Jeremiah Frei-Pearson for Assembly

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BLM: Criminal Justice Reform

Jeremiah is an unapologetic supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement. He also supports everyone’s right to peacefully protest what is a truly unjust system. He stands with you, grieves with you, he marches with you, and demands change with you.

This country was built on the back of black slavery and despite all the hard-won progress achieved over the centuries, the legacy of slavery and discrimination continues to impact our lives today. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner and so many others should all still be alive, but because of the excessive actions of police officers they aren’t. The sad truth is that being born black in this country means you must constantly be wary of the dangers posed to you by the very people charged with keeping you safe, and that’s something Jeremiah wants to change in the Assembly.

Most police officers want to do good, and - like the officers who gave their lives to save others by running into burning buildings on 9-11 - are true heroes. Jeremiah has had many conversations with police officers about better policing, including the Westchester-Rockland Guardians Association, a group of minority police officers dedicated to reforms and safer policing in our communities. Jeremiah has also heard from many other community leaders and others affected by policing.

After listening to community leaders and conducting research on policing laws across the country and world, Jeremiah has adopted the following list of policy proposals for police reform aimed at preventing police violence and allowing black New Yorkers to begin to feel safer in a state and country that has frequently failed them. This list is not all inclusive, but it does encompass several commonsense, data-backed initiatives we can take to make our communities safer, and hold rogue police officers accountable for their actions.

Increase accountability and transparency when police are involved in violent incidents, especially shootings: Section 50-a of the New York Civil Rights Law currently allows police departments to shield records of police misconduct from the public. 50-a must be repealed because New Yorkers have a right to know the history of the officers charged with protecting them. Increasing transparency promotes accountability for bad cops and builds trust with the public.

Invite oversight from the state’s Attorney General and the federal Department of Justice: When the city of Philadelphia was seeking to reduce police shootings, it voluntarily invited oversight from Obama’s Department of Justice. In the following years, the number of police shootings halved. Put simply, oversight often improves police performance. Current proposals in New York call for independent oversight from the Attorney General when police shoot or kill someone. That needs to be expanded so that a truly independent person or organization that is completely unconnected to the department investigates all allegations of police misconduct and punishes officers found to have committed misconduct or crimes. Truly independent oversight is absolutely essential to restoring public trust.

Create community oversight boards that empower citizens to inspect their police departments for wrongdoing: Due to the high stakes nature of police work, citizens have a right to review complaints made against officers and ensure disciplinary actions are being followed through on. Community oversight boards also allow citizens to feel more confident in the system as a whole since they are represented in the process.

Ban the use of kneeholds and chokeholds as a means of restraint by police officers: Officers have a variety of options when it comes to limiting the movement of suspects. These types of violent holds are what killed Eric Garner and they’re what killed George Floyd. They are incredibly dangerous, especially to those with existing lung conditions like asthma. Some police departments already ban these holds and they continue to operate just fine, so all of New York should follow suit.

Prevent the militarization of our state’s police departments: There is no reason our everyday police officers need to be armed like soldiers at war. Our federal government has a law called the 1033 Program that allows the Department of Defense to transfer excess military property to local law enforcement agencies. Unsurprisingly, when cities arm our police departments with weapons and tools designed for war, there is a demonstrable increase in police fatalities.New York needs to enact legislation preventing law enforcement agencies from receiving any military weaponry from the federal government.

Establish a non-police responder alternative to 911 calls involving people experiencing mental illness or health crises: Many incidents of police violence occur when the police are called on someone experiencing a mental health crisis. Oftentimes it's one of our homeless neighbors. Police have limited training on dealing with someone in such a crisis and sometimes tragically and unnecessarily resort to violence. If we sent trained mental health responders instead of police, the situation would be safer for everyone involved. Here's an example out of Eugene, Oregon.

Invest in community nonprofit based alternatives to police as a crime prevention strategy: Typically when we want to make our communities safer we allocate more funds to the police departments, but what if there were alternatives that were more effective? By reducing poverty and increasing education, which are two of Jeremiah’s top priorities, we can also reduce crime. For example, local community centers that provide after school childcare for working parents or programs that match at risk teens with a mentor from their neighborhood are effective at reducing crime. According to one study, for every 10 such additional organizations in a city the murder rate will drop by 9%, the violent crime rate will drop by 6%, and there will be a 4% reduction in property crime. By investing in our Community, in organizations like the Slater Center, Neighbor’s Link, and so many others, we can make a difference in the lives of our youth and also reduce crime.

Thank you to organizations like CampaignZero, Color of Change, and friends like White Plains Council President Nadine Hunt-Robinson and Rev. Trollinger who've informed our position on these issues.