NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As the protests for police reform continue in New York City for now a third straight week, the NYPD announced Monday it is getting rid of undercover anti-crime officers.
CBS2’s Ali Bauman spent the day monitoring the developments.
She saw one group of demonstrators listening to speeches in advance of a march. Earlier in the afternoon, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea announced big changes to the Department, which he called a cultural shift and an extension of ending stop and frisk.
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On the 19th consecutive day of demonstrations against police brutality, the Department said it will be reassigning plainclothes anti-crime officers. Every precinct in the city has had dedicated undercover anti-crime officers who patrol in unmarked vehicles with specific assignments related to crime spikes.
Shea said due to the nature of their work, undercover officers in those units tend to be involved in more police-involved shootings.
Effective immediately, those 600 undercover officers citywide in the Anti-Crime Unit will be reassigned to other divisions, and will no longer be working anti-crime patrols.
“Make no mistake, this is a seismic shift in the culture of how the NYPD polices this great city. It will be felt immediately in the communities that we protect,” Shea said.
There will still be undercover officers working in narcotics, surveillance, anti-terrorism, and transit units, the NYPD said.
The police commissioner said Monday he is considering the disablement of the unit for about a year, and there is no singular event that prompted his announcement.
“And what we always struggle with, I believe, as police executives is not keeping crime down; it’s keeping crime down and keeping the community working with us,” Shea said. “And I think those two things, at times, have been at odds. I would consider this in the realm of closing one of the last chapters of stop, question, and frisk.”
After the Amadou Diallo shooting in 1999, the NYPD eliminated the Street Crimes Unit, which was a similar plainclothes unit.
Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said in a statement Monday, “Anti-Crime’s mission was to protect New Yorkers by proactively preventing crime, especially gun violence. Shooting and murders are both climbing steadily upward, but our city leaders have clearly decided that proactive policing isn’t a priority anymore. They chose this strategy. They will have to reckon with the consequences.”
“That should’ve never been something that was instituted in the first place,” protester Carlos Polanco said. “If the police are here to serve and protect, but they’re undercover in plain clothes intentionally trying to capture individuals, I’m sorry, you’re reducing the amount of illegal things you’re doing.”
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Also Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed additional police reform legislation.
State and local law enforcement officers will now have to report within six hours of discharging their weapon. Police departments will be required to compile and publish racial and demographic data of all low-level offenses.
In addition, police will be required to provide medical and mental health attention to people in custody.
“How do we take this moment and actually institutionalize it to have progress,” Cuomo said.
“What they’re trying to do is give us the small things they know will appease us, but listen Gov. Cuomo, we’re not falling for it,” Polanco said.
And as the protests carry on, some organizers are clarifying the steps they’d like to see taken, CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported.
Washington Square Park has been a regular gathering place for the last three weeks. The flyers that went our for Monday’s protest said, “We haven’t won yet — meet our demands.”
Protesters said they will not be silenced until the NYPD’s budget shrinks and they see real police reform.
“It’s not just gonna happen in a day or two. It’s gonna take a lot of time and with the amount of people we have out here it shows we’re all gonna be united for the same cause and for the same reason,” one protester said.
Despite the promise of reform, protests have not slowed down. In fact, the weekend saw thousands upon thousands of people turn out for dozens of protests around the city.
Also, a sea of people dressed in white gathered in from of the Brooklyn Museum for “Black Transgender Lives” as a form of pushback after the Trump administration rolled back transgender health care protections.
From Saturday into Sunday morning, a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn was painted with huge letters spelling out “Black Lives Matter.”
Protesters also shut down Columbus Circle over the weekend. Thousands have signed a petition calling for the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue, with critics saying Columbus was not a hero, but a conqueror who enslaved native people.
Many protesters said this revolution has only just begun.
Organizers also said if you can’t take part in a protest, you can join a socially distanced online vigil.