Public Safety & Criminal Justice
The Green Party believes the surest path to ensuring public safety involves a strategic approach to building strong neighborhoods and healthy communities where police work together with residents to assess neighborhood problems and craft responses. These joint efforts reduce crime and spur revitalization of our community. To this end many of the actions proposed in previous sections regarding the creation of economically vibrant communities with integrated neighborhoods where people who are actively engaged in civic life work, socialize and recreate together applies directly to increasing public safety
The United States has the highest incarceration and recidivism rates of industrialized countries, while our nation’s criminal justice system in general is too often inhumane, ineffective, and prohibitively expensive. With less than five percent of the world’s population, the United States locks up nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners. Our law enforcement priorities place too much emphasis on drug-related and petty, non-violent crimes, and not enough on prosecution of corporate, white collar, and environmental crime. The majority of prisoners are serving terms for non-violent, minor property and drug related crimes (e.g. manufacture, sale. possession or use), or violations of their conditions of parole or probation, while the poor, the under-educated and various racial and ethnic minorities are over-represented in the prison population. Our priorities must include efforts to prevent violent crime and address the legitimate needs of victims, while addressing the socio-economic root causes of crime and practicing policies that prevent recidivism.
The Green Party calls for an end to the “war on drugs,” and for treating drug abuse or addiction as a health issue, not a criminal justice issue. The “war on drugs” has been an ill conceived program that has wasted billions of dollars misdirecting law enforcement resources away from apprehending and prosecuting violent, white collar, and corporate criminals, while crowding our prisons with non-violent drug offenders and disproportionately criminalizing youth of color.
We also call attention to the fact that more than forty percent of those 2.3 million who are incarcerated come from the one eighth of the United States population that is black. The Green Party recognizes that our nation’s ostensibly color-blind systems of law enforcement, from police practices to prosecutorial prerogatives, to mandatory sentencing and zero-tolerance, has effectively constituted an ubiquitous national policy of racially selective mass incarceration, a successor to Jim Crow as a means of social control, a policy that must be publicly discussed, widely recognized, and reversed. The nearly universal, though largely unspoken nature of this policy makes piecemeal reforms not accompanied by addressing root causes of the larger policy ineffective outside the context of a broad social movement.
Public Safety & Criminal Justice
5-1. Build Neighborhoods & Healthy Communities: The Green Party believes the surest path to ensuring public safety involves a strategic approach to building strong neighborhoods and healthy communities with quality affordable housing and living wage jobs where police work together with residents to assess neighborhood problems and craft responses. To that end many of the actions called for in the previous sections will advance the cause of increasing public safety and reducing criminal activity.
5-2. Expand Youth Job & Recreational Opportunities: The Green Party believes that jobs and recreational activities for low-income and at-risk youth are effective anti-crime measures in terms of both costs and results. We support expanding the City of Syracuse Parks, Recreation and Youth Programs department and using schools as community centers (see also sec. 2-3d through 2-3f) to provide more opportunities for youth to be engaged in constructive activities. Community Hiring Halls (see also sec. 4-3) should also serve as Youth Hope Centers that would be one-stop stations where youth can get their lives on track. The Youth Hope Centers should be staffed with case managers who can provide linkages to support services like assistance in passing the GED or literacy training, job readiness assessment and training, information on jobs that are available in the public and private sectors, and related support services like life skills education, child care, transportation, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, counseling, and recreational programs during the day and during after-school and evening hours.
5-3. Increase Support for Community Policing: The Green Party supports the concept of community policing and calls for a greater allocation of resources of the Syracuse Police Department budget to establish community policing units in all city neighborhoods. We believe this is an essential strategy to promote relationships and cooperation between the police and community members to work together to reduce quality of life and nuisance complaints, as well as address more serious crimes, such as burglaries, robberies and violent crimes against people.
5-4. Reestablish a Syracuse Police Activities League: Police Activities Leagues (PAL) have a long history of success in many cities of providing programs for youth that help to build character, strengthen police-community relations, and keep children off the streets and out of trouble. Formerly referred to as “Police Athletic Leagues” that focused on providing competitive sports programs coached by police, most are now called "Police Activities Leagues" because they now focus on youth enrichment, educational and leadership programs and not just sports. Syracuse once had a vibrant PAL and the Green Party Supports reestablishing a PAL as a useful part of community policing (see also 5-3 & 5-8).
5-5. Guarantee Public Safety Services to Meet Evidence-based Need: The Green Party calls for municipal support for police and fire personal and equipment to the levels necessary to meet evidence-based need. Essential public safety services should not be subject to budget-balancing cuts.
5-6. Provide Residency Incentives for Law Enforcement Officers & Firefighters: The Green Party believes that police officers and firefighters who live in the communities they serve are better equipped to understand the dynamics of specific neighborhoods and are more likely to be responsive and accountable to their communities. We believe the best way to advance community residency for police officers and firefighters is to establish a proactive incentive program that rewards them for living in the City of Syracuse.
