Proponents of Community Safety Act speak
by Kathleen Lees
Oct 31, 2012 | 1553 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Residents of New York City spoke up this past week regarding recent legislation that could help end stop-and-frisk procedures, known as the Community Safety Act.

The police reform legislative package would require officers to explain the reasons why they are stopping someone, as well as provide their name and rank when conducting a stop. It would also set up a new Inspector General’s office to supervise the program.

Many New Yorkers who have been critical of stop and frisk felt that the act could bring about the change they have been looking for to the area.

Speaking through a translator, Divay Mendez was one of about 50 people who shared his experiences at a hearing on the act this past Wednesday at the York College of Performing Arts Center in Jamaica.

Mendez, a member of the LGBTQ community who moved to the U.S. from Mexico ten years ago, was arrested for prostitution when she was found in possession of two condoms on a trip to a local restaurant. Artistiabal went on to say that an officer ripped Mendez’s wig off and arrested her in public view.

“I never understood what I did wrong until I met other transgender women in New York,” Mendez said. “They trampled on my rights. That’s why I beg you to help pass the Community Safety Act.”

A strong supporter of the Community Safety Act, other members from Make the Road New York shared their stories at the hearing of harassment and discrimination as members of the LGBTQ community. The organization recently released statistics that suggest that members of the LGBTQ community are more likely to be targeted by police.

A survey conducted by Make the Road New York and the New York City Gay and Lesbian anti-Violence project showed that 51 percent of individuals surveyed who listed themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or other had been stopped by the police, and a third of them had also been physically harassed.

And for those listed as transgender, fifty-nine percent of transgender respondents said they had been stopped by police. For non-LGBTQ members, the odds of being stopped by a police officer were 28 percent.

Some political figures are not in support of its plan. Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. is one of the few figures fighting to maintain stop and frisk as it stands.

Specifically, Vallone said he is worried about the passing of Intro 800, one of the four parts of the Community Safety Act that would ban profiling. Vallone called this facet of the bill irresponsible.

“This would cause a massive hole in the city’s budget and turn over control of the police department to the courts,” he said.

Referencing the bill in general, Vallone also added that he disagreed with forcing officers to get consent before a search. “That’s like telling teachers what color crayons to use,” he said.

The bill is currently pending in the City Council awaiting a legislative hearing and vote.

As last week’s hearing came to a close, Councilwoman Deborah Rose, one of the bill’s 30 sponsors, said that while there would always be a need for police to ensure public safety, she added, “I do not believe that the city’s LGBTQ population, Muslim community, communities of color or, in fact, anyone should be in constant fear of what will happen to them if they encounter the police.”

Many attendants left with hopes that the Community Safety Act could pass in the near future. However, some left with feelings of resentment.

“I don’t like these things,” Jose LaSalle said, who’s stepson, Alvin, had been called a mutt by police during a stop and frisk.

Lasalle said that he was skeptical of officials’ commitment to the proposed legislation. “How long are they going to keep having these (public hearings) until they do the right thing?” he asked

A representative from the NYPD who was scheduled to attend the meeting canceled a few hours before the hearing.
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