Media Inquiries

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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."


Williams' Statement On The Passing Of Representative Elijah Cummings

October 17th, 2019Press Release

" Today, the United States has lost a great leader - a giant of civil rights, a champion of democracy and of our country, with the passing of Representative Elijah Cummings. A statesman who believed in the best of this nation, its government, and its people while holding to account when those marks were not met, he held us to our highest ideals.

"The death of Representative Cummings is a tragedy, his life a model of commitment to public service and to the people of Baltimore whom he served for decades. His courage, strength and pursuit of justice will long be remembered, in generations of leaders who have been inspired by his public work and personal character."


Williams Calls For The Repeal Of Section 50-a At State Senate Hearing

October 17th, 2019Press Release

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams called for the repeal of Section 50-a today at a hearing by the New York State Senate Committee on Codes. Section 50-a of the New York State Civic Rights Law relates to restricting access to personnel records of police officers, firefighters, and correction officers.

In his testimony, the Public Advocate supported passage of S3695/A2513 in the State Legislature. He is the sponsor of a resolution in the City Council calling for this legislation to be passed on a state level. Public Advocate Williams highlighted that if 50-A is not repealed, "public trust in our law enforcement and the NYC administration will continue to be eroded" by denying transparency and accountability. He further stressed that "Passing this legislation does not mean that we are anti-police or that we do not very much support our men and women in blue, who are tasked with protecting us every single day. To the contrary, it is because of our support of them and better policing we know this must be repealed."

The full text of his testimony as written is below and can be downloaded here. TESTIMONY OF PUBLIC ADVOCATE JUMAANE D. WILLIAMS TO THE NEW

YORK STATE SENATE STANDING COMMITTEE ON CODES PUBLIC HEARING ON POLICING, REPEALS PROVISIONS RELATING TO PERSONNEL RECORDS OF POLICE OFFICERS, FIREFIGHTERS, AND CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS

OCTOBER 17, 2019 Good afternoon,

My name is Jumaane D. Williams, and I am Public Advocate for the City of New York. I would like to thank Chairman Jamaal T. Bailey and the Members of the Standing Committee on Codes for holding this hearing on Senator Bailey's bill, S3695, which repeals section 50-A of the New York State Civil Rights Law. This bill would repeal provisions relating to personnel records of police officers, firefighters, and correction officers, essentially making them available to the public.

The interpretation and application of section 50-A deprives the public of information fundamental to oversight and lends a shield of opacity to the very public state and local police agencies that have perhaps the greatest day-to-day impact over the lives of citizens. Section 50-A increases the harms caused to New Yorkers who experience police abuse by denying them and their loved ones access to information as to whether departments take disciplinary action against officers who mistreat them, which includes withholding information about officers whose actions result in a person's death. It also prevents us all from creating a true system to identify officers who, with early intervention, can be put on a corrective force or guided to another career before the worst occurs. Between 2011 and 2015, at least 319 NYPD staff committed offenses, including lying under oath, driving under the influence, and excessive force with almost no serious consequence.

Given the clear lack of discipline with regard to police misconduct, Chairman Bailey's bill is crucial for enforcing accountability and improving police-community relations. That is why I have introduced Resolution 750-2019 - with 21 council members' support - calling on the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign S3695/A2513 in the beginning of next year's session.

There is nothing more corrupting than power exercised in secret. Those are the words of the late investigative journalist, Daniel Schorr, who was number 17 on Nixon's enemy list, and his words ring even more true today. The NYPD's ability to operate with almost zero public consequences in cases of misconduct and abuse is a clear example of power exercised in secret - and it is corrupting. We must demand transparency and accountability at all levels of government, and that includes ensuring that those in charge of protecting us are also answerable to us. Passing this legislation does not mean that we are anti-police or that we do not very much support our men and women in blue, who are tasked with protecting us every single day. To the contrary, it is because of our support of them and better policing we know this must be repealed.

If we do not repeal section 50-A, public trust in our law enforcement and the NYC administration will continue to be eroded. The two areas where people are yearning to see change are transparency and accountability, and we have not seen much progress in those areas, unfortunately. Section 50-A can no longer be used as an excuse to tie the hands of District Attorneys as a reason for a slap on the wrist treatment of officers who have undermined their duty to serve and protect.

I am sad that not much has changed in the two areas I have mentioned. Repealing 50-A is a necessary step toward justice for Eric Garner, for Saheed Vassell, for Ramarley Graham, for Delrawn Smalls, for Dwayne Jeune, for their families, and for the countless New Yorkers who are just asking for truth and openness.

