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Policing, politics and punching bags

NYPD policy says cops in uniform must be

NYPD policy says cops in uniform must be apolitical. Credit: Getty Images/tillsonburg

Daily Point

Spotlight on 50a

One of the criminal justice reforms that New York Republicans have focused on this campaign cycle is the repeal of 50a, the civil rights law that helped shield police disciplinary records from the public.

Mostly, police unions and their political supporters have suggested the hypothetical that officers could face negative consequences from records being released, but there wasn’t a widely publicized example. Then came the convoluted situation of Richard Taylor, a former NYPD officer and PhD student and adjunct history professor at St. John’s University.

The issue appears to have begun with a September lesson on early global commodities. A new student group called SJU Radicals says that two students reached out to the group to voice concerns about Taylor and the lesson’s discussion of slavery. The group put up an Instagram post on Sept. 10 calling for and encouraging others to call for Taylor to be fired.

Later that day, the group put up another post about an "update" on Taylor: that he had misconduct claims against him during his time with the NYPD.

The misconduct claim information came from the NYCLU’s database of records obtained after the state’s repeal of 50a. The database included incidents on four days between 2005 and 2007 from Taylor’s time as a patrol officer, none of them substantiated.

City police unions jumped on this case, as reported by the news site The City. Their attention continues.

Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman for a coalition of NYC law enforcement unions, characterized the case as a "clear example of the fact that even second careers can be ruined by the release of unproven allegations" in a call with The Point.

Yet the role of the records in the case is unclear. A co-founder of the SJU Radicals group said the police record wasn’t a "contributing factor" to why they posted about not wanting Taylor to teach, and the group never submitted the police records to St. John’s "in any manner," the co-founder said.

The original post focused on the September lesson, which is itself in dispute. The academic freedom group FIRE posted a link to what it said was Taylor’s lesson PowerPoint, which includes slides about exploration, the Ming government, the silver trade in Japan, and the slave trade. At the end, there is a slide about "Negatives to Globalization" including "Millions more natives enslaved" and "Restructuring of Africa" followed by an otherwise-blank slide asking, "Do the positives justify the negatives?"

Adam Goldstein, a FIRE attorney advocating for Taylor, says the lesson was on the Columbian Exchange.

"The class wasn't about slavery, the lesson wasn't about slavery, and nobody was asked to justify slavery," he said. The SJU Radicals co-founder characterized it differently.

St. John’s isn’t clarifying matters.

"The University does not comment on personnel matters," said Brian Browne, a St. John's University spokesman.

Meanwhile, Goldstein said Taylor is still being paid though he isn’t teaching. And it remains to be seen whether Long Island unions will join their city counterparts regarding this case. Suffolk PBA second vice president Louis Civello told The Point he wasn’t aware of this case but "Our position continues to be the repeal of 50a allows for the weaponization of unsubstantiated and unfounded [complaints] against police officers."

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

'First Kid' star is running for White House in 2020, wants to win in 2024

Presidential candidate, former child actor and tech billionaire Brock Pierce is on the ballot in 16 states, but only in New York does he have the future viability of a political party so squarely on his shoulders.

Pierce is on the Independence Party line in New York, and because of a recent change in election law, that party will fight for automatic ballot access via a presidential election for the first time. It will need a lot more votes to score that access than ever before. In the past, the threshold was 50,000 votes in a gubernatorial election, which granted four years of ballot access. Now it is 130,000 votes, or 2% of the total cast, in gubernatorial and presidential elections, meaning the parties must requalify every two years.

Over coffee in Holbrook Thursday, Pierce, 39, told The Point he hopes to hit that mark for the party in 2020, and then win the White House in 2024.

Pierce grew up in Minnesota and now lives in Puerto Rico. He was a successful actor from ages 13 to 16, playing the young Gordon Bombay in the "Mighty Ducks" movies (Emilio Estevez starred as the adult character) and starring in "First Kid," the story of a rebellious son of an American president who turns himself around with the help of a Secret Service agent played by Sinbad.

He also is a cryptocurrency and tech pioneer whose net worth is in the $1 billion range, according to Forbes.

Pierce says his tech savvy is at the heart of his campaign, but so, too, are kindness and an end to division.

"I want to be a candidate who delivers a message of love and unity," Pierce said. "Politics has become the bloodiest of blood sports, and I want to turn down the heat."

As far as a platform, Pierce supports:

  • Single-payer health care as a stopgap, while the country fully transitions its system to a more flexible, technological and inexpensive model
  • Legalized marijuana
  • A universal basic income, which he says is crucial to aid workers displaced by technology
  • A tech-savvy government that embraces the changing challenges of currency and trade

"If I want to be successful, I have to understand the political system, how to run," Pierce said. "This run is about learning that, and about building a structure that will allow me to help 100 candidates run in state and local races in 2021 and 2022. And it’s not about building a party, it’s about building a platform that allows candidates with integrity and a devotion to service to run but does not demand adherence to a set of policies."

For New York Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay, Pierce is singing the right tune.

MacKay could have tried to keep his ballot access by nominating Donald Trump (as the Conservative Party did) or Joe Biden (as the Working Families Party did). Instead, MacKay, who said his dream is to see his party, which also has no purity test on issues, become a viable major party offering an alternative to Democrats and Republicans.

"If we go down, this is the way we wanted to go down," MacKay said. "With a candidate we believe in seeking what we seek."

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Safe Halloween

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Final Point

The GOP’s anti-NYC agenda

One striking commonality among Long Island GOP campaigns this cycle has been the use of New York City as a punching bag, from congressional races on down.

The latest Newsday Opinion video features footage of State Senate campaign rallies, a congressional launch, Facebook ads, and one State Assembly candidate talking about a relative who lives in NYC who is concerned about going out at night.

The juxtaposition with heavily Democratic NYC is hardly a new tactic for Long Island Republicans, who have been saying for years that Nassau will be the new Queens. But this time around, there are an unusually significant number of ways that the local GOP is trying to make a contrast between the suburbs and the city in ads, mailers and on the stump. Favorites include criminal justice reform protests, looting, crime numbers, quality of life, Bill de Blasio (with spelling variants), bail reform and its effects, and even the lost Amazon headquarters deal from about a lifetime ago in 2019.

Watch the video here.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano