By Mary Alice Miller
A middle-aged foster mom is the latest victim of the city’s retail shop-and-frisk policy. While shopping in Macy’s in the Bronx the woman was detained as she made a phone call at the entrance of the store. She was apprehended by on-site personnel, dragged down to the holding cell, kept there for several hours and was told that she had to sign a confession even though she was not charged with any offense. She only signed the confession because she needed to get home to foster children she takes care of and she was told the only way she would be allowed to leave was to sign it.
“This incident points to policies that are ambiguous and uncertain as to what relationship the NYPD and its personnel – on duty or off-duty, or part of the Off-Duty Personnel Unit – and what procedures are in place by for-profit institutions and the NYPD,” said Assemblyman Walter Mosley. “We are very disturbed by this policy and very concerned about its far-reaching ramifications. This policy of shop-and-frisk can have far damaging impacts not only on the persons themselves but on that persons families who rely upon them to support their families and take care of them.”
Mosley explained, “We understand the importance of addressing the intersectionality of race and class as it relates to community policing and the effects of that public policy.” But, he added, “Public safety should never come at the expense of personal liberty, whether it is our personal liberties or as taxpayers what our taxes are being spent on.”
Assemblyman Mosley recently announced the Retail Anti-Profiling Act, which would require transparency on additional policing provided to private businesses by the New York City Police Department – such as the NYPD’s role in potential racial profiling at Barneys and Macy’s – and end the 1994 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) under which the New York City Housing Authority is charged for “additional policing services.” Daniel Squadron is the bill’s co-sponsor in the Senate.
The Retail Anti-Profiling Act would require transparency on “additional policing” provided to private businesses by the NYPD. The bill would require that the city provide information on all agreements to provide additional policing – including the Paid Detail Unit, an NYPD division that provides off-duty police personnel in uniform to private companies for an hourly fee. The city would be required to annually report what these services cost the NYPD and the recipients, the services provided and the policies for off-duty personnel in uniform providing additional police services (e.g., on the use of racial profiling).
The bill would also end the 1994 Memorandum of Understanding, under which NYCHA is charged over $70 million a year for “additional police services”. “Public housing residents should not have to essentially pay double for policing,” said Mosley, “while Barneys and Macy’s apparently has additional NYPD personnel in their stores under ambiguous, nontransparent policies.”
From Mosley’s point of view, “Right now the city is in the dark, and that includes legislators on the municipal and state level as it relates to what services are being provided and the policies for off-duty personnel in uniform. We believe it would only be appropriate that the necessary transparency is presented to the city that would require an annual report to the municipal government of the City of New York as to what services are being provided on a citywide basis and what the fiscal implications are to the NYPD and the people who pay their salaries – the taxpayers of the city of New York.”
This bill would apply to all cities of 1 million or more – 5 cities in New York State. “In reality, we know that it would be more relevant to the city of New York. The bill would also make New York City responsible to make the information available to any city or state agency that needs to have the information.
The 1994 Memorandum of Understanding was generated by NYCHA and the City of New York to charge NYCHA residents $70 million per year for police services. The state has the authority to review the MOU because the state provides funding to any agency under the auspices of New York State, whether it is located in the cities of New York, Rochester, Syracuse or Albany.
“We believe (on its face) this is a bill that doesn’t require a heavy lift. We do believe that if we speak to our members of the Assembly they will pass this bill. We also believe the Senate will look at it from a fiscal policy initiative that if we are talking about a MOU in which NYCHA is charged $70 million and at the same time NYCHA faces a $61 million annual operating deficit, yet it maintains the exorbitant $70 million MOU,” Mosley said. “If it makes dollars, it should make sense.”
In addition, “No one is saying these stores are going to leave the city because this is where their customers are. That argument does not play in this case. We know these multibillion-dollar companies pay zero while we have people living in public housing who are being charged millions,” said Mosley. “To me, it’s a no-brainer. We should be using these relationships and obligations to pay for the operating expenses of NYCHA, and not being done on the backs of the working men and women of the city of New York.”
This bill will be introduced and assigned to committees at the beginning of the next legislative session in January. Mosley recommends concerned citizens call their legislators (particularly the legislators who chair the committees so that the bill will get through committee) and the respective conference leaders to make sure the bill gets to the floor for vote in both the Assembly and Senate so that it can go to the governor’s desk.
“This issue is something that needs to be exposed and flushed out so that we can have policy that is fair, just and equitable,” Mosley said, “and not shrouded in secrecy and ambiguity.”