Thursday, June 18, 2020

MAYOR DE BLASIO on COVID-19 and The State bof the City June 17, 2020

  Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. Years from now, we're going to look back, we're going to see this as a turning point in the history of our city and certainly the history of our nation as well. We're going to look back and see this as a moment where things changed, many of which seemed impossible to change. We're going to recognize this as a moment where the pain that people were feeling, the anger, the frustration came out in a new and powerful way and change happened because the people's voices were heard. And in that is a positive notion, unquestionably. The notion that in a democracy, the voices of people can and will be heard. And when they are heard, when change comes, in a sense there is a rebirth as a reminder of what we are capable of, what our potential is and a free and democratic society. A rebirth for this city, because we come to grips with our contradictions and our pain, and we act on it. Our people have been demanding something better. People have felt that what they have lived through isn't right, isn't fair. There's not respect. There's not decency. They deserve better. And they are right. And their city is listening. Their city is acting. I'm listening. I'm acting. I feel what people are saying. Things have to change. They are changing and they will change more. And together we get an opportunity to re-envision our city, and decide that we can do something better and something different than said that in this moment, not only where we're dealing with the profound issues of structural institutional racism, but we're dealing with the disparities that have come up because of the coronavirus that we can and will create a different city that we're not just going to bring back a broken status quo, but something better and fairer. That's what we will do over the next year and a half. And today I will provide further evidence that change is starting right now.

One of the bellwethers for a fair and just society is whether there is accountability across the board. Whether there's one standard for everyone. Whether our officers in uniform or government officials are treated the same way as everyday New Yorkers. Whether justice is the same for everyone. We have seen in these last days, profound actions to prove that it can be that way. It has not been in the past. It can be, it must be. The action the legislature took on the 50A law, ending a fundamental interference with transparency, and openness, and democracy. That action has now opened up a world of possibilities for us. Yesterday, I announced that we are releasing all audio and video from body worn cameras worn by police officers in key moments, key instances. That will be released as a matter of course, going forward. And I want to be clear that I talked about that policy in terms of what's going to happen from this point on, but I also want everyone to know, we will apply that new policy retroactively going back to the first day that we used body worn cameras for our officers here in New York City. So, all audio and video from cases that meet the standards I discussed yesterday will be retroactively released in the coming weeks.

That is an important step forward, but what I want to announce now, I think is a profound step, because it goes to what real transparency looks like and how the end of the old law in Albany has now opened up a world of real opportunity to show people what's going on, and to give people faith that the truth is there for them to see. The things we're going to talk about today literally would have been very hard to imagine just weeks ago. But it comes down to this, if we're going to have trust between police and community, you have to have that transparency, because think about what it feels like. I've heard the voices of people who say this, if they feel they were mistreated, but they don't think there's going to be any consequence for the person who has mistreated them, think what that feels like. Now, again, I've talked a lot about white privilege lately. I've talked a lot about what some of us have experienced and others haven’t. Many of us have not experienced the reality of feeling disrespected by a police officer or feeling like our rights were violated, or we weren't heard, or we weren't seen, or we were treated in a manner that was totally inconsistent with what was going on. We haven't gone through that, a lot of us, but many millions of New Yorkers have in one form or another. If you're that person who feels wronged, if you’re that person who feels disrespected or devalued, you want to know that there's going to be some consequence for that. You want to know there's going to be actual due process. You want to know that your voice is heard, and it's painful to think it might not be. And too often, that's the reality that people simply felt no matter how right they were, no matter how wrong was the thing that happened to them, nothing would be a consequence. There would be no consequence for what happened. When people don't think there's going to be justice, how is there going to be trust? So, we have to restore trust, and the best way to restore trust is to show that the accountability is there. That the internal disciplinary process of the NYPD will be fast, will be fair, will be transparent. When you believe that the process is actually about justice. It opens up the pathways of trust and communication.

Now, we know for too long within the NYPD even when justice was served, it took a very, very long time, and that corroded trust in and of itself. The internal affairs Bureau charged with rooting out misdeeds of all kinds is given by law and by policy months and months to do investigations, years for any internal judicial process. And every day that passes the people who felt victimized feel more and more pained, because it doesn't feel like justice is coming. It doesn't feel like there's an honest process. It causes a deeper loss of faith, it causes more frustration, more anger. The very process that’s supposed to bring justice in many cases has made the situation worse. And this has been particularly true when someone got hurt, when someone got killed. Any time where an individual civilian was harmed, that's where people are watching especially. And they want to know there will be speedy justice. And I mean justice, which means following the facts wherever they may lead. Sometimes those facts show that officers did exactly the right thing. Sometimes it shows they did not, or any point in between, but it has to be a process that people can see openly and that moves speedily and that people have faith in because they see results. Everything comes down to consequences and results. When they actually exist, people start to have faith again.

