Two candidates for city office are pushing for the removal of NYPD from roles enforcing traffic and moving those responsibilities to agencies viewed as less problematic.
Current councilman and comptroller hopeful Brad Lander said he would work with council candidate Tiffany Cabán to ensure an end to police violence during traffic stops as well as what many street safety advocates see as victim blaming when it comes to pedestrian and cyclist deaths.
Cabán, formerly a public defender and candidate for Queens District Attorney, spoke of the recent death of scooter rider in the district she is running for, near the Crescent Street bike lane in Astoria.
“We need all the tools we can get in our toolbox to make sure that we’re creating safe communities through defunding, demilitarizing and divestment from our policing systems,” Cabán said. “Being able to take the data and the research and using it to create the kind of political will necessary to make it impossible in the next city council maintain not only the police budget as it exists, but our systems, structures and responses to this as well.”
Lander is proposing that not only is NYPD removed from traffic stops but even from crash investigations, moving these units instead into the purview of the city Department of Transportation. Although progress has been made with bike lanes and open streets, Lander said budget cuts to DOT did not serve to stave off the number traffic deaths nearing an all-time high during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s time in office.
“Unfortunately, rather than add money to [create more bike and pedestrian infrastructure], budget cuts to [DOT] imperil that progress; we continue to spend $1 billion on the NYPD and yet we’re cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from infrastructure work that we know would save lives,” Lander said. “The NYPD is hampered by a windshield view of our streets… is at best a grudging participant in the Vision Zero program.”
The NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad, according to Lander, investigates too few crashes that result in death while blaming victims when they do investigate and failing to provide DOT with recommendations for safety improvements.
Instances such as the death of Allan Feliz, an unarmed man who was killed by NYPD during a traffic stop in the Bronx, could be avoided in the future which Lander has laid out in a full proposal that can be read here.
According to Lander, a basic function of taking bad drivers off the road would be for the de Blasio administration to fund the Reckless Driver Accountability Act, passed by City Council earlier this year and later signed into law.
During the Sunday Zoom discussion, Lander and Cabán endorsed one another for the offices they hope to win in the 2021 municipal elections.