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December 10, 2020

Contact: Daniel Ball, dball@bds.org


Brooklyn Defender Services Calls For Independent Investigation And Abolition Of NYPD Vice Squad In Letter To NYC Officials

In Light of ProPublica Investigation into NYPD Vice Culture and Abuses, Defenders Demand Accountability and the Decriminalization of Sex Work

(BROOKLYN, NY) – Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services , sent a letter on December 10th to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, the five NYC District Attorneys and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, in response to a recently published article detailing horrific abuses by the NYPD Vice Squad published by ProPublica titled “NYPD Cops Cash In on Sex Trade Arrests With Little Evidence, While Black and Brown New Yorkers Pay the Price.”

The letter, which is available in full here, calls for the abolition of the Vice Squad, an independent investigation of the unit, full decriminalization of sex work, an independent investigation into the existence and dissemination of recordings made by NYPD members during Vice Squad operations, vacatur of convictions of cases brought by UC-157 and other Vice Squad officers, and shrinking of the NYPD budget, among other recommendations.
Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services also released the following statement:

“The targeted enforcement of outdated, paternalistic and racist laws by the NYPD Vice Squad has been mired in corruption, sexual misconduct, and gross abuses of New Yorkers for decades. Ending the harms perpetrated by NYPD Vice is a clear issue of both gender and racial justice. People targeted for arrest for sex work are overwhelmingly transgender and cisgender women, and people arrested both for sex work and for purchase-side charges are almost exclusively Black, Brown, and Asian New Yorkers. The stories shared in this article are not outliers; rather, they are representative of what we know to be true of the culture and operations of NYPD Vice. The actions of the NYPD reflect a culture of dehumanization and abuse in pursuit of criminal charges as well as the Department-sanctioned sexual gratification of individual officers through rape, harassment, and exploitation. The City is spending enormous resources and inflicting significant harm in the name of ‘vice’ enforcement, and this must end.”

BACKGROUND: Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) is a public defender organization serving tens of thousands of Brooklyn residents each year since 1996. Our mission is to provide high-quality and client-centered criminal, family, and immigration legal representation, as well as civil legal services, social work support and advocacy for people who cannot afford an attorney.

Brooklyn Defender Services’ Women’s Defense Project was created in response to the highly traumatic nature of the experience of our clients who have a history of violence, exploitation and abuse that directly or indirectly led to their involvement in the criminal legal system. Our responsive legal representation on behalf of cisgender and transgender women who are charged with crimes in Brooklyn focuses on defending them in the criminal cases as well as the related consequences that often arise from these charges. We are also committed to bringing to light the harm of police enforcement policies and the abusive practices of NYPD officers who are tasked with enforcing the laws against sex work. We regularly represent people who are required to appear in the Human Trafficking Intervention Court, where we represent sex workers and victims of trafficking who have come in contact with the criminal legal system. We have represented thousands of people who have been charged with both sale and purchase-side crimes related to sex work.