Editorial | City Hall must take police reform order seriously

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio in a side-by-side address on March 2, 2020 about the first coronavirus case in New York City. (Photo by Mark Hallum)
Photo by Mark Hallum

On June 12, Governor Andrew Cuomo threw down a heavy challenge for New York City and other localities across the NYPD: Reform your police departments by April 1, 2021, or risk losing almost all of your state funding. 

Cuomo made the challenge through an executive order amid calls to end police brutality and racial injustice made during the ongoing George Floyd protests. Every county and municipality has been charged to reform their police departments and pass a law establishing those changes over the next nine months.

Why threaten to withhold funding if the localities don’t comply with the order? Cuomo explained this incentivizes the cities and counties to do what he believes must be done: Modernize and reform each local police department to better fit the needs and wants of the communities they serve — and help put an end to the injustice and inequality suffered by people of color.

Cuomo not only put the ball squarely in City Hall’s hands, but he also flipped the hourglass over. New York City is on the clock. What will Mayor Bill de Blasio do now?

We asked the Mayor’s office that question, and the response was far from inspiring. 

They offered no specifics on how they’ll comply with the order, saying only that they would work with the state further. To us, that seems to miss the points of the governor’s order and related statements.

Cuomo has ordered New York City to reform and overhaul, from top to bottom, the largest police department in the country, and to do so in consultation with not just police officials but the people the NYPD serves — politicians, activists, protesters, public safety experts, the general public.

If the city doesn’t want to change anything, Cuomo said, that’s fine; they can pass a law before April 1 affirming that what they have is fine. But even if that’s fine with de Blasio, it’s clear that the vast majority of the City Council wouldn’t agree with him. 

Should the city fail to meet the April 1 deadline, New York City will lose millions upon millions of dollars in state funding at a time when we need every dime we can get. 

De Blasio cannot afford to play political football with the governor on this one — nor can he ignore the calls for significant NYPD reform. No more dithering or empty promises; it’s time for de Blasio to get serious and take action.