“This is the opposite of a profile in courage.”
Councilmembers Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer duck calls to disclose whether they support an expansion of NYPD.
By LOUIS FLORES
As City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Spanish Harlem) continues to push for a plan to fund an increase of 1,000 new officers on the New York Police Department’s force, the Queens LGBT delegation to the City Council remain mum on the plan.
Councilmembers Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) refused to tell Progress Queens whether they supported Speaker Mark-Viverito’s proposal to increase the NYPD’s budget allocation to pay for an expanded police force.
Their silence on the Council speaker’s plan comes at a time when municipalities across the nation, New York City included, are examining the systemic discrimination and lack of accountability for misconduct in police forces.
In New York City’s LGBT community, law enforcement have been shown to profile gay men, transgender women, and members of religious minority groups, for example, people of the Muslim faith, a situation that was depicted in the film, Naz + Maalik, as examples of state-sponsored forms of discrimination.
For a period of time, the NYPD had gone so far as to criminalize the possession of birth control if being carried by transgender women, who are then further profiled to be sex workers on no legal basis.
Given the reluctance on behalf of the LGBT Queens delegation to the City Council to publicly speak about the plans to expand the NYPD, Progress Queens spoke with one of the most prolific LGBT activists in New York City.
Speaking of Councilmembers Dromm and Van Bramer, the activist Pauline Park, who resides in Queens, said, “It is their obligation to speak to the media, because that is how the public is informed about what they are doing,” she said.
Council Speaker Mark-Viverito has rested on the rationale that the added 1,000 police officers would “go a long way towards ensuring public safety and better community relations,” justification which Ms. Park told Progress Queens she found questionable, saying that it was by no means a straightforward issue that adding more police officers would make citizens safer, “especially for LGBT people of color in Queens, especially in Jackson Heights, where members of the community face racial, gender identity, and religious profiling,” she said.
Speaking generally about the direction of police reforms over the last few years, Ms. Park told Progress Queens that, “I think that there has been a slight change in tone, but there is no substantative difference Bloomberg-Kelly and de Blasio-Bratton,” she said, referring to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, and to the successor administration, headed by Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) and his respective police commissioner, William Bratton.
Ms. Park said that she had a concern that the added police officers would exacerbate the profiling that LGBT New Yorkers faced, resulting in the “opposite affect of making us safer.”
A mass demonstration intending to be peaceful took place on Tuesday against the police department’s record of brutality and lack of accountability resulted in the arrests of 42 activists and the injury of one anti-police brutality activist, Elsa Waithe, who was recorded on video being shoved by a police officer into a metal tree guard, resulting in injuries that required hospital treatment. The police department reported that two officers were allegedly injured during the protest, but some activists disputed that assertion.
The coordinated pattern of silence from the Queens LGBT delegation to the City Council may foretell their eventual support for the Council speaker’s budget increase for the NYPD, some activists feared. If true, then such eventual support would represent a reversal in the ethos of the Queens lawmakers’ rise to elected office.
Before being elected to the municipal legislature, Councilmember Dromm had advocated for justice in the case of Robert Pinter, one of several gay men who had been wrongly profiled and arrested by NYPD on trumped up prostitution charges. Speaking at a 2009 rally in Sheridan Square in Manhattan, Mr. Dromm praised Mr. Pinter for having stood up and said “No!” to the “shame, fear, and the homophobia that people try to place on us as LGBT people.”
Sadly, Ms. Park said, most members of the public and most members of the LGBT community did not follow public policy closely, allowing elected officials to duck inquiries from the public and from the media about their public policy positions. Ms. Park said that it was obvious to her that Councilmembers Dromm and Van Bramer were avoiding taking public positions on the Council speaker’s proposal to expand the police force in order to tell different constituency groups different things in private.
Speaking specifically of Councilmember Dromm, Ms. Park said that when the LGBT community compared the councilmember’s former record of outspokenness against discrimination with his current avoidance of the media, “This is the opposite of a profile in courage.”
Ms. Park said that she believed that Councilmember Dromm was being politically selfish for putting his own political needs above the needs of the larger LGBT community, which Councilmember Dromm has long claimed to represent.
Councilmember Dromm’s motivation was self-serving, she said, because he did not want to buck the speaker or the mayor, adding that, “For him to go against them, it would be a political risk. He wants to continue to be in their favor.”
According to information obtained by Progress Queens, in the time leading up to the 2013 municipal elections, some minority community leaders in Councilmember Dromm’s district were privately seeking an LGBT activist to run in the Democratic Party primary against Councilmember Dromm, if for nothing else than to challenge the Councilmember Dromm’s failure to challenge the former City Council leadership’s unwavering support of the NYPD during the controversy over the police department’s use of stop-and-frisk as a tactic to deliberately target minorities, the LGBT community included. The practice of stop-and-frisk was later determined to have been unconstitutional.
For his part, Councilmember Van Bramer’s official biography on the City Council Web site indicated that he has fought for “equality for all” throughout his career.
Council Speaker Mark Viverito is term-limited form being able to run for reelection to the City Council in the 2017 election cycle. Her spectacular transformation from a #BlackLivesMatter supporter to a police hawk may indicate that she is trying to appeal to big business interests for a potential future career in the private sector.
Big business interests from the donors to each of the New York City Police Foundation and the Police Athletic League of New York City to the members of each of the Partnership for New York City and the Real Estate Board of New York have expressed support for NYPD Commissioner Bratton, a chief proponent for the neoconservative and discriminatory “Broken Windows” policing tactics that grassroots police reform groups want to see ended.
For instance, on Thursday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was set to endorse District Attorney Daniel Donovan (R-Staten Island) for Congress, even though District Attorney Donovan deliberately mismanaged the grand jury proceedings against the officer responsible for placing Eric Garner in a homicide-inducing chokehold in a “Broken Windows” arrest turned deadly.
An expansion of the police force would fly in the face of reform advocates’ demands that the priority in policing is to end discrimination and to introduce an independent system that guarantees accountability for NYPD officers engaging in misconduct or brutality, including homicides.
If Council Speaker Mark-Viverito plans to pursue a post-political career in big business, then she would be joining her predecessors, the former Council Speakers Christine Quinn and Gifford Miller, who have sought to reestablish themselves through a post at a political insider institute at Harvard University and as a real estate investor, respectively, to improve their appeal to big business interests.
By becoming a police hawk, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, a previous advocate for social and economic justice that had, at times, irked big business interests, may be turning to her sudden support of police expansion as an éntrée for a post-political post with big business interests, some police reform advocates say.
The failure of LGBT officials to challenge City Council and City Hall leadership is taking place as Mayor de Blasio has been caught exaggerating his police reforms as he has sought to downplay swelling impatience with his failure to enact reforms that go to the root cause of police brutality and misconduct.