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Progressive Groups Tell Mark-Viverito to Drop Push for 1,000 New Police

By Jeff Mays | April 17, 2015 11:55am
 Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito holding a new bulletproof vest. She said she will continue to push for 1,000 new officers despite concerns from some of her supporters.
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito holding a new bulletproof vest. She said she will continue to push for 1,000 new officers despite concerns from some of her supporters.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

CITY HALL — More than 50 groups called on Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito Thursday to drop her push to hire 1,000 additional police officers because they are concerned about discriminatory policing and feel the money could be spent better elsewhere.

In a letter dated April 15, the coalition said the move "would come at the expense of more beneficial long-term investments in the safety and well-being of our neighborhoods."

“Without addressing these core issues, the addition of 1,000 new police department positions — to be dispersed throughout our communities that already feel over-policed — threatens to exacerbate these long-standing problems,” the letter said.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has gained an ally with Mark-Viverito and many Council members who have called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to hire 1,000 additional police officers.

In the Council's response to de Blasio's budget proposal, Mark-Viverito said the officers were necessary "to keep New Yorkers safe while also implementing new reforms and initiatives" such as community policing.

Officers in the pilot program will spend 30 percent of their time away from answering 911 calls and will instead focus on developing better community relations.

De Blasio, who ran for office on a platform of ending discriminatory policing practices such as stop and frisk, has said he does not feel the additional officers are necessary. Crime in the city reached another record low last year.

De Blasio said last month he was in discussions with Bratton over the police headcount and would reveal his final decision when he releases his executive budget later this month.

Mark-Viverito was unmoved by the letter. It was signed by many organizations that the left-leaning politician normally considers allies such as Communities United for Police Reform and VOCAL-NY.

"No it doesn't concern me at all," Mark-Viverito said when asked about the origin of the letter during an afternoon press conference at City Hall.

Alyssa Aguilera, political director of VOCAL-NY, said she was surprised that Mark-Viverito was so vigorously pushing the proposal for more police given her stance on issues such as stop-and-frisk.

"We consider the Speaker a tremendous ally for social justice. That's why this is so perplexing," Aguilera said.

Mark-Viverito said more police were necessary for efforts to increase community policing and to keep neighborhoods safe.

"We need the support of additional officers on the ground," she said.

Opponents of more police say the city's announced community-policing effort is an experiment with no guarantee that it will be successful enough to duplicate.

“While there has been a focus on the issue of ‘police-community relations,’ there has not been enough attention paid to addressing the concrete and underlying issues of discriminatory and abusive policing,” the letter continued.

In addition, the money should be spent on youth employment and free lunch for public school students, among other things.

"Choosing to invest in one area of the city means that money can't be used for something else," Aguilera said.