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STATEMENT FROM LISA SCHREIBERSDORF, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF BROOKLYN DEFENDER SERVICES, ON THE GUILTY VERDICT OF DEREK CHAUVIN

“We fervently hope that the conviction this week of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed George Floyd, has brought some relief to George Floyd’s loved ones and people around the country who needed to see that it’s possible for a murdering police officer to be charged and found guilty.

We understand acutely that the conviction of a single police officer does not address the pervasive corrupt, racist, dehumanizing systems of policing that allowed for the killing of George Floyd to happen in the first place.  We must, as a national imperative, institute real changes that will protect all people from an unchecked police force that terrorizes our communities, specifically communities of color.

Right here in NYC, the NYPD continues to employ officers who have committed countless acts of violence, ranging from traumatizing young people by taunting them, knocking down people’s doors and destroying their homes, employing negligent investigation practices that trample on peoples’ rights, overcharging people so they are forced to go to jail for minor infractions, to targeting and surveilling communities of color with theories that result in mass incarceration, separation of families through foster care, ICE enforcement, torture in jail and prisons, failing to provide needed health care to someone in custody and thousands of other symptoms of a system that is set up to ensure the systemic dehumanization of Black and Brown people. This calculated system built on white supremacy and anti-Black racism sets up a culture where violence by enforcement agents is inevitable. 

The police and other enforcement agencies, including prosecutors, are tied together in cultural values that allow and support each of these acts every day, by teaching officers to lie so they can get away with wrongful acts, to trying to hide information from the public, the disempowerment of the Civilian Complaint Review Board and affirmative violation of standards by the Department of Correction. Prosecutors play their part by declining to prosecute police for serious offenses and rarely holding officers accountable for perjured testimony, illegal searches and seizures, shoddy police work and improper treatment of individuals in their custody.  

As defenders who represent people arrested within these structurally racist systems, we advocate for policy and legislative change to dismantle the application of unfair procedures and harsh outcomes for individuals. As we at BDS continue to do our part  to fight for a just future, we call upon our leaders to dramatically  reduce governments’  reliance on policing and invest the public’s resources into people, families and communities.”

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DEFENDERS RESPONSD TO REPORTS THAT NYC FAMILY COURT CLERK USED RACIAL SLURS TO REFER TO 15-YEAR-OLD

April 16, 2021

Contact:

Alejandra Lopez

The Legal Aid Society

917-294-9348

ailopez@legal-aid.org

***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***

Joint Statement in Response to Reports that NYC Family Court Clerk Used Racial Slurs to Refer to 15-Year-Old

(NEW YORK, NY) – The Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice, The Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, New York County Defender Services, Lawyers For Children and Center for Family Representation issued the following joint statement in response to reports that a New York City Family Court clerk used racial slurs to refer to a 15-year-old during a virtual court proceeding:

“White supremacy and violence fill every crevice of our criminal legal system. The killing of Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old child in Chicago, lays bare the impact of that racism and dehumanization at its most brutal. As the images of his death are still fresh in our minds, we are reminded of the insidious racism that Black and brown people experience inside New York courtrooms every single day. The use of racist slurs by court staff is part and parcel of the same system that allows police to repeatedly and disproportionately shoot Black and brown children, and we must seriously reckon with the ideology that fuels both.

Racism within the court system has a long-standing history in our city as well. There is a direct link between the funneling of thousands of Black and brown New Yorkers into a system of punishment every year and the racist attitudes of the court staff within that system. Over the last year, multiple court staff have been disciplined for racist social media posts and for disparaging comments towards colleagues of color. An independent statewide review of state courts issued in October confirmed what our clients and staff experience daily: racial prejudice and other biases are very much embedded in our court system. Our court system must have zero tolerance for this egregious behavior, and OCA must swiftly implement the recommendations laid out in last year’s review.

OCA must also be held accountable for addressing the systemic racism that permeates the court system but the only way to truly confront the harm is by fundamentally shrinking the criminal legal system and stemming the endless tide of Black and brown people that the NYPD funnels into that system.”

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News

BROOKLYN DEFENDER SERVICES STATEMENT ON BROOKLYN DA’S VACATUR OF 90 CASES HANDLED BY FORMER NARCOTICS OFFICER JOSEPH FRANCO

April 7, 2021

 

Contact: Daniel Ball, dball@bds.org

***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***

BROOKLYN DEFENDER SERVICES STATEMENT ON BROOKLYN DA’S VACATUR OF 90 CASES HANDLED BY FORMER NARCOTICS OFFICER JOSEPH FRANCO

(BROOKLYN, NY) – Maryanne Kaishian, Senior Policy Counsel with Brooklyn Defender Services’ Criminal Defense Practice released the following statement in response to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s dismissal of 90 cases handled by former narcotics officer Joseph Franco:

“The Brooklyn DA’s decision to dismiss prior cases handled by Detective Joseph Franco, who has been indicted for framing people in Manhattan for crimes they did not commit, was the correct one. But while the dismissals handed down today are a first step towards accountability, neither Franco’s indictment nor the dismissal of his prior cases will make his victims whole or address the ongoing abuse of New Yorkers in the name of narcotics enforcement. We have every reason to believe that Franco’s misconduct extends well beyond the instances where his lies were caught on camera, and the accounts we have heard from his victims are a powerful reminder that the harm he and his colleagues have caused is significant and lasting.

This is not a case of a single bad actor. Franco was a member of NYPD units in multiple boroughs operating as a team. He rose through the ranks from an undercover narcotics officer in Brooklyn to a detective in Manhattan, his promotions establishing him as an example of valued police work. Other NYPD members facilitated his abuses, watched him harm New Yorkers, followed his orders, and learned from his conduct.  It would be foolish to believe that the abuse alleged in these indictments is limited to his individual conduct in those specific cases.

Brooklyn North Narcotics, as well as drug enforcement units throughout the City, engage in the same tactics described both in the criminal indictments against Franco and in the accounts of his victims. Specialized narcotics units—and the prosecutions of the cases they bring—continue to amass victims of the War on Drugs without serving any legitimate public health or safety purpose. The NYPD takes great pains to conceal the identity of undercover narcotics officers such as Franco, including from defense counsel, making it nearly impossible to challenge their credibility. NYPD members continue to present falsified evidence against New Yorkers, knowing their testimony is given greater credence than the word of people they target. Prosecutors pursue cases brought by officers known to have committed misconduct and credit the word of officers over people who maintain that they have been harmed by the NYPD, compounding the harms of abusive policing.

A true reckoning with Detective Franco’s conduct is incomplete without the realization that his conduct is not an aberration. We cannot engage only in retroactive attempts at justice, but must dismantle the system that empowered Detective Franco and continues to empower others like him.”

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.

News

BROOKLYN DEFENDER SERVICES STATEMENT ON ENACTMENT OF THE HALT SOLITARY CONFINEMENT ACT

April 1, 2021

CONTACT: Daniel Ball, dball@bds.org

***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***

BROOKLYN DEFENDER SERVICES STATEMENT ON ENACTMENT OF THE HALT SOLITARY CONFINEMENT ACT

(Brooklyn, NY) – Kelsey De Avila, Jail Services Project Director at Brooklyn Defender Services released the following statement following the enactment of the HALT Solitary Confinement Act (S. 2836/A.2277) late Wednesday night:

“Last night, after a near-decade-long campaign led by survivors of solitary confinement, families who have lost their loved ones, and families with loved ones currently in solitary, the HALT Solitary Confinement Act was finally signed into law. Today, we remember those who lost their lives to the torture of solitary and hold in our thoughts those enduring this state-sponsored cruelty at this very moment.

This victory is a testament to the resolve and dedication of survivors and families, joined by public defenders, social workers, mental health professionals, faith leaders, LGBTQIA+ leaders, human rights and health advocates.

For too long, New York has ignored the humanity of people confined to jails and prisons, their isolation from loved ones, and the torture inflicted on them and our communities. Whether in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence, people we represent may be subject to the torture of extreme isolation, confined in elevator-sized cells without any meaningful human interaction or access to programs for months, years and even decades with no viable due process protections—and no clear way to get out.

This historic action to limit the use of solitary confinement in New York State’s prisons and jails, takes our state closer to addressing this ongoing human rights crisis and replacing solitary confinement with humane and effective alternatives. We thank Senator Julia Salazar and Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry for championing this legislation and Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie for their leadership in passing the bill with supermajorities in both houses.

We urge that this legislation is not undermined by unnecessary amendments that create new forms of solitary by another name. We will continue our work alongside other advocates to ensure HALT is implemented fully and appropriately. We also urge the legislature to not stop here and continue its work to transform New York’s criminal legal system by passing Fair and Timely Parole, Elder Parole, the Less is More Act and more this session.”

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, immigration, and civil legal representation, as well as social work support and advocacy for people who cannot afford an attorney.

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