Today, I'm announcing two major changes for the justice system within the NYPD, involving any case where there's substantial injury to a civilian. First, on the immediate decision, in any such case of whether an officer will be modified, meaning that their badge and gun will be taken away or suspended fully, that decision in cases where there's substantial injury to a civilian, that decision will be made by the police commissioner within 48 hours. I will note that, of course, there will be exceptional situations. When for example, a district attorney gets involved or there are other very particular dynamics that might cause more time, but the standard will be 48 hours for that initial decision. And then the standard for the Internal Affairs Bureau will be to finish its full investigation for immediate decisions about the disciplinary process in two weeks or less. People deserve to know that if an officer has done something wrong, that the action involving their immediate status is very quick, and that the decision about whether there will be further disciplinary action happens in a meaningful timeframe. Internal Affairs Bureau will be given two weeks to come to that initial decision on what needs to happen next with a judicial proceeding. It has never been this quick in the history of this city, and it has never been based on an open, transparent timeline like I'm discussing now. This is what we have to do in this city today and in our future. This is what we need to do everywhere to show people there will be real accountability.

Now, another piece that's crucial. With the 50-a law repealed, we now are able to ask the question, what can we do with this new ability to share information with the people. Today, we're going to start a massive effort to make public information regarding to police discipline. And this information will move very quickly and ultimately all of it will be available online. I'm going to describe to you three phases that we'll undertake immediately. First, as immediate action, all trial decisions now will be published. This was not allowable under 50-a, now it will be.

Second by July, we will publish information on every pending case within the NYPD. Every case where charges have been filed – that is 1,100 cases – those are the ones in the pipeline now – we will publish the officer's name, charges, the hearing date and the ultimate resolution when it occurs. Third phase, and this is a longer-term phase, but it will allow us to do something historic to create a comprehensive, publicly available set of disciplinary records. This is historic because it will cover every active member of the police force— all records for every active member available in one place, online, publicly, all past trial decisions will be available. And any other formal actions that came out of those disciplinary proceedings, it'll be online, it will be easy to use and to access. This is the nation's largest city, we have the nation's largest police force, for the nation's largest police force to take these actions, sends a message, not only to the people in this city, but to people all over this country, that we can do things very differently. And transparency is not something to fear, but something to embrace because that's where trust and faith will deepen, when people see that all this information is out in the open, just as it would be for any of us as citizens. Every officer will be held accountable, and for so many officers who every single day do the hard work, do the right thing, they will know that the work that they do, the fact that they're out there protecting people will be honored and respected. And for folks to do the wrong thing, just like the rest of us they'll know that the consequences will be clear, but the goal is to move us all forward. The goal is to use that transparency, to build a sense of trust again, to build a sense that we can work together, that it's not one standard for some of us, another standard for others, but a single standard, and that is the basis for a new and better relationship.

So, I have fundamental belief that accountability is the way forward. These standards will now change the entire discussion right down to the grassroots right down to every block of New York City, and give us a foundation from which to move forward. I said in the beginning, the voices of people are being heard, not just the voices from the recent protests, the voices of people I've heard over years and years in this city. And it's so important to always listen to those voices, and I also hear people in the city talking about their fears of all of the other challenges that they're facing this moment, as I've been out around neighborhoods and the city, people are talking about their fears about what's happening to their livelihoods, to their jobs, to their families. What about their health? What about the future health of their families? What about the coronavirus and what it means now and going forward? These are the things that people are talking about. We have to hear those concerns; we have to act on them. One of the biggest concerns has been the desire for more information for each person, and that means testing. Coming back to that key concept again, people want testing, they want it to be easy, they want it to be fast, they want it to be free, they want it to be very near where they live. And that's our mission to give more and more testing to the people of New York City opening this week, five new community testing sites, two in Staten Island, one in Queens, one in the Bronx, one in Brooklyn. And I, myself experienced testing yesterday at the Health + Hospitals Gouverneur Clinic. I want to thank everyone at the clinic, wonderful people, who've been doing this work now for weeks and weeks. And I talked to them about how people in the community are responding and they say there's been a lot of gratitude. Folks are coming in realizing how fast and easy it is spreading the word, I want to urge all New Yorkers, go get tested. It is fast, it is easy, it is free, and I want to emphasize that it is free. We now have over 200 sites citywide to find out where you can get tested, go to And we're bringing testing to the people wherever they may be. Today, in the Bronx, we're going into parks outside the Clinton playground, in the Bronx, today. And on Thursday and Friday, outside the Gouverneur playground in the Bronx. Staten Island, today through Friday, at 1441 Richmond Avenue, mobile testing trucks, easy to find, easy to use. And we're going to keep ramping things up in July, there'll be 10 testing trucks available, 800 tests per day, everywhere New Yorkers are, we're going to just keep building and building. So, everyone knows they can always get a test when they need one, and again, for free.

Let's talk about our indicators. Number one, daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19 the threshold 200 patients, today's report 55. Number two, daily number of people in Health and Hospitals, ICUs, that threshold is 375, and today the number is 333. And most importantly, the percent of people testing positive citywide for COVID-19, that threshold is 15 percent, today – another very, very good report, only two percent. Everyone knows what I feel that is because of the hard work you have all done and are still doing and need to keep doing so we can move forward to phase two and beyond.

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