As a coalition of organizations representing the diversity of New York City, including our elderly, immigrant, and low-income communities, we stand united in seeking justice for Mr. Wong and effective policies that will improve police community interactions.
On January 19, 2014, 84-year old Mr. Wong was hospitalized and in need of stitches to his head after he was stopped by the police for allegedly jaywalking. On that day, Mr. Wong was returning home from Chinatown, crossing the intersection at Broadway and 96th Street as he has always done for years. However, this time when he crossed the street, an officer asked him for his ID. Mr. Wong gave the officer his ID, but had no idea why the officer was holding onto his ID and he wanted it back. Mr. Wong speaks Cantonese and he was confused because he speaks little to no English and there was no officer on the scene who spoke Cantonese. The precinct recently began to crack down on jaywalking after three pedestrian fatalities occurred in that area, but Mr. Wong was unaware of the crackdown. The incident escalated, Mr. Wong suffered head injuries and the police officers handcuffed him. He has since been charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and obstruction of government administration.
- We demand all charges be dropped against Mr. Wong. There was no community notice of enforcing jaywalking tickets and there was no Cantonese interpreter provided by the NYPD. Indeed, after the incident with Mr. Wong, the precinct has now begun leafleting to educate the community on the dangers of jaywalking rather than summarily issuing tickets and arresting people.
- We demand the City work with communities to implement a more effective NYPD Language Access Plan and officers’ language access training. According to the current NYPD’s Language Access Plan, “it is the policy of the New York Police Department to take reasonable steps to provide timely and meaningful access for Limited English Proficient persons.” No Cantonese interpreter was provided to Mr. Wong at the time of the initial police encounter or at the time of his arrest. With more than one million people living in New York City who are limited English proficient or do not speak English at all, an effective NYPD language access plan and officer training on language access are critical in communicating with the police.
- We demand that the NYPD adopt measures to interact with all persons in a respectful, safe, and non-discriminatory manner. Mr. Wong is an 84 year old man. Issuing a jaywalking ticket should not have resulted in Mr. Wong being injured on the head requiring stitches with bruises on his body and being hand carried with officers holding on to arms and legs into the police van. Even though Mr. Wong was visibly bleeding from his head, he was taken to the precinct before being sent to the hospital. Mr. Wong’s case is an example where the NYPD mishandles encounters and puts individuals at risk. Violating individual’s civil rights, using unwarranted physical force, and mishandling persons, particularly the elderly, can have serious ramifications, including death. Officers need to be held accountable for their actions and need training in especially dealing with vulnerable members of our community whether it be age, health, or other factors.
- We demand that the NYPD examine “Broken Windows” policies that punish people for small violations like jaywalking, loitering, graffiti, homelessness on the subways rather