City joins lawsuit against Sessions to fight for police funding

City joins lawsuit against Sessions to fight for police funding
Photo by Michael Shain
By Naeisha Rose

New York City has joined 22 other “sanctuary” cities and organizations across the country in a lawsuit against the U.S. Attorney’s office in response to the Trump Administration’s attempt to cut off funding to the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program.

The Byrne program is named for NYPD Officer Edward Byrne of the 103rd Precinct in Queens Village, who was killed in the line of duty nearly 30 years ago at age 22 while protecting an immigrant New Yorker who had reported criminal activity in his neighborhood.

“It is particularly ironic for New Yorkers that the Department of Justice threatens to withhold funds from a grant named for a New York City police officer who heroically gave his life to protect an immigrant witness who was cooperating with law enforcement,” said attorney Zachary Carter of the New York City Corporation Counsel’s office.

According to the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, New York City received $4.3 million in Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funding last year, which was used for crimefighting analysts, prosecutions, drug treatment and enforcement programs as well as NYPD 911 dispatchers. The funding also allows local precincts to design their own format for combatting crime based on what is plaguing each district.

The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs claims that the effort to erode funding for the Byrne JAG program is a part of the President’s broader attack on cities like New York which are sanctuaries to immigrants regardless of their status.

The potential cut to funding comes at an interesting time in New York City’s history.

Last year, Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced the city’s largest decrease in crime in more than 50 years and a prison population that fell to a 35-year low of 8,783 inmates.

“We’ve seen the lowest number of index crimes here since the ‘50s, and we’re — with informed, engaged, and empowered communities — going to keep pushing those numbers down even further,” O’Neill vowed.

“We’ve been carrying out a multi-pronged effort over the course of my first term to shrink our jail population, and today we see the results: a jail population lower than it’s been in 35 years,” Mayor DeBlasio said.

O’Neill said one of the major factors in bringing down crime across the city was Neighborhood Coordination Officer programming.

The NCO program was an initiative that was started four years ago to encourage residents and community leaders, regardless of immigration status, to work with local precincts in their area to deter crime.

“New York City is living, breathing proof that immigrant communities and effective local policing strategies work together to create a safer city for all city residents,” said Bitta Mostofi, Acting Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “Rather than impose unconstitutional and counterproductive conditions on our public safety funding, the Trump Administration should focus on how to support safe and incredibly diverse cities like New York.”

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.