New York – New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s prepared remarks for today’s hearing of the Council Committee on Public Safety.
“Thank you, Chair Richards. And I want to thank everyone for being here today.
I want to start by saying that I know this isn’t enough.
It is progress that is long overdue.
We can give New Yorkers the right to go to court to enforce their rights. We can force the NYPD to do more to identify problematic officers. We can send a message that deadly techniques like chokeholds will not be tolerated.
Passing these bills is a step in the right direction, but we have to go even further. These bills alone aren’t going to bring the systemic changes we really need.
So you all have my commitment to keep going. We can start by delivering budget justice and making significant cuts to the NYPD budget and reinvesting that money in communities. By getting police out of our schools. Out of homeless services. Out of mental health. Police should not be the front-line responders to every problem in the City.
We need real alternatives to policing. As long as the core responsibilities of the NYPD remain the same, there is no amount of reform that truly delivers justice. Let’s follow the lead of cities like Minneapolis. Let’s re-envision how policing in this City works and to create a new system.
It’s going to take a lot of work to get there. And we need to make sure that Black people and communities of color are leading this work, every step of the way.
But if we want true change this time, the kind of change that actually puts on the path to a truly racially equal society, then white New Yorkers need to do the work with their own white communities to confront and combat racism and racist policies.
It’s easy and comfortable for some of us to ignore that we live in a racist society. We pay attention to the protests while they’re happening. We’ll make changes around the margins. But then we move on.
It’s not enough to just say you’re not racist. Racism isn’t just about individual cruel acts. Every policy, every law, every action we take either furthers racial inequality or improves it. Racism is deeply imbedded into all of our institutions and into our culture.
To move forward, we have to accept that and commit to changing it. We need to be anti-racist. We need to show Black New Yorkers that we will fight with them and we will fight for them, especially within our own white-dominated communities and networks.
We can’t let this moment pass, the same way we’ve done over and over and over.
We need to confront why nothing has really changed. After Trayvon Martin, after Eric Garner, after Freddie Gray, after Philando Castile, after Tamir Rice, after Sandra Bland, after Layleen Polanco, after Breonna Taylor.
It shouldn’t have taken the video of another murder of a black man at the hands of police or a pandemic where racist and segregationist policies are directly responsible for the high death toll in Black and brown communities.
This is a Democratic town. In a Democratic state. The fact that we have not delivered true change is inexcusable. It’s shameful. And I think every single white Democrat in New York has contributed to it—either through silence and inaction, or through their proactive support for policies that produce racist outcomes.
I did. I’ve made mistakes. I had good intentions, I thought I was doing the right thing. But being defensive isn’t helpful.
Voting to hire 1,300 new cops instead of pushing for more investments in communities was wrong. Increasing the PD’s budget year after year was wrong without making those investments in communities in a meaningful way. Not moving quickly or aggressively enough on police reform was wrong.
We need a reckoning. We don’t need leaders justifying what they’ve done in the past. Because it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t good enough. Instead of defending our records, white leaders need to normalize admitting we were wrong, changing our minds, and course correcting.
I am committed to educating myself on how I can personally do better and how we can do better as a body. And to learning from the Black and brown organizers and advocates the communities that have suffered at the hands of a racist system. I am committed to doing the hard work and taking the steps we need to make real, tangible change.”