July 6, 2020

Statement from #CLOSErikers campaign on Mayor, City Council 2020 Budget Failures

We share the disappointment, outrage, and resolve of our partners in the #NYCBudgetJustice campaign who have already released a statement about the deep failures of this year’s budget.

Once again, a lack of vision and courage has led to a budget that protects law enforcement jobs while cutting crucial services that New Yorkers rely on. It is the presence of these services, and a commitment to meeting people’s needs, that in fact creates safety – not police, correction officers, or district attorneys. This budget fundamentally failed to do what New Yorkers of color and are allies are asking – to reimagine public safety.

The systems of mass criminalization in our City and country are extensive, and we will not be able to dismantle them while maintaining all of the jobs that have been sustained by them. We never said this would be easy, and easy is not the goal. Justice is.

In addition to largely maintaining the 36,000 patrol officers in the NYPD and 5,300 School Safety Agents (now under DOE), this budget also leaves in place at least 5,000 excess corrections officers. While the Mayor recently defended the NYPD by claiming they are causing less harm to New Yorkers because they are firing their weapons less often (while ignoring hundreds of instances of police aggression in recent weeks without firearms), he could not even pretend to make this claim about the Department of Corrections. Just a month ago, a Federal Monitor reported that there has been a 105% increase in incidents of Use of Force by New York City correction officers since 2016. The monitor directly states that the overstaffing of DOC leads to more aggression toward the people in their custody. Specifically, the Monitor noted that “The Department does not struggle to meet minimum staffing requirements, but the abundance of Staff presents other challenges and obstacles.” (p.23), “Although by policy, a Probe Team should consist of four to seven Officers and a Captain, often significantly larger numbers of Staff (up to 30) respond” (p.28).

The approved budget maintains these tens of thousands of law enforcement jobs even while cutting funding to other agencies that provide human services, and to non-profit organizations that employ mostly women of color. Cuts to funding for affordable and supportive housing development will further forfeit the creation of another 22,000 jobs. In 2019, we released a #buildCOMMUNITIES platform (updated in 2020), laying out a roadmap for creating true safety through investing in our communities and repairing the decades of harm caused by mass criminalization. While the demands of that platform are focused on meeting our communities needs, making these investments would also create jobs – jobs as mental health first responders, as restorative justice practitioners, as youth counselors, as employment specialists, in the green economy, for the Parks Department, for Transit, and in many other roles. Our City government has the power to fund those jobs instead, and to ensure that those jobs are compensated as well, or better, than current law enforcement.  The Mayor and Council squandered another opportunity to invest in that vision, and to develop a plan to proactively transition excess officers out of law enforcement roles and into meaningful work that advances the values of equality, fairness, and respect, while providing the training and counseling necessary to support that transition. For officers who do not want to make that transition, early retirement packages and a clear commitment to removing the most abusive officers could also shrink their ranks. Perhaps what our electeds are lacking is a belief that the people of color currently working as correction officers, or School Safety Agents, are capable of being retrained for other more meaningful jobs.

Again, what is truly needed right now is vision and courage.We will push forward, along with our members and partners — to secure the investments our communities have always deserved.

The #CLOSErikers Campaign