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NYC Council Passes Williams' Parking Placard Bill

November 26th, 2019Press Release

The New York City Council today passed legislation from Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams aimed at combating the use of fraudulent parking permits in New York City, alongside a package of eight other related measures. The Public Advocate's legislation, Intro 596-B, would increase the fine for use of unauthorized or fraudulent city-issued parking permits, or placards, from $250 to $500.

"Placard abuse is egregious across New York City, and its damaging impact can be seen on side streets and avenues in all five boroughs," said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. "The effects of placard corruption are not just an inconvenience, but a danger and a misuse of our roadways. While the city has been incredibly concerned with combatting fair evasion, placard abuse amounts to a significant theft in transportation services, and this is an effort to address that beyond just words. Doubling the penalty for such blatant fraudulent actions will serve as a strong deterrent to this abuse."

Placards are intended for usage by qualifying staff of city agencies, non-profit organizations, people with disabilities, and clergy members. In addition to street congestion, abuses of that system result in blocking bus, pedestrian, fire hydrant, and biking passages. There have been over 8,000 complaints to 311 in the last two years, and the use of fraudulent placards is currently punishable with a fine of no less than $250.

This bill, part of a broader package the Council voted on today, would double the penalty for the offense, specifically targeting those who manufacture, purchase, or otherwise use fraudulent permits. Enforcement for this violation is primarily carried out by the NYPD. Among other bills in the package passed today are bills which would create an electronic tracking system for valid parking permits, expand reporting and enforcement on illegal placard and city vehicle usage, and penalize individuals who are misusing otherwise legitimate permits.

Advocates, including those on social media, have long called for reform and enforcement on this issue, in a sustained campaign of sharing photographs and videos of prominent examples of placard abuse and illegal parking with elected officials and the public.


Williams Responds To The Public Campaign Financing Commission Vote

November 25th, 2019Press Release

"The Public Campaign Financing Commission's plan voted on today will not empower people through Fair Elections-- instead, it will protect the people in power. The commission may have held hearings, but it's clear they weren't listening.

"In 2018, the top 100 donors gave more money than all 137,000 small donors combined. That's absurd, and the plan that Governor Cuomo and Jay Jacobs have successfully pushed through will not do nearly enough to change a system that gives the wealthiest people control. Many of today's proposals and specific votes appeared to be at the Governor's behest. New York's 'progressive' Governor and his allies are showing their true colors and engaging in a Trumpian abuse of this process.

"Advocates, legislators, leaders, know that we had an opportunity to create a public financing system that uplifts the voices of all New Yorkers, but as it stands, it will instead serve as an incumbency protection program, a clear attack on the progressive left movement in this state which supporters of these actions are complicit in.

"In light of today's outcome, legislators should return to Albany ahead of the deadline to amend the plan that would put in place public financing in letter, but undermine its spirit with one of the worst systems in the nation."


Statement By Williams & Lander On Law Enforcement Loophole In New Algorithmic Accountability Reporting

November 20th, 2019Press Release

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Council Member Brad Lander released the following statement in response to an Executive Order issued by Mayor Bill de Blasio establishing an Algorithms Management and Policy Officer, tasked with ensuring that city agencies develop algorithms in ways that promote fairness and accountability, but creates a potential loophole for law enforcement agencies.

"Data-driven decision-making has the power to totally transform how government allocates resources and serves people, for better or for worse. The algorithms being used to decide everything from where kids go to school, to who can get public assistance, and which neighborhoods are allocated more police attention must be assessed for equity and bias, else we risk recreating ingrained patterns of discrimination and inequality.

"We know from our work fighting to pass the Community Safety Act that structures for oversight and accountability are critical to reforming ingrained patterns in our policing. That's why we are so disappointed to learn that under the new reporting requirements, law enforcement officials would have the potential ability to exempt certain data without specific justifiable cause.

"Decades of racially discriminatory policing have left us with troves of biased data that continue to inform today's predictive policing algorithms, creating feedback loops that recreate harmful overpolicing in communities of color. Policies like stop, question and frisk taught us that institutionalized bias is hard to shake, and harder still when bias is masked by seemingly neutral calculations.

