My name is Robin. I’m a youth organizer apart of FIERCE, an organization for LGBTQ youth of color dedicated to community empowerment. I’d like to thank the Committee on Finance, and the chair Julissa Ferreras for allowing me to testify. I’d also like to thank the organizations here that are speaking in solidarity with me.
The budget plan to spend $94.3 million on hiring a thousand new NYPD officers relies on the fallacy that more cops equals more safety. There is no genuine data showing a correlation between the increase of police officers and community safety, or between the decrease of frisks and an increase of gun violence. If anything, the NYPD is complicit in rising numbers of assault and murders against civilians. Need we be reminded of Ramarley Graham, the unarmed Bronx teenager who was shot and killed in his own home in front of his family by Richard Haste, and still has not received justice. We are never told how the police was protecting us when 14-year-old Javier Payne had his head smashed through a storefront window by a cop and nearly died.
If one looks back on the history of the Christopher Street Pier, for decades corpses, some of them belonging to our own comrades and our social justice leaders, have piled up and been neglected by investigators or law enforcement. What’s done now by police in that area is enforcing the curfew and limiting our access to public space, instead of deterring actual violence.
I understand that this proposal comes out of a spike in gun violence and a very real desire to stop more lives from being lost, but adding to the NYPD’s numbers when they already have adequate resources (a fact acknowledged by Commissioner Bratton) is not the way to address it. Instead of allocating more guns and capital to a police force that has failed time and time again to be accountable to the communities they supposedly serve, we can invest in some organizations like the Anti-Violence Project, or the Audre Lorde Project, that work towards developing community responses to violence. Strategies like training business owners to identify and de-escalate potentially violent situations allows communities to have sustainable plans for safety on their own terms.
Furthermore, as a high school student who qualifies for free lunch, I find it ironic that that’s being addressed in the same hearing. According to a report released in March by the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, 16% of students in the country are Black, but they make up about a third of school-related arrests. What’s the point of an institution feeding the same young black and brown bodies that it criminalizes?
The reality is that an increasing police presence has done more to antagonize communities of color, queer communities, youth, and folks like me who lie at the intersections of these identities, than it has done to protect us.