UNION SQUARE — Half a dozen advocates seeking police reforms urged Mayor Bill de Blasio to follow through on his promise to transform the NYPD’s divisive stop and frisk policy Saturday afternoon.
Volunteers with the Police Reform Organizing Project, an advocacy group that works to end discriminatory police practices, gathered at the Union Square subway station and several other stations to collect signatures for a petition putting pressure on the city to set up an independent agency that would monitor the NYPD’s operations.
“It’s not just about stop-and-frisk but about bad police practices,” said Robert Gangi, the director of the organization. “We have to raise concerns about harassment of homeless people, LGBT youth, sex workers, street vendors and the mentally ill."
The petition comes at a time when police unions are asking a federal appeals court to continue to pursue the city’s appeal of the stop and frisk program which was declared unconstitutional by a federal district court judge in August last year.
The de Blasio government asked the appeals court last month to allow the city to settle the case in the lower court, but the appeals court has yet to make a verdict.
Gangi believes the unions’ case will fall through and said that it was critical for New Yorkers to now urge the mayor to implement the suggested reforms.
The group has already amassed 13,000 signatures, and on Saturday they were consistently collecting more.
“I’ve had a lot of illegal searches performed on me in the last couple of months,” Hector Soto, 41, who does construction work in Williamsburg, said just after he signed the petition. “They especially target Latino and black construction workers. If a white person was wearing a sweatshirt like I am, they would never be stopped.”
“I’m afraid to jog to work if I’m late,” added Lennox James, 42, another petitioner whose shifts working for UPS in East New York start at 3 a.m. “The police just assume I’m running away from something.”
Last year, the police made 179,063 stops in the first three quarters of the year, of which 56 percent of those stopped black and 29 percent were Latino, according to police data analyzed by the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Gangi and his group are hoping to diminish those numbers. Apart from the volunteers at Union Square advocates were also getting signatures at the Harlem 125th Street. and Lexington Ave. subway stop and the Utica Ave. stop in Brooklyn.
The group is hoping to get 15,000 signatures before the petition is sent to de Blasio and the new police chief, Bill Bratton.