New York City Policing at the Crossroads

FIERCE director of organizing Fred Ginyard. | DONNA ACETO

FIERCE director of organizing Frederic Ginyard. | DONNA ACETO

Police criminalization of poor, queer, and trans communities of color, in the form of state-sanctioned genocide, has become the standard approach in New York City and across the country. With the departure of Commissioner Bill Bratton, New York City is at a crossroads and needs real progressive leadership. We already know our communities are fed up with the status quo.

FIERCE is an organization that works to uplift the leadership of queer, trans, and gender non-conforming youth of color. We know what side of the line they fall on. They are on the side that is disproportionately impacted by poverty, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, racism, hyper-surveillance, homelessness, and the criminalization of survival. We live in a city that continues to throw away human beings fighting to survive without the resources to live.

We can either continue to throw away human life or we can change our systems to uplift marginalized communities. Incoming Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill has already stated he plans to continue the work of Commissioner Bratton; most of us are horrified if that prospect becomes true. When things like this transpire we wonder what happened to the progressive promises of Mayor Bill de Blasio. Does he want us to continue to get harassed? Does he want us to get searched without consent? Does he think police should have the right to be anonymous?

We have a city government that claims to be progressive and to hear the systematic issues facing many communities across New York City. The reality of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Commissioner Bratton’s backroom deal shows their support for the continuation of a city that is not built for us to live free or even to survive in. The fact is New York City’s solution to the problems of poverty, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, racism, and homelessness is out of sight, out of mind. We have had enough of the Broken Windows policies that are used to displace, brutalize, and kill our communities. We want more policies grounded in our collective freedom, healing, and liberation.

New York City has been and continues to be a place where pilot programs, policies, and laws are created, tested, and spread across the country. It is time for New York City to become a beacon of hope to the rest of the nation’s marginalized communities. We live in a society that is deeply interconnected. Each life — no matter the circumstances of that life — brings a value to our society. Those who are at the bottom rung of society have fallen through the cracks systemic oppression has created. If we truly want to build a society that is built on the solid foundation that every person is created equal, then we must lift up those who have fallen. We must listen to the solutions that marginalized communities have created to address the problems that the privileged do not see. These solutions are not attempts take away the hard work of other people but to say we are here and we can help build a better world for us all.

New York City could be the place that holds police accountable to the demands of all black women, black girls, and black women of trans experience. New York could be the city that leads the fight to end the genocide on black, brown, immigrant, indigenous, queer, trans, gender non-conforming, youth, poor, and homeless communities.

In order for this to happen, New York City must take the road least traveled. The path will be long and hard. However, nothing worth doing is ever easy. New York City’s elected officials must become the progressive leaders the people of New York elected. New York City must stop throwing away human life and start investing in it. New York City must divest in practices that kill New Yorkers like the militarization of the NYPD. New York City must end the racial, religious, and gender profiling of all New Yorkers. New York City must end the use of Broken Windows policing as a tool of gentrification that pushes out marginalized communities. New York City must end the relationship with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement that separates and destroys families. New York must create a real independent system of accountability for police officers that abuse their power and New Yorkers across the city — as spelled out in the proposed Right to Know Act, which would require police to identify themselves, state the reason for stopping and interrogating a citizen, and obtain objective proof that a citizen has consented to a search. New York City must create laws based in the complex intersectional identities, experiences, and interdependence of New Yorkers if we want to see New York City rise as the city we all know it can be.

This is not something that can wait. How many more lives will our communities have to lose before New York City is ready to act? This is a call to action for today and not tomorrow. Tomorrow will be too late.

Frederic Ginyard is director of organizing at FIERCE (