Dear Westchester County Police Chiefs, Commissioners, Elected Officials,
Communities across the country, including our own, are angered and appalled as we witness an unending stream of callous, disrespectful, and often deadly encounters between police and civilians. While many of these events occur elsewhere, both individual experience and published research reports tell us that there is not a community in Westchester County that is not afflicted by disturbing police-civilian encounters, racially-biased policing practices (1), and a problematic lack of transparency by its law enforcement agencies.
This is a call for you to make a firm and public commitment to transparency, accountability, and a zero-tolerance approach to police misconduct.
While we are wary after decades of refusals to reform, we remain willing to partner with our law enforcement leaders who embrace the tenets of accountability, transparency, equal justice, and respect for all human life (2).
Below you will find a list of specific reforms that we wish to see implemented immediately here in Westchester County. Achieving these recommendations will send a strong message to all members of our community that our leaders are committed to fundamentally redefining the relationship between our police department and our community. This is tough work, but if we commit to it, we can build a stronger community: one that is rooted in the fundamental ideals of liberty and justice for all.
In peace and commitment to partnership for the safety of all,
We expect you, as leaders with authority and responsibility for law enforcement in Westchester County, to assume full responsibility for meeting the highest possible standard of accountability, transparency and equal protection to all residents and visitors to our county. Our specific expectations are detailed below.
- Make publicly available the current policies and practices of every police department in [your county], especially policies on de-escalation tactics, implicit bias, use of force, equitable policing, and the penalties for violating these policies
- Make public the training materials used for police officers: including hours spent training on de-escalation, implicit bias, and use of force.
- Start a dialogue with local activists and community residents in order to thoroughly and transparently examine the issues of police use of force, over-policing, and racial bias
- Work to pass all elements of the Right to Know Act, and other local legislation that will take steps towards increasing trust in the police department
- Use your power to advocate for statewide legislation, including Repeal 50-a, which cloaks disciplinary records of police officers in secrecy (New York is currently the worst state in the country in terms of its laws on police misconduct and discipline transparency)
- Deescalate Police: Denounce the use of escalation and violence on protestors as well as the arrests of representatives of the media
We remain committed to working to advance racial justice and hold our police officers accountable, and we invite you to join us in this fight.
In peace and commitment to partnership for the safety of all, Residents and organizations of Westchester County:
Blacks in Law Enforcement
Indivisible New Rochelle
Indivisible Westchester Districts 6 & 7
Indivisible White Plains
Indivisible Yorktown Heights
PISAB/The People’s Institute; for Survival and Beyond NY/Northeast
SURJ Westchester Coordinating Committee
Westchester Black Political Conference
Westchester Coalition Against Islamophobia
Westchester Coalition for Police Reform
Westchester for Change
Westchester Martin Luther King Jr. Institute for Nonviolence
(1) Kaufman, Kathy A. Marijuana Arrests and Enforcement in Westchester County: A New York Story. Drug Policy Alliance, 2018, http://smart-ny.com/marijuana-arrests-westchester/.
(2) See Blacks in Law Enforcement of America. Recommendations for Best Practices, Policies and Training for Police Departments. 2019 [Link], and President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Office of Community Oriented Policing Services Washington, DC, 2015.
(3) Black Law Enforcement Challenges Elected Officials to Pass Police Criminality Laws | Black Westchester Magazine http://www.blackwestchester.com/black-law-enforcement-challenges-elected-officials-to-pass-police-criminality-laws/