Op-Ed: Ongoing racial disparity in NYC justice must end

(Photo via Shutterstock)

Submitted by Reverend Kevin McCall, President, Crisis Action Center, and Sanford Rubenstein, Senior Partner, Rubenstein & Rynecki, Esqs.

The numbers are in and statistics don’t lie – 92% of the arrests during social distancing enforcement were in black and brown communities in this city. In addition, it is important to note District Attorneys in this city are declining prosecution of these arrests. How are we supposed to respond when we see multiple videos of police officers abusing our neighbors while we are in quarantine in our homes?

As the leader and organizer of the first-ever car caravan-motorcade protest during this pandemic, this past week we went to three precincts in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan, shining a light on this disparity. It is unfortunate we must do this in a time where we also have to address the issue of racial disparities in our health care system, which results in blacks and browns horribly suffering during this pandemic.

As a member of the clergy, I am praying for the police officers viewed in these videos not wearing protective masks and not practicing social distancing themselves when they can at the scene of these arrests.

As a civil rights lawyer who represents victims who have suffered at the hands of police all captured on video, pictures of the truth, while being wrongly arrested as New York City police enforce social distancing, I believe this is unacceptable to the people of this city. We implore Mayor de Blasio to direct his Police Commissioner to get his police department under control. The statistics are shocking enough, but what is even more disconcerting is the brutality captured on these videos of members of the NYPD while making these arrests.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is causing death and disease in a disproportionate fashion in black and brown communities, the epidemic of police misconduct in these same communities makes life even more difficult for its citizens.

We urge prosecutors throughout New York City to take a hard look at these videos and open criminal probes with regard to the actions of police officers captured in them. City Government must be responsive to the people. We urge the New York City Council to hold hearings to determine not only how we can end the current epidemic of police brutality, but also how we can prevent this from happening in the future.

The people of this city deserve nothing less. The struggle may be long, but the victory will be certain.

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