NYC Needs A Vision Zero Campaign for Unarmed People Dying at the Hands of Police
“Not one more killed.”
”Your choices matter.”
These are slogans of NYC’s Vision Zero campaign.
Initiated by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014, the campaign aims to eliminate traffic fatalities in New York. The Vision Zero action plan seeks to improve street safety through these specific components:
- Increasing the enforcement of moving violations
- Improving street designs
- Holding public outreach sessions
- Increasing penalties for dangerous drivers
- Reducing speed limits
- Increasing the use of enforcement cameras
Since it’s implementation, Vision Zero has been effective. 2017 was NYC’s safest traffic year on record. Speaking on the results of the initiative, the mayor declared: “Not even a single tragedy on our streets is acceptable, and we’ll keep fighting every day to protect New Yorkers.”
Except these sentiments equally apply to police brutality.
It is for these reasons that New York needs a new Vision Zero campaign: eliminate police involved unarmed civilian fatalities. Most specifically, the fact that nearly 63% of all unarmed police killings are people of color. These are preventable tragedies, too. This disproportionate statistic affects our tale of two cities, too.
It can’t be more audacious to strive for no unarmed person to be killed at the hands of police than it is for no person be hit by a car.
It can’t be that you only survive an encounter with the police if you act optimally.
New York constantly claims to innovate and lead the way — why not lead the way in this? Politicians set goals all the time: traffic goals, emissions goals, educational goals, etc. And those goals aren’t always achieved to perfection. Setting record lows in traffic deaths still does not reach the overarching goal of zero. But a problem must first be identified before it can be mitigated. Something must first be a goal before it can be a reality.
Will the mayor and police chief of our city sign on to this goal? Will those of other cities follow suit? The reality of the current oppressive and regressive administration is such that cities are the forefront of reform. It’s on us at the local level to change the face of policing in America.
I think this is a campaign that, at the least, can be used to evaluate local candidates and elected officials — especially those right here in NYC. And it already has a policy framework: Shaun King’s comprehensive 25 part series to reduce police brutality, which includes reforms to training, hiring, police interactions with the public, and departmental procedure.
Additionally, it is vital that this vision includes increased transparency. The NYPD must reverse its policy to keep disciplinary records confidential. The power of a badge and gun is too great to have officers who abuse their power unidentified and unpunished. Making records public will put pressure on the NYPD to enforce penalties proportionate to the offense. This will serve as a preventative measure — keeping the police officers most likely to use excessive force off the street.
In order for traffic deaths to decline, NYC set a vision, outlined goals, and put them into policy. The city changed traffic culture. Through increased citation enforcement, reducing the speed limits of certain high pedestrian areas, and high profile messaging —being a motorist in NYC had new expectations. There is no reason why the same effort can’t be applied to ending unarmed police killings and changing police culture. The protection of New Yorkers, and any American, is incomplete until abusive policing is addressed, punished, and corrected. Why wouldn’t elected representatives across the political spectrum coalesce around such a simple, humane goal?
Unless — this vision threatens their own, diverging vision of policing. Making major reforms “too controversial” and “anti-police.”
So let’s challenge them. For, if officials believe taking a strong stance against police brutality is anti-police, then they concede that they cannot separate the two. That the vision for American policing is inherently brutal.