Civilian traffic enforcement agents who work for the NYPD said they oppose a push to move their jobs to the Department of Transportation – claiming it will imperil their safety.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council are in negotiations to slash the NYPD budget’s $6 billion budget by as much as $1 billion. Some council members want to transfer oversight of traffic enforcement and parking laws to the Department of Transportation and school safety to the Department of Education.
The defund the NYPD movement gathered momentum following the police brutality death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
But traffic agent Mohammed Shajahan said bad ideas are being lumped in with reform – a push to remove traffic enforcement from the NYPD among them.
“We have been told that Mayor de Blasio wants to move the Traffic Police Division back to DOT so that he can say that he is pulling funding from the NYPD, when, in fact, this is not redirecting NYPD money to our communities, nor is it true defunding of the NYPD. This is a cynical move by the Mayor which puts the lives of Traffic Agents at risk,” said a petition circulated by Shajahan, which is being sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the mayor, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Council Finance Committee chairman Daniel Dromm, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea.
Johnson, Stringer and Adams are vying to succeed de Blasio as mayor. The Democratic primary for mayor is next June.
“Before 1996 Traffic was under DOT. Agents were assaulted and harassed in the street every day. It is impossible to implement any Traffic Law in NYC without an NYPD Uniform. NYPD Uniform is a shield for Traffic Agents to perform their jobs. Since we became uniformed employees, assaults and harassment has declined sharply. Moving Traffic Agents, who are 90 percent People of Color, to DOT is a cynical abuse of minority employees,” said Shajahan, a former treasurer and secretary of the union representing 2,700 traffic agents, Local 1182 of the Communication Workers of America.
Traffic enforcement agents direct traffic and issue parking violations summonses.
The objections of traffic agents being removed from the NYPD oversight mirrors resistance of the department’s mostly minority school safety agents being transferred to the Department of Education.
De Blasio last week reacted cautiously to transferring traffic enforcement functions from the NYPD, but said it would be looked at during budget negotiations with the City Council. The new budget is due July 1.
“I won’t accept any bias or disparity. Structural racism has got to be a thing of the past. It’s been corrosive. So I think there is a different question here about how you weed out racism and bias and disparity versus also considering how you get the job done on these issues that matter so deeply,” the mayor said.
“We have to do both at once. So we have to protect people’s lives. We have to make sure that people are safe on the road. We have to make sure that any agency that takes on any mission feels able to do it effectively…..But what I hear in communities all over the city is people want to be safe and they want an end to bias and discrimination and disparity. They want both, they need both. We have to figure out what gets us to both. And that’s what these conversations in the next two weeks are going to be all about.”
Council members Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn) and Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan) are among the council members supporting removing the NYPD from traffic enforcement.