Council members Deborah Rose, D-Staten Island, Jumaane Williams, D-Brooklyn, and Margaret Chin, D-Manhattan, presided over the hearing, which discussed the proposed Community Safety Act bills and allowed testimony from New Yorkers impacted by the practice.
More than 200 people attended the hearing, with 34 individuals testifying, often emotionally, to their experiences with the practice. Many disillusioned New Yorkers expressed frustration with what they called unjust and discriminatory incidents with the police.
"We're not anti-police," said Williams, who noted he was happy to hold the hearing in Brooklyn, in his district and at his alma mater. "We are not for no policing, we are for better policing."
Rose agreed, saying that she does not believe the LGBTQ, Muslim, black or latino communities should be in constant fear of encountering the police, and that there needs to be a way to make these communities feel safe and secure, not persecuted.
"The community is very aggravated, almost to the point of anarchy," said one man. He said he had been struck in the leg, causing considerable damage to his knee, after he got involved when he said he saw a Police Officer strike a woman he is friends with. "I can't even run around after my 2-year-old son, and all because I spoke up."
Leroy Gadsden, president of the Jamaica, Queens Branch of the NAACP, also spoke. "I think it's obvious the police can't police themselves," Gadsden said. "You don't have to beat people… to enforce the law."
Gadsden said he is afraid of what will happen if the practices discussed continue.
"Citizen cooperation is a tool in stopping crime," he said. "If [the police is] asking citizens to surrender their liberties… they need to be prepared to justify their asking."
Many that spoke stressed their desire for the council to pass the Community Safety Act, a package of legislation that would ban any form of profiling by the NYPD and require police officers to obtain proof of consent to a search as well as explain to New Yorkers that they do not have to consent to a search if there is no warrant or probable cause.
The Act would also require police officers to provide their name to the subjects of law enforcement activity as well as the specific reason for the stop and a business card to the person being stopped that includes information on how to file a complaint.
The Act also calls for the establishment of an Inspector General, a position that is present in ever major New York City agency except the NYPD. The Inspector General would have the authority to review NYPD policies, recommend changes to make the Department more effective, make regular reports to the Police Commissioner, Mayor, City Council and public about its findings. The Inspector General would also have subpoena power.
After the more than three-hour hearing concluded, Rose thanked those who attended and shared their views for participating.
"Know your testimony is part of City Council record," she said, noting that these testimonies will help to strengthen their cause to have this legislation pass.