For those reasons, I urge the members of the Senate to pass S3695. Again, thank you to Chairman Bailey and the Members of the Standing Committee on Codes for taking up this issue.


Williams, Elected Officials Oppose Transition Of Women's Shelter

October 3rd, 2019Press Release

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, with Congressman Jerry Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assembly Member Danny O'Donnell, and Council Member Mark Levine have sent a letter to Commissioner Steven Banks, who oversees the Department of Homeless Services, strongly opposing a proposal to transition a women's shelter on the Upper West Side into a men's shelter. The planned transition, which was met with fierce objection at a September 24th Community Board 7 meeting, may be imminent and involve significant eviction and displacement.

In their letter opposing the plan, the elected officials said that "We take issue both with the process employed by your agency and, more pressingly, with the substance of the proposed change," and "We ask that you reconsider your proposed change to the resident population at the 107th Street shelter." The full letter is below and can be downloaded here. October 2, 2019

Dear Commissioner Banks:  We write in opposition to the proposed changes to the resident population at the HELP-USA-run shelter at 237 West 107th Street. We take issue both with the process employed by your agency and, more pressingly, with the substance of the proposed change. 

On September 16th, some elected officials received phone calls informing them of the shelter's transition from a women's shelter to a men's shelter. We asked the Community Board (CB) to take up this issue and on September 24th, over 70 shelter and neighborhood residents attended the CB 7 Health and Human Services Committee meeting. Everyone attending that night asked that the current shelter population of women remain. The Committee then unanimously passed a resolution requesting that the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) keep the shelter as is. No one from DHS attended that meeting, either to present information or to answer questions. In addition, on September 26th, CB 7 wrote a letter to HRA reiterating its position. On September 30th, over 100 shelter and neighborhood residents met in a nearby church. Shelter residents expressed anxiety about the lack of information, while neighbors expressed their strong support for the women at the shelter as well as their equally strong opposition to changing the current resident population to men. 

As the elected representatives of the neighbors and residents of 237 West 107th Street, we have a primary responsibility to advocate for our constituents. Many of the women who currently reside in the shelter have jobs (some work for the City of New York) and all are members of our community. We want them to remain here.  Because there has been no formal communication, presentation at the Community Board or for community residents, rumors abound. We are only able to determine your agency's proposed plans for the women and the building through individual phone calls to members of your staff. This is in itself a disservice to all who are actively engaged in our communities. 

We ask that you reconsider your proposed change to the resident population at the 107th Street shelter, and that your agency communicate with all involved. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We look forward to your response.


Williams' Statement On The Firing Of Daniel Pantaleo

August 19th, 2019Press Release

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams issued the following statement in response to the firing of Officer Daniel Pantaleo by NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill for his role in the 2014 death of Eric Garner.

STATEMENT BY THE PUBLIC ADVOCATE

" Commissioner O'Neill came to the right decision to fire Daniel Pantaleo. Finally. After five years of waiting, five years of pain, five years of justice delayed and denied, we have some action, providing a small semblance of justice deserved.

"But the work needed to prevent these tragic incidents, to bring real accountability and transparency which will continue the push toward true community-police relationships in this city and around the country, is only beginning. Supporting our men and women in blue and demanding accountability are not mutually exclusive, and we must reject the voices of those who try to make us choose.

"We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together."


Williams, Fraternal Leaders Release Statement On Ninth Nypd Officer Suicide

August 15th, 2019Press Release

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams released the following statement today with law enforcement Fraternal Organization Leaders Anthony Miranda, Chair of the National Latino Officers Association, and Charles Billups, Chair of the Grand Council of Guardians, in response to the ninth NYPD officer suicide this year.

STATEMENT BY PUBLIC ADVOCATE WILLIAMS & FRATERNAL LEADERS

"We offer our condolences, empathy, and support to the families of those officers who have lost their lives in recent days, weeks, and months as this devastating trend continues and spreads. In the last five years, an average of five NYPD officers have taken their lives each year, and nine have died by suicide in the last eight months-- two in the last two days. It's vital that we all come together and respond with compassion, understanding, and resources. "This is a crisis that often goes unseen as officers suffer in silence, now made visible in tragedy and loss. It's often extremely difficult -institutionally, societally, personally - to talk about mental health or seek help in a time of need. We need to break down the stigma preventing officers from seeking help and ensure that such aid is there when needed. By policy or legislation, our city must also create a system that permits all officers to seek confidential mental health treatment. "It's critical that throughout the city and across all ranks, New York City's police force is equipped with the support systems and resources needed to address mental health concerns, both in times of emergency and proactively, to prevent such a crisis moment."


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