Debates of the Century: “Police need to be held more accountable.”
NYU Wagner and The Century Foundation are proud to present Debates of the Century @NYU Wagner, a public debate series showcasing thoughtful, informed dialogue from experts on the most vital national policy issues.
The 2014 deaths of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died during an arrest, ignited nationwide protests, outcry, and debate over the state of policing in the United States. After additional incidents of police force, some resulting in death, tensions between police and civilians have galvanized media and public attention. A 2016 Gallup poll found that only 56% of Americans expressed confidence in the nation’s police force. Questions around police accountability have increased scrutiny on related topics such as diversity training, de-escalation, early intervention systems, body cameras, and community-based policing, among other practices that have been introduced to address longstanding racial tensions that can affect the actions police take in the field.
As a result, cities are taking it upon themselves to make reforms. Cities such as New York and Chicago have created independent watchdog agencies such as the Civilian Complaint Review Board and the Independent Police Review Authority, respectively, to combat police misconduct. However, some critics question whether this approach can create meaningful change. Consensus around the most effective way to keep every community safe and ensure accountability continues to be a matter of debate among policymakers, police, and activists alike.
Against this backdrop, Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, will moderate a debate on the value and methods of increasing police accountability in our nation’s cities. Debating in favor of the motion is Black Lives Matter activist and Campaign Zero co-founder Samuel Sinyangwe, who believes that until communities have the power to hold police accountable, minimal oversight and restrictions on the use of force by police will continue to enable police violence. Against the motion is veteran NYC police officer, prosecutor, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice Professor Eugene O’Donnell, who believes increased accountability depresses police recruitment and creates a risk-averse police force so afraid of criminal or civil liability that it cannot effectively execute its duties.