America has come upon its "New Deal moment" in reforming police practices and addressing systemic racism within law enforcement, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
De Blasio, who runs the nation's largest municipal police department, said the repeal of a New York state code that that shields police personnel records from public scrutiny will be a crucial first step.
"This is our New Deal moment," de Blasio told reporters, comparing police brutality to the Great Depression. De Blasio did not offer specifics on reform plans beyond discussing the personnel records change.
"This is, despite the pain, and I assure you and I heard it from my own relatives, what they went through in the Depression, what they went through in World War II, that trauma and pain was also the foundation for fundamental change that we came to know as the New Deal and all the things that still exist today that made this is a better county. This is our transformative moment."
Since the death of George Floyd, police critics in New York state have stepped up efforts to dismantle that personnel safeguard, known as state civil rights law, Section 50-a. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged to sign the repeal, tweeting Wednesday that: "I stand with the protestors.This week we turn that solidarity into action."
Like departments across America, the NYPD has seen high-profile cases involving white police officers killing black men, such as the shooting of Amadou Diallo in 1999 and the Eric Garner case in 2014. And more recently, New York police officers have been accused of misconduct against protesters, including driving into a crowd and using excessive force to push them back. This week, an officer who was seen shoving a woman to the ground at a protest in Brooklyn was charged with assault, criminal mischief, harassment and menacing.
New York unions representing police and correction officers have opposed stripping their members of that protection.
"I don't think 50-a goes far enough to protect correction officers or police officers," New York City Correction Officer Benevolent Association President Elias Husamudeen said Tuesday. "Why should our personal information, our personnel information, be floating around a jail?"
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal was a series of programs and public works projects instituted to bring America out of the Great Depression.