By LOUIS FLORES
Some of New York's top business leaders are reportedly upset over the tensions between City Hall and the New York Police Department, according a heavily slanted report by Charles Gasparino in The New York Post.
One faction of business leaders are following the cautious lead of Kathryn Wylde, the president of The Partnership for New York City, who is reportedly discussing with members of her organisation how to best address policing issues.
As the leader of a business group that acts as a chamber of commerce, Ms. Wylde was last seen in 2013 as trying to recruit a candidate to run for the speakership of New York City Council in an attempt to undermine the speakership campaign of Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan), a close ally of Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York). In the end, Councilmember Mark-Viverito was elected speaker with help from Mayor de Blasio.
However, some business leaders are reportedly frustrated by the The Partnership for New York City's record in advancing a pro-business agenda. In the municipal elections of 2013, many business leaders, primarily those tied to the Real Estate Board of New York, financed a Super PAC to influence City Council races. In large part, their efforts failed.
Ms. Wylde is reportedly now discussing with the big business members of The Partnership for New York City how best to respond to tensions between City Hall and the NYPD. In a statement made to Progress Queens, a representative for The Partnership for New York City denied any involvement in such discussions.
Notwithstanding the denial in involvement, an impatient faction of business leaders may be forming, which was described in the report in The New York Post.
The group of impatient business leaders are said to be exploring the possibility of forming a rival group to The Partnership for New York City in order to challenge Mayor de Blasio over his policies, including the continuing tensions with the NYPD, according to The New York Post report.
In addition to the impatient faction of some business leaders, hedge fund titan Daniel Loeb is rumoured to be finding a way to confront the de Blasio administration over City Hall's soured relationship with the NYPD. Both Mr. Loeb and Ms. Wylde are trustees of the right-wing think tank, the Manhattan Institute, where George Kelling, the co-creator of the neoconservative and discriminatory "Broken Windows" theory of policing (which is now under attack by police reform activists) is a senior fellow. Mr. Loeb is also allied with Eva Moskowitz, a long-time political nemesis of Mayor de Blasio.
As police reform activists demand greater accountability for crimes and misconduct committed by NYPD officers, many activists are also demanding the end to Broken Windows tactics, which undergird the police department's apparent profiling and targeting of low-income communities and minorities for excessive policing. Many activists blame Broken Windows policing as the cause of Eric Garner's and Akai Gurley's homicides last year.
On the other side of this debate are big business interests, especially billionaire real estate developers or investors, who see a continuation of Broken Windows policing as the key to further gentrification of neighborhoods, the mass displacement of low-income residents, and a further upward spiral in real estate prices, thereby enriching owners of large real estate holdings.
In respect of actions contemplated by business leaders to address City Hall's tensions with the NYPD, the press office for City Hall continued its practise of refusing to answer questions posed to it by Progress Queens.
Separately, a representative for Mr. Loeb told Progress Queens that Mr. Loeb was not available for an interview.
City agency issues chokehold report, but still no accountability
A group of police reform activists appeared on NY1's Inside City Hall with moderator Errol Louis on Monday evening, ostensibly to discuss, only to later dismiss, a new report by the Inspector General of the NYPD, Philip Eure, into inconsistencies in how NYPD officers, who apply chokeholds, are disciplined. The report reviewed 10 cases in which claims of use of chokeholds were substantiated by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, or CCRB. The CCRB recommended that the NYPD discipline the involved officers, but the Inspector General's report found that the NYPD rejected disciplinary recommendations against a majority of the involved officers, reaffirming claims long made by police reform activists that police officers, who commit crimes or engage in misconduct, face no accountability for their actions. Moreover, the Inspector General's report refused to propose a new investigatory and prosecutorial system, one that would independently render justice in place of the current system, which activists unanimously allege is broken.
Councilmember Rory Lancman (D-Queens) ; Robert Gangi, the executive director of the Police Reform Organizing Project, or PROP ; Priscilla Gonzalez, a director of organizing for Communities United for Police Reform ; and Angelo Pinto, member of the police reform group, the Justice League NYC, spoke to various aspects of the Inspector General's report and to policing, generally.
Councilmember Lancman talked up the need to pass legislation he has proposed, which would make chokeholds illegal. His incremental steps at reform were rejected by the three police reform activists joining him on the news program. Mr. Gangi described a ban on chokeholds as "taking on low-hanging fruit," whereas Ms. Gonzalez said that her focus was on the lack of accountability and transparency in how NYPD disciplined officers, saying in relevant part that, "… for too long, in case after case in recent years, as in the case with Ramarley Graham, for example, officers that have been involved in the killing have not been held accountable. And we need to stop that," referring to the case of a young, unarmed Black man, who was chased into his own home by police, where he was shot and killed. A federal investigation is reportedly underway into the circumstances of Mr. Graham's shooting death.
