Hon. Bill de Blasio
New York, NY 10007
Commissioner William J. Bratton
One Police Plaza
New York, NY 10038
Dear Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton:
The undersigned community organizations work with communities in New York City and around the country. We are writing to express our outrage and concerns over the ongoing discriminatory practices of the New York Police Department.
In particular, we draw attention to an incident that occurred to Chaumtoli Huq, a human rights lawyer and former public servant, serving as general counsel to Public Advocate Letitia James. Ms. Huq was unlawfully arrested on July 19 after NYPD officers used unreasonable and wholly unprovoked force after she left a pro-Palestinian rally.
On the day of her arrest, Ms. Huq was wearing a traditional South Asian tunic while waiting on a public sidewalk for her husband and their 6- and 10-year-old children to come back from a bathroom stop in Times Square when she was told by an officer to leave.
Ms. Huq was not blocking any passage that would prevent the public from free access to the sidewalk. When she asked why she had to leave, Officer Ryan Lathrop became irate. He continued to use force to arrest her, and when Ms. Huq said that she was in pain, Officer Lathrop told her “shut your mouth.” When Officer Lathrop found out Ms. Huq had a different last name than her husband, he told her “in America, wives take the names of their husbands.” Ms. Huq was arrested and held at the local precinct for nine hours. Officers falsely claimed she had refused instructions to move and had “flailed her arms and twisted her body” to make it more difficult for them to handcuff her.
This arrest is characteristic of a pattern and practice of the NYPD of aggressive overpolicing of people of color and persons lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. It also shows a lack of gender sensitivity and ignorance towards diverse cultures in New York. No police officer should harass anyone, let alone question cultural norms of family relationships.
This incident did not take place in a vacuum, as over-policing, discrimination, and police brutality has been at the forefront of national dialogue. Police misconduct and civil rights abuses following the police shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has shocked the conscience of the nation.
Even within New York City, however, we have plenty of examples of horrific over-policing. The entire nation watched as Eric Garner was killed, choked and thrown to the ground and jumped on by a physically aggressive officer as he wheezed “I can’t breathe.” Police officers bloodied the 84-year old Kang Chun Wong for jaywalking. The twitter feed for #myNYPD shows a litany of photos of NYPD officers using unnecessarily brutal means.
Today, we are writing to urge you to implement reforms and engage in proactive outreach to end the patterns of discrimination and over-policing that disproportionately impacts our communities, erodes trust, and separates our families at the hands of overzealous police officers.
Specifically, we urge you to:
- Ensure Accountability: The NYPD needs to show the communities it serves that it is serious about holding accountable those police officers who erode community trust. We urge the NYPD to remove Arresting Officer Ryan Lathrop from the streets and interacting with the public. He was allegedly involved in another incident of over-policing when he grabbed a civilian’s video camera. http://www.ny1.com/content/politics/213429/ny1-exclusive–tensions-rise-as-nypd-increasingly-recorded-by-camera-wielding-public/
- Increase Transparency: Mandate that all police officers wear body cameras while on duty. This will create a record of police interactions with community members that can be accessed if there is an allegation of misconduct.
- Enhance Training: Provide rigorous training to NYPD on interacting with South Asian/Muslim community members, and on gender sensitivity. Investigate allegations of police misconduct against New York Muslim Americans and incidents of sexual harassment by officers while arresting women.
- Cultivate Trust: Meet regularly with community members and leaders of diverse South Asian and Muslim American communities to discuss how police interactions impact their lives and how officers can better serve them.
As part of your mayoral campaign, you heavily emphasized the “tale of two cities.” The reality is that New York City is faced not only with economic inequality that needs to be addressed, but also a justice system that treats some New Yorkers as outsiders, as inherently suspect due to their identities. This is not just a political abstraction – this occurs everyday. New Yorkers require that this crisis be addressed not with a political response but with substantive reform that would assure an end to discriminatory tactics and over-policing of communities of color. We urge you to address this important issue as soon as possible by meeting with our organizational representatives and taking appropriate actions to reform the police practices in New York City.