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OP-ED: Further Actions Legislators Can Take To Reform the NYPD

Photo: Unsplash @anneniuniu

July 27, 2020 Op-Ed By: Heajin-Hailie Kim

Amidst calls for legislative change surrounding the police, there have been many issues addressed by the New York City Council: reallocating a billion dollars from the New York Police Department into education, housing and social services.

While these are important steps to take in reforming the NYPD, there also needs to be discussion about police interactions with youth.

The racial lines in police interactions with adults can also be seen in police interactions with young people, according to the Civilian Complaint Review Board’s “Report on Youth and Police”, predominantly affecting “young males of color” who were 64.8 percent of those affected.

This number is similar to the fact that 68 percent of people arrested for social distancing violations citywide were black. According to research conducted at the University of Texas at San Antonio, youth who were stopped more often by police officers were more likely to report emotional trauma.

Their findings show that youth’s perceptions of their negative encounters with officers could also be harmful to their emotional health. If being stopped and frisked by police has this much impact on a young person, we must take explicit steps to protect minors who are arrested and held in police custody.

On a list of recommendations by the CCRB is a recommendation to “create a stricter requirement on officers to notify parents or guardians when a young person is brought into the police station” is both a crucial and poignant one.

Currently, while parents are notified, a delayed notification of over three hours is not considered a misdemeanor. Furthermore, in a case cited by the CCRB, parents of young people held in police custody “were not called until the children were handcuffed to a bar in the juvenile room and frisked.”

Furthermore, the report states that the youth(s) involved were not able to speak with their parents until after they were released.  Considering some children mentioned in the report are as young as 8, the delayed notification to a parent/guardian while holding a child in custody for over three hours is unethical, especially considering young people are less likely to know their rights.

Timely notification of a minor’s parent is crucial, and there are two ways to make this protocol in police interactions with youth. The first is to remove the vagueness of the phrase “timely notification” by specifying that an arresting officer must contact a guardian of the minor’s choice within the first hour of an arrest.  The second is to enforce this by making it so that if an officer does not comply, it is marked on their record as a misconduct.

This is a start, and considering the fact that the officer is already in contact with the guardian, it should also become protocol to allow minors to speak with a guardian of their choice within the first hour of their arrest as well, with the same consequence in place for officers who fail to let a child in their custody to speak to a parent/guardian.

Passing this as legislation, and taking measure to enforce this, would increase transparency in how police treat our young people.

Under Governor Cuomo’s direction, local governments have until April to re-imagine policing in New York City.  A good start, though it cannot possibly address all the systemic issues in our police system, would be to ensure that parents or guardians of minors in police custody are informed and allowed to speak to their children.

Reading other reports from the Civilian Complaint Review Board and their recommendations, while also pushing to have an elected Complaint Review Board, would help New York City understand what needs to be done, as well as extensive dialogue with the communities most affected by police misconduct.

Hailie Kim is an adjunct professor in the English department at Hunter College.  She is running for City Council in district 26 to represent Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City and parts of Astoria.  

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