Mr. Pinto dismissed the limited focus on chokeholds, saying that, "The reality is that … banning chokeholds is not going to stop Black and Brown folks from being killed by police officers, because not every Black and Brown person killed in the United States at the hands of law enforcement happen because of a chokehold."
Mr. Gangi and Ms. Gonzalez both agreed that a wiser move to reform policing in New York City would involve ending Broken Windows tactics, of which Mr. Gangi said, "That's the political challenge for the city establishment, for the mayor on down, including Commissioner Bratton, and including the IG's office," referring to the NYPD's Inspector General.
However, at a press conference one week ago Monday, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton addressed critics of Broken Windows policing by saying, "Sorry, Broken Windows is here to stay. Stop, question, and frisk is here to stay, but it will be done in appropriate amounts."
One aspect of the current leaders of some police reform groups that has perplexed some grassroots police reform activists is the inexplicability of how some entrenched reform groups expect to end Broken Windows policing, if its chief defender, Commissioner Bratton, continues to repeat his unqualified defense for such tactics. Only one police reform group, New Yorkers Against Bratton, and a few police reform activists have made an outright call for Commissioner Bratton's resignation as an access point to finally ending Broken Windows policing by the NYPD.
As Progress Queens recently reported, Commissioner Bratton benefited from the assistance of a consulting contract privately paid for by the New York City Police Foundation, which is supported by big business donors. That contract provided services by the consulting firm, Strategic Policy Partnership, LLC, which is headed by a close friend of Commissioner Bratton. That consulting firm also employs George Kelling, the co-creator of the Broken Windows policing theory. Separately, the big business donors, which support the Police Athletic League, also enthusiastically support Commissioner Bratton and his policies. At every turn, it appears that Commissioner Bratton receives assistance or political support from special interest groups, which are keen in seeing Broken Windows continue.
How some police reform activists expect to end Broken Windows policing with Commissioner Bratton still at the helm of the NYPD remains a mystery.
One day after the police reform activists appeared on the NY1 news program, a spokesperson for City Hall announced that Mayor de Blasio had decided that he would veto Councilmember Lancman's legislation, if passed in its current draft form, which would render chokeholds illegal, according to a report by Jennifer Fermino in The New York Daily News. The announcement of the veto threat was simultaneously seen as a give-back by City Hall to NYPD officers still seething over complaints that Mayor de Blasio has not done enough to support police officers and as a betrayal by the mayor of police reform activists' expectations that Mayor de Blasio would end the excessive, brutal, and sometimes deadly use of force by the NYPD, raising questions about why some police reform activists dismissed the focus on chokeholds on Inside City Hall, except that perhaps the dismissal was intended to ease the controversial veto threat announcement.
Tone deaf to policing controversies, GOP endorsed Garner prosecutor for Congress
Amidst the continuing controversy over how NYPD officers face no accountability for corruption, crimes, or other misconduct, the Republican Party of Staten Island endorsed Richmond County District Attorney Daniel Donovan (R-Staten Island) to run for Congress, to replace U.S. Representative Michael Grimm (R-New York City), who resigned after pleading guilty to charges of corruption.
Actions by District Attorney Donovan in the Garner chokehold case on Staten Island may largely be responsible for triggering mass demonstrations by police reform activists in New York City after a grand jury voted not to file criminal charges against the NYPD police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who placed Mr. Garner in the fatal chokehold. It was later revealed that District Attorney Donovan failed to give the grand jury the option of charging officer Pantaleo with lesser charges, including reckless endangerment, a revelation that reaffirmed criticisms by police reform activists that the city's district attorneys are conflicted when investigating cases of crimes committed by police officers.
In a further signal of betrayal by City Hall of police reform activists, the mayor praised the Congressional candidacy of District Attorney Donovan. Some police reform activists see the Republican Party support of District Attorney Donovan, at best, to be tone deaf of concerns by minorities, and, at worst, to be a way to appeal to the White vote amidst the highly charged discussions currently underway about policing and race.
Knowing the conflicts of interest inherent in his review of the Garner case, District Attorney Donovan nonetheless presses ahead with his own career advancement.
District attorneys, who are boastful about their records of convictions and guilty pleas, can see those records unraveled if a police officer relied upon by prosecutors is found guilty of misconduct. Were a police officer to ever be found guilty of official misconduct, it could possibly raise questions about the cases and arrests that that officer made in his career, possibly leading to the unravelling of prosecutions and guilty pleas based on such cases and arrests. Furthermore, district attorneys' successful rates of convictions and guilty pleas depend on having an amicable relationship with the NYPD. If police unions were to begin to view district attorneys as possible adversaries, then that perception would create a chill between their relationships, possibly hampering prosecutions by district attorneys, leading to poorer rates of convictions and guilty pleas.
If District Attorney Donovan wins his race, then he will leave behind a District Attorney's Office that never transformed the broken system that lets police off the hook for being accountable for corruption, crimes, and misconduct.