A Letter to NYC City Council – June 12, 2020

We Are New York

Hello,

My name is Danny Ward and I am a resident of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. I am writing to urge you to vote to reallocate major portions of the NYPD budget to be heavily invested in social and youth programs, schools, and communities along with instilling systems that hold officers and departments accountable for their actions.

We, as a city, and as a country, desperately need to shift our focus and our spending onto improving our communities and the lives of our citizens. We have allowed this system to purvey for too long.

Police officers should not be responsible for handling, or even be involved in, the treatment of our homeless, mentally ill, and desperately impoverished citizens (those being only a few examples). We must break this flawed and damaging cycle of punishment over betterment, incarceration over rehabilitation, and intimidation over humanity. We need drastic changes. And we need leaders who aren’t afraid to make them. Please prove you deserve the offices you hold. Listen to the people of this city and vote our voice.

There are great ideas being echoed through our streets right now by your constituents (even if they are being voiced with, in my opinion, a less than perfectly worded slogan – Defund the Police). But the ideas within that slogan are undeniably strong and valid and must be heartily considered and discussed (and hopefully put into effect).

We saw, yesterday, former Vice President Biden on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah discussing it. I was disappointed in his quick dismissal because he wouldn’t want to send his daughter alone – as a social worker – to answer a possibly dangerous call. This kind of flippant assumption and dismissal is a HUGE problem in the trust between we, the people, and you, the elected officials; it makes light of valid ideas and shows us, the voices you say you represent and want to hear from, that you haven’t really listened to what we said, you haven’t really heard us. And it says you won’t even try to put any thought into it to see if we may actually have some good ideas we can build upon.

We, of course, need to responsibly implement structure and policy within these ideas – that is the very next step. Again to use Vice President Biden’s interview: After he suggested perhaps a social worker accompany the police, Trevor followed up, asking him if he could possibly see a scenario where the police wouldn’t be involved, using psychiatric hospitals as an example. And VP Biden responded that in those facilities, the guards are allowed to use force. This is true (sort of – much of that force is abuse and is another issue we as a society need to correct). But why can we not escape that thought of police (and force) needing to be involved in a non-criminal situation?

Why not use the hospital’s model? Meaning: Don’t involve police but provide to social workers a trained and specialized professional who is there in a safety capacity – both for the social worker and the individual in need. My best friend is a teacher with a masters in special needs education, focusing on autism. He’s 6’ 7” and played college basketball. Frequently, at his specialized school in Brooklyn, is he asked to accompany other teachers into other classrooms in a support capacity because he is: 1. Trained and educated in how to approach and handle situations that may arise, 2. He is physically large enough and strong enough to provide support (physically if need be) without himself or anyone else getting hurt (hopefully). He is not there as a force of intimidation or threat. He doesn’t take over the scenario upon entering the room. He’s there as a safety net, just in case. This makes it clear to everyone involved that force is an undesired outcome and is only to be used as an absolute last resort.

We must begin to break the thinking that policing and the police themselves are the answer to any situation outside of crime. They aren’t. Involving them often adds an element of stress and intimidation that can push situations into unnecessary escalation and needlessly lead to lives being drastically worsened. We shouldn’t accept police as a military force imposing “good behavior” on us. In the history of humans, that’s never gone well. We also shouldn’t ask cops to be our universal saviors. That’s too much to put on anyone. It’s why medicine is so specialized – because every health issue requires specialized knowledge, training and experience. There are no doctors of everything. We wouldn’t trust one if there was, would we? Why and how, then, can we expect the police to be the answer to each and every issue this city (and the country) faces?

I truly hope you vote for and instill huge changes – call them whatever you want – defunding, reforming, restructuring, reassessing, reimagining… whatever you call it, vote to create a better way for us to live together. Instill transparency, accountability, and responsibility within each and every department – redraw the scope of responsibility placed on them, rewrite the code of conduct and psychological requirements, then reevaluate each and every officer, from top to bottom, and remove those that do not fully represent the new NYPD. And open the funding floodgates for education, health services, social work, small-businesses and community and youth programs – especially those in impoverished neighborhoods.

Let New York City be the example for the rest of the country to follow. Let’s show them all why we call this the greatest city in the world and why we are New York strong. Vote for change!

Thank you,

Danny Ward

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