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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Impromptu Press Gaggle After Meeting With the Justice League NYC

December 19, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio: I really appreciated this meeting. It’s a group of young activists who want to heal, who want to bring police and community together, who want to ensure there’s fairness. They have been part of the leadership of a series of peaceful protests calling for change and doing it the right way. This is what our democracy respects. This is what our democracy allows for, is people to make their voices heard peacefully, in an organized way – and that’s what this group and others have been doing. I made very clear that we cannot accept any violence against our police officers or against anyone. And they were very quick to affirm that they were appalled equally by the events on Saturday night. They find it unacceptable and they will work with the police to identify anyone who seeks to harm the police or harm anyone and undermine their non-violent peaceful progressive movement. So I thought there was real unity on that point.

They have a list of demands, some of which I agree with, some of which I don’t – we had a very honest conversation about that – but what I appreciate is, they are respectful of the democratic process. They are working within that process to try and achieve the changes they believe in, and they’re motivated from the heart to try and heal. There’s no question that their desire is to try and help us get to the day when police and community can work in greater harmony. And I thought that was an important message to hear from them, and I commended them for that, and I look forward to working with them and others going forward. Questions on the meeting, yes.

Question: Can you say some of the demands that –

Mayor: They – they’ll show them to you. Obviously –

Question: Something you don’t agree with –

Mayor: Well, I’ve said very clearly that I believe in the broken windows theory of policing. I do think – and I’ve said this also – that we need to do a better job of explaining what it means in the year 2014, and what it will mean in the year 2015. And I certainly think I’m going to put more time into explaining what today’s broken windows approach is, because it is different. The change in the marijuana arrest policy is an example of a strategy that is evolving all the time. The approach we’re taking with the retraining of every single police officer is part of taking a theory of being responsive to community concerns, going after both big crimes and small crimes, but changing the way that police officers connect to the community, changing the way we approach each interaction. So I think we have to do a better job of explaining that it’s a new day and a new approach, but I do believe, foundationally, that that kind of responsive policing is necessary. So that’s one example where there’s a difference, but I think there’s room for real dialogue.

Phil Walzak: One more question, please.

Question: Mayor, what do you think of them saying, though, that the broken windows theory targets people of color, and that is their objection to it? You don’t see it that way?

Mayor: No, I don’t. And I think we have a broader obligation, as we continue reforms in the relationship between police and community, and in our approach to policing, to make very clear that we will not accept unequal treatment. I think we’ve done a lot of things this year that have started us down that road. I think, number one, the huge reduction in the number of stops, which was, to me, an example of absolutely unequal treatment, particularly towards young men of color. Those stops are greatly reduced. Everything else we’re doing – the increased oversight, the retraining, the eventual use of body cameras – all of these get to a more fair and equal approach to all of our residents. But I separate that from the question of whether we should respond to quality of life problems. I do believe police should respond to quality of life problems. I think we have to do it in a better and more equitable way all the time, but I don’t want to – I think sometimes those two concepts get conflated, and they shouldn’t. Responding to quality of life problems is what the police need to do. I want police to be responsive. I want police to be available. I want them to respond when people call. Once upon a time in this city, that didn’t happen enough. It needs to happen, but I want it to always be done fairly and equitably, and that’s where all these policies are taking us. It will not happen overnight, but I’m convinced we’re going in the right direction.

[Commotion]

Phil Walzak: Thank you, guys.

Mayor: Thanks, everyone. We’ll see you later on.

Question: Mr. Mayor, are you going to meet with the PBA?

Phil Walzak: 1 PP at 2 o’clock today.

Mayor: We’ll see you later on.

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