Promises, promises: De Blasio says he’ll trim NYPD funding, but doesn’t explain how or when

Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a media availability. City Hall. Thursday, May 28, 2020. (Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

After Saturday’s peaceful protests prompted Mayor Bill de Blasio to lift the curfew Sunday, he ignored at a press conference June 7 what amounted to a vote of no confidence across the city and within his administration as he announced law enforcement reforms.

De Blasio said he will begin work to defund the NYPD and shift those funds to social services and urge members of the state legislature to repeal 50-A, a controversial law protecting the identities of law officers accused of misconduct. 

The first announcement may bring a smile to the faces of activists who have charged that the NYPD’s bloated budget under the de Blasio administration will be reduced. The mayor, however, did not expand on how much the department will be defunded, nor did he provide a timetable for accomplishing this.

“I would say to anyone to anyone if they had been watching deeply the change that we’ve made the last 6 1/2 years of that we’ve made, they should know we intend to make a lot more,” de Blasio said. “The discipline process for NYPD is too slow, but we saw evidence the last few days it is going be faster and more appropriate.”

With only a year and a half left in his tenure, de Blasio did not acknowledge the specific calls to reduce the NYPD budget by $1 billion. He did summarize punitive actions taken against officers involved in rough treatment of protesters during the George Floyd marches.

Several officers, including one who pushed a woman to the ground and another who pulled down a protestor’s mask to pepper spray them, have been suspended without pay; the supervisor of the cop who shove the woman has reassigned after taking no action. Further disciplinary action is yet to come, according to the mayor.

Just four protesters were arrested on Saturday night, the mayor said — a deep contrast to nearly a week prior on May 30 when the city said that 350 arrests had taken place alongside looting and rioting. The mayor’s plan for 50-A was brought to the table at this time, however the decision on this would be in the hands of legislators in Albany.

Following a tumultuous first few days of protests, de Blasio said the administration would cull NYPD officers from the force after an extensive review by Corporation Counsel Jim Johnson and city Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett.

Under this review will be the use of batons to quell not only riots, but to force peaceful protesters to disburse on May 31 among many other occasions. De Blasio admitted that he approved the broad tactics used by NYPD during the demonstration in the interest of protecting private property.

Another facet of Sunday’s announcement, which was not attended by NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, stripped the department of its responsibility enforcing street vendors. From now on, the vendors will be enforced by an unspecified civilian body.

De Blasio admitted that NYPD had taken a “heavy-handed” approach to vendors without permits, but did not offer to lift a decades long cap on issuing more permits as street vendors have called for in the past.