STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — NYPD officers are being hamstrung in their ability to protect the public, according to a group of Staten Island Republican officials, who say the declining number of active officers, coupled with recently implemented measures, is making it harder to keep the city safe.
On Friday morning, Mid-Island City Council candidate David Carr, who currently serves as Councilmen Steven Matteo’s (R-Mid-Island) chief of staff, held a press conference outside the 122nd Precinct in New Dorp to discuss the policing priorities he plans to pursue if elected.
“These commitments are intended to help empower the NYPD to do the job that they’re trained to do; protect Staten Island and New York City at large,” Carr said.
He was joined by Matteo, Councilman Joseph Borelli (R-South Shore) and Assemblyman Michael Tannousis (R-East Shore/South Brooklyn), all of whom supported the initiatives proposed by Carr and vowed to help fight to make the proposals a reality.
During the event, Carr announced plans to introduce legislation, if elected, to restore qualified immunity for NYPD officers, something he said is crucial in order for cops to feel comfortable doing their job.
“You can’t expose the best-trained police officers in the world to lawsuits and then expect good policing to happen. It hamstrings good policing, and frankly, necessary policing, to address violent criminal offenders,” Carr said. “It also explodes insurance costs for these officers and effectively amounts to a regressive tax on New York’s Finest.”
In March, the City Council passed a number of police reform bills, including the repeal of qualified immunity for police officers. Qualified immunity had previously shielded police officers from liability unless it was proven that they had violated a clearly established statutory or constitutional right of which a reasonable person would have known
Following passage of the reform, law enforcement officials, and even some criminal defense attorneys, told the Staten Island Advance/SILive.com that banning qualified immunity will shackle cops by personally exposing them to lawsuits.
“Suing the NYPD is a big business, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars in legal payouts each year. And now, thanks to the City removing qualified immunity, police officers are personally liable for actions they take in the course of their duties, and face potential financial disaster from frivolous lawsuits. Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to keep us safe — they shouldn’t have to put their livelihoods on the line as well,” Borelli said.
Carr also announced his intentions to work to repeal the “diaphragm compression” clause, part of the city’s anti-chokehold law that gives district attorney’s the power to charge an officer with a misdemeanor if the officer sits, kneels or stands on an arrestee’s back, compressing the diaphragm, during an arrest, even if no injury is sustained.
“We can’t micromanage these heat-of-the-moment encounters that police officers have with people who are resisting arrest. We have to trust them to do the job that they need to do on our behalf,” said Carr.
Matteo said: “You can’t have a diaphragm bill that makes an officer think twice about making an arrest. You can’t have a qualified immunity bill go forward and expect a cop to do their job, a job that they are intended to do, that we expect them to do and that they want to do.”
Officials also discussed their intention to push for additional NYPD officers in upcoming budget negotiations, planning to press the city to hire 6,000 new cops over the next five years.
“We’re well below the 40,000 officer peak that the NYPD had some years ago. We have a little over 35,000 active officers today and an unprecedented number of veteran officers retiring or planning to retire in the near future,” Carr said. “We won’t have an adequate police force if we don’t start accelerating future NYPD classes.”
Tannousis said: “I’ve said this from the beginning, we cannot have a discussion on any other issue until we talk about public safety. Public safety is the number one issue we need to talk about before anything else.”