“New York has the opportunity to lead the way on ensuring equity, fairness, and accountability over algorithmic decision-making. We welcome the creation of the Officer of Algorithms Management and Policy, which can help us ensure that we are taking seriously the need for transparency and accountability in how algorithms work, what data they use to make decisions, and how they impact people. There cannot be an exemption for law enforcement, so we ask the administration to provide clarification and necessary change."


Williams Speaks About Nypd Body-worn Camera Transparency At Council Hearing

November 18th, 2019Press Release

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams spoke about the need for transparency in body-worn camera usage today at a New York City Council hearing with representatives of the NYPD. He highlighted the need to reform the department's policy on viewing footage, as well as the need to pass his legislation, Intro 1136, which would require the Police Department to submit quarterly public reports on information regarding the use of body-worn cameras. Additionally, the department would be required to annually publish information on each incident requiring an officer to engage body-worn cameras in accordance to Department policy.

This hearing comes as the NYPD has recently released new policy regarding body-worn camera footage. Video of the hearing can be viewed here.

The Public Advocate's full statement is below and can be downloaded here. TESTIMONY OF PUBLIC ADVOCATE JUMAANE D. WILLIAMS TO THE NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY OVERSIGHT HEARING ON NYPD'S ROLL-OUT OF BODY WORN CAMERAS November 18, 2019 Good morning, My name is Jumaane D. Williams, Public Advocate for the City of New York. I would like to thank Chairman Donovan Richards and the committee members for holding an oversight hearing on the New York Police Department (NYPD)'s use of body-worn cameras.

In 2013, the City Council passed the Community Safety Act, which established an Inspector General for the police department and eased the path for those with claims of bias-based policing to file claims in court. When my colleagues and I pushed for these reforms, critics and detractors shunned this legislation and claimed our proposals would reverse the drop in crime our City has seen through the '90s and '00s. We were told that the "sky was falling," and that biased-based policing was the best, even the only, way to keep crime down, and that the police needed to continue the abuses of the tactic known as stop-question-and-frisk. We were told that adherence to a 'broken windows' mentality and method of quality of life enforcement was necessary to make our streets safer.

We knew then that those assumptions were not true. We knew that we could have better policing and safer streets at the same time- and we were right. For the past six years, since passing the Community Safety Act, New Yorkers have experienced the lowest crime numbers in the "seven major index crime" categories - such as murder, assault, and robbery - than at any other time since the 1950s. I want to acknowledge that to victims of crimes and their families, those statistics mean nothing. I also want to acknowledge the recent uptick of shootings in certain areas. This of course means we must continue to do more. We must also avoid knee-jerk reactions in favor of advancing the strategies we know work.

The bill being heard today - Intro 1136-2018 - furthers the discussion. The bill requires the police department to submit quarterly public reports on information regarding the use of body-worn cameras. The department would also be mandated to annually publish information on each and every incident requiring an officer to engage body-worn cameras in accordance with department policy. This piece of legislation is essential to ensuring that we have full transparency in the information we get from the NYPD. Since the Inspector General's Office kicked off in 2014, it has had the chance to look further into policing matters than any other office before it, and it has received a tremendous amount of raw data in the form of body-worn camera video. But the millions of body-worn camera videos that the City now has are not public, and there has not been a discussion on how to make those videos available to the public, let alone to the victims and their family members. Intro 1136-2018 would give New Yorkers access to information about these body-worn camera videos.

The need for greater transparency is evident now more than ever. In April of this year, two police officers were responding to a 911 harassment call at Hill House in the Bronx, in which one of them fatally shot a man named Kawaski Trawick. According to NYPD, Trawick charged at them with a knife in one hand and a stick in the other. The entire situation was captured on police body-camera video, and yet, up until now Kawaski's family has not been able to see the footage.

Just two months ago in the Bronx, a police chase resulted in 15 police bullets killing Brian Mulkeen, a plainclothes officer, and Antonio Williams, a civilian whom the police had stopped during a patrol. Officer Mulkeen did not have his body camera on, but the other five officers on the scene had their cameras on. Although Commissioner O'Neill said in October that the NYPD will end up releasing the footage from the body-worn cameras that show the moments leading up to the shooting, no video footage has been released to the public as of yet.  The information reported from Intro 1136-2018 would not only give families like Kawaski's, Williams' and Mulkeen's answers to the questions that remain but also provide them with a small amount of closure. And right now, they have neither.

I also recommend the following departmental body-worn camera policy changes: 1) share footage with CCRB and District Attorneys in the same timeframe as federal and state authorities - 24 hours; 2) reduce the timeframe used to disseminate footage to the public; 3) allow for the release unedited footage to the family and/or the public; 4) provide equal access of the footage to the family and the members of service.

Accountability and transparency are at the heart of Intro 1136-2018. It is important that we respect our men and women in blue, and provide them the tools they need to do their job. We must also ask that they respect the civilians whom they police. Our communities and the police will be better off if we hold our officers to that standard.

I would like to thank Council Member Lancman for co-sponsoring this legislation. I would like to also thank a few staff for helping me prepare for today's hearing, including Nick E. Smith, First Deputy Public Advocate of Policy, Michelle Kim, Director of Legislation, Crystal Hudson, First Deputy Public Advocate of Community Engagement, Rama Issa-Ibrahim, Deputy Public Advocate of Justice, Health Equity and Safety, and Darian Harley, Community Organizer for Justice, Health Equity and Safety. Again, I thank the Council for hosting this hearing today, and would be happy to answer any questions.


Williams' School Diversity Bill Passed By NYC Council

November 14th, 2019Press Release

The New York City Council today passed legislation by Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams codifying the creation and continued existence of the School Diversity Advisory Group, originally convened by Mayor Bill de Blasio, to develop solutions to addressing the systemic segregation in New York City schools. The Advisory Group has released two reports to date, with detailed proposals for increasing diversity in city schools and in select programs. The legislation, Intro 1550-A, is one of three bills sponsored by the Public Advocate which was passed by the City Council today.

"I'm a New York City public school baby, and I'm proud of that fact and the education I received," said Public Advocate Williams. "But despite that pride and because of that history, I know that our deeply segregated school system, and our students within it, are in desperate need of reform. The School Diversity Advisory Group is critical because it involves taking the input of these people experiencing our education system up close in order to change it. My bill today expands the reach of that group across years, administrations, and boroughs." Established in 2017, the advisory group was tasked with "working to reshape citywide policies and practices such as admissions and program planning." Intro 1550-A, which passed overwhelmingly today, codifies the advisory group to be made up of Council appointments, a public advocate appointment, and mayoral appointments. This codification would build upon the critical work already done by the group and extend it beyond any one administration as part of a multi-year framework. It would also require quarterly meetings and public hearings in each of the five boroughs. Members of the group will include at least 27 members tasked with producing an annual public report that examines ways to increase school diversity. The annual report will require a multi-year plan to be developed and adopted by the Department of Education to address integration in schools. The report will also require a one-year look back measurement to track measurement of goals achieved. In addition to the passage of Intro 1550-A, the Council also passed two other pieces of legislation sponsored by the Public Advocate, including Intro 720-C, related to construction safety, and Intro 716-A, related to affordable housing.


Williams Responds To The De Blasio Administration's Mental Health Crisis Response Recommendations

October 21st, 2019Press Release

"In the yearlong delay since this report was set to be released- which still has not been seen by the public nor the task force members, even as its recommendations are implemented- the conversation around mental health crises has shifted in language and policy. We need to treat mental health crises as health emergencies, not criminal acts, as I laid out in my office's report last month. However, while these recommendations outline some policy shifts which I am glad the administration has agreed to, the focus and resources aimed at the NYPD, including a co-response model, is not the direction the city should be going toward in the long term. We need a non-police first response to mental health crises, and this plan does not even put us on a path toward that goal.

"We already ask too much of law enforcement, and a criminal response to a medical emergency only heightens the chance of tragedy and reduces the likelihood that those in need will call for help in the first place. A team of mental health responders, sent out by a dispatcher well-trained in recognizing mental health emergencies, from a newly designated emergency number, is the path forward, and I hope to continue to work with the administration toward these critical reforms."


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