New York City mayoral candidate Shaun Donovan is calling for police officers to be removed from public schools, Rikers Island to be closed by the end of 2027, plans to track interactions between police and civilians among other mandates detailed in his 14-page criminal justice platform provided exclusively to The Root.
Using the often-used language of “reimagine” and “reinvest,” Donovan is calling for New York City to rethink how the New York Police Department is deployed in neighborhoods, creating separate mental health units that people can call instead of police and reducing dependency on arrests. The packed mayoral race is one of the most contested in recent memory with more than three dozen candidates vying for votes in a city looking for a leader to help them ride out the economic pains of the pandemic.
Additionally, Donovan’s plan calls for investing $500 million annually in community-focused public safety and racial justice initiatives by the end of his second year, primarily by redirecting funds from law enforcement and corrections. By the end of his first term, he says he would dedicate up to $3 billion or 20 percent of the city’s public safety budget for these efforts, direct them toward neighborhoods with the greatest needs and seek community input.
One of the most noteworthy items in Donovan’s plan is to take cops out of schools, “starting with School Resource Officers (SROs), following the example of cities like Minneapolis, Oakland, Denver and Portland,” the plan reads. That money would be reinvested in what the plan calls Positivity, Prevention, and Relationship Response Coordinators who are trained in child development and de-escalation.
The SROs will be encouraged to transition into those new roles if they are willing to undergo the training or be transferred to the NYPD if they want to continue careers in law enforcement.
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“My plans are the most progressive (of any of the other candidates) because they contain the level of detail and bold ideas that are needed to make real progressive change a reality,” Donovan told The Root. “New Yorkers are not interested politicians who speak in platitudes, make empty promises, or choose generalities over specifics. They want someone who has done the work, has the experience to show for it, and has a concrete plan to get the job done.”
The killing of George Floyd set off some of the biggest protests in years and highlighted Black Americans distrust of and abuse by police officers. The NYPD is among the worst when it comes to mistreatment of people of color, something that Donovan wants to address.
To make the NYPD more accountable, he plans on doing the following:
- Appoint a commissioner who shares his vision for public safety—one that is community-focused and racially just—and hold this individual accountable for the results
- Build a leadership team at the police department that represents the city’s diversity and understands the imperative for culture change
- Hold precinct commanders accountable for misconduct by officers under their command and replace leadership when necessary—officer behavior that threatens public safety or disrespects the communities they serve must be corrected, and if not, leadership must be replaced
- Hold individual officers responsible for bad acts that too often go unpunished today, including by following the determinations of the Civilian Complaint Review Board and by enforcing a clear, publicly-available set of disciplinary standards
- Adopt the recommendations set forth in the Department of Investigation’s report on the police department’s disproportionate and violent response to the protests against racial injustice following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
- Consent to the appointment of a federal monitor.
Ask if he will work with activists to implement some of his plans, Donovan told The Root that the Black Lives Matter movement and activists have been pivotal in shining a light on racism in the criminal justice system in New York and across the country.
“This past summer, following the nationwide outrage over the unjust killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as the wildly inappropriate response by the NYPD against protesters in the Bronx, I marched alongside NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and countless other Black Lives Matter activists to demand change in our criminal justice system,” he said.”As mayor, I will bring activists and community organizers to the table as we come together to find solutions in this area and others. Many of my policy proposals call for input from and engagement with the communities that are closest to the issues, so that would include working closely with groups like Black Lives Matter.”
When The Root asked Donovan if he worried about getting on the wrong side of local and state police unions, he said, no. “If Black Lives Matter protesters and others are able to have the courage to speak their minds and fight for change, oftentimes at the risk to their own physical well being, then NYC’s next Mayor must possess the same courage,” he said.
Donovan, who served as former President Barack Obama’s Housing and Urban Development secretary and, most recently, director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), released a TV ad Monday featuring Obama speaking highly of him during his time as HUD secretary.
“Shaun’s just one of those people where he sees a problem, and he will work to solve it,” Obama said in 2014 when he nominated him for his OMB role.
If he goes on to win the mayor’s race, closing Rikers Island will be one key problem—some would call it a conundrum—he’d have to fix. By the end of 2027, Donovan vows to shutter the notorious jail, saying that it is “the only acceptable path forward for our city and a smaller, more humane, more accessible, more accountable jail system will ultimately save lives, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars each year, if not more, that will be reinvested in communities.”
Budget issues, among other things, may delay the shutdown of Rikers by up to two years, according to City and State.
To better ensure that people paroled into shelters do not return back to jail, Donovan’s plan calls for building on a program that he piloted as commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development that will provide Section 8 vouchers to people leaving jail and prison so that they can access housing. Additionally, he says his administration will invest at least $30 million annually in new funding to establish 600 additional supportive and transitional housing beds to help provide stable housing for people with a history of homelessness and mental health needs.
“Policing is not an answer to homelessness,” Donovan told The Root. “Housing and healthcare are.”
Additionally, his plan calls for expanding hospital-based violence intervention programs that will directly intercept victims of violence in city hospitals and offer long-term support services to prevent retaliation. To better assist New Yorkers with dealing with mental health crisis, Donovan plans on creating a hotline designed to deploy mental and public health professionals in response to those calls instead of law enforcement.
“By the end of Shaun’s first term, police will no longer be the default response to mental health emergencies,” the plan reads.
Donovan said that the criminal justice system is broken and for too long, Black and Brown New Yorkers have paid the price.
“That’s why we need to reimagine a public safety system that is accountable and community-driven, reduce over-policing and over-incarceration, and reinvest in services that provide safe and healthy communities for all New Yorkers,” he said.