5-7. Achieve Greater Transparency & Police Cooperation with Citizen Review Board: The Green Party believes that an effective Citizens Review Board (CRB) is an essential mechanism to ensure that the Syracuse Police Department and individual officers are responsive and accountable to the community. Reconstitution of the current CRB has been a step in the right direction; however problems with transparency in the Chief of Police’s response to CRB recommendations and individual officers’ resistance, with the encouragement of the Police Benevolent Association, to participate in the review board’s proceedings must be addressed to assure full cooperation with CRB proceedings. We call for the Mayor and Common Council to demand as much. The CRB ordinance should be strengthened by giving the CRB the power to initiate legal action without the approval of the city's lawyer.
5-8. Refuse to Enforce the Federal War on Drugs & Advocate for its End: The Green Party believes that the federal war on drugs must end, and until such time as the federal or state government moves to legalization and control, the Syracuse Police Department should refuse to participate in federal drug policy enforcement, an action taken in New York State regarding non-enforcement of federal alcohol prohibition. The Green Party considers the causes of drug abuse to be health issues that are better addressed by the health care and mental health care systems, not through the criminal justice system. We support using the funds saved by not participating in federal drug enforcement to help finance a PAL (see 5-4).
5-9. Encourage & Support Restorative Justice: The Green Party urges authorities in the criminal justice system to adopt a restorative justice approach – a positive approach to justice that applies consequences for infractions and builds hope, responsibility and a sense of belonging as an alternative to incarceration. Jails and prisons should be the sentences of last resort, reserved for violent criminals. Those convicted of non-violent offenses should be handled by alternative, community-based programs including halfway houses, work-furlough, community service, electronic monitoring, restitution, and rehabilitation programs. These approaches should offer psychological and medical care and rehabilitation services for mentally ill prisoners and release of prisoners too old and/or infirm to pose a threat to society to less expensive, community-based facilities.
5-10. Make Reduction of Recidivism a Primary Goal of Parole: The Green Party supports treating parole as a time of reintegration into the community, not as a continuation of sentence. As such it should include providing community reentry programs for inmates prior to release. After release, parolees should be provided with access to education, health and mental health services, substance abuse treatment, job training and work. Services provided after release should also be offered to members of parolees’ families to help them with the changes caused by parolees’ return.
5-11. Ensure Equal Employment Opportunities for Ex-offenders (Ban the Box): The Green Party calls for a local “Ban the Box” law that prohibits employers from asking a potential hire to check a box on the initial job application indicating whether the applicant has a criminal history. Employers would retain the right to know an applicant’s criminal history, but the inquiry would be deferred until a conditional offer of employment. A “Band the Box” law will stop the practice of automatically excluding applicants who are fully qualified for a specific job and ready for a productive role in society.
5-12. Segregate Juvenile Offenders from Adults: The Green Party believes that juvenile offenders should never be housed with adults; and violent juvenile offenders should be housed apart from non-violent juveniles. We support continuation of education for juveniles while in custody and for substantially decreasing the case load of juveniles assigned to judges and caseworkers who oversee juveniles’ placement and progress while in the juvenile justice system.
5-13. Establish a County Public Defenders’ Office: The Green Party supports establishment of a County Public Defenders’ Office to ensure that individuals accused of criminal offenses who cannot afford to retain an attorney are guaranteed their constitutional, sixth amendment right to counsel. A Public Defenders’ Office would provide more efficient, effective, affordable, and accountable service than the current Assigned Counsel Program.
5-14. Join the International Sanctuary City Movement: The Green Party believes that Syracuse, which was an important stop on the Underground Railroad, should take action to join the International Sanctuary City Movement. We call for the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County to pass a "City and County of Refuge" Ordinance (also known as the Sanctuary Ordinance) similar to the 1989 ordinance passed in San Francisco which prohibits city and county employees from helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with immigration investigations or arrests unless such help is required by federal or state law or a warrant. We urge our fellow citizens, faith based groups and organizations committed to unity to welcome persons from other countries into our community and to assist them to obtain material, legal, and moral support.
5-15. Assure City Defendants are Judged by a Jury of their Peers: The Green Party calls for changes in state law governing how juries are selected to assure that defendants who are residents of the City of Syracuse have the same rights as defendants in towns to a jury of their peers from the same municipal jurisdiction that they reside in..
5-16. Create Community Residential Facilities for Juvenile Petty Crime Offenders: The Green Party calls for the creation of residential placement opportunities for juveniles who repeatedly commit non-violent crimes against people or property. Currently, juveniles who commit serious violent crimes are housed at Hillbrook Detention Center, but those who commit petty crimes against people or property are returned to the streets, where many continue to commit petty crimes that tie up police services and reduce resident quality of life. Since many families lack the resources to manage these juveniles, community residential facilities are needed to provide youth with opportunities for education, training, or work as a deterrent to repeat criminal activity.
5-17. Create a No Drone Fly Zone in the City of Syracuse: The Green Party calls on the City of Syracuse, to the extent permitted by law, to designate Syracuse a “Warrantless Surveillance Drone Free Zone” where drones are banned from city airspace until regulations for legal deployment have been fully vetted and adopted that adequately protects the population as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We also call for the Syracuse Common Council to adopt a policy that stipulated that surveillance drones will not be purchased, leased, borrowed, tested or otherwise used by any agency or department of the City of Syracuse until regulations for legal use are developed and implemented.