, we expect to see it.

And if a thorough investigation of the facts of each of these incidents by Internal Affairs and the Civilian Complaint Review Board reveal what clearly appear to be unnecessary and excessive uses of physical force, we expect to see all officers involved being held accountable (up to and including removal from the force and indictment) for their actions against members of our community, as well as the bond of trust needed between law enforcement and the public.

As colleagues in government tasked with maintaining the health and safety of all New Yorkers, we must work together to ensure we are enforcing the law equitably and consistently across all demographics. The Caucus will continue to monitor the actions of those tasked with protecting our communities, and we look forward to further action on this matter as we work to lift ourselves out of this pandemic. In that spirit of cooperation, we respectfully request a meeting between Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Shea, and Caucus leadership in the coming days to discuss this matter further.

Tremaine Wright