The protests have served not only as a way to express collective grief, anger and frustration at the way our country has failed black lives, but also to demand changes to policing and the criminal justice system.
It’s clear that the protests have worked. The New York State Legislature, led by the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, swiftly passed a slate of police reforms, highlighted by the repeal of 50-a, which shielded the disciplinary records of law enforcement officers.
Some of these bills, like Assemblywoman Diana Richardson’s legislation to make it a crime to call 911 based on a person’s race, gender, religion or sexual orientation, languished in Albany for years before protests erupted, providing the necessary momentum for their passage.
To his credit, Governor Andrew Cuomo took up the “Say Their Name” Reform Agenda, and signed the package of legislation into law.
He took the calls for change a step further by signing an executive order requiring all local governments and police departments to come up with a plan to reform their practices by next April.
If local police departments don’t modernize and innovate their policies, they may not be eligible for state funding.
That’s why it was troubling when Cuomo later said demonstrators “don’t need to protest” anymore because they “accomplished their goals” for police reform.
The governor is wrong. It’s precisely because of the massive civil unrest across the country that lawmakers and policymakers are paying attention. While New York has made great strides, even more needs to be done.
For starters, the City Council has officially proposed cutting $1 billion from the NYPD budget. It’s a bold request, one that is supported by an increasing number of New Yorkers who are realizing that city funds could be better used on social services, youth programs and other worthy causes.
Elected representatives have only gotten to this point because of protesters. They should not stop or yield while they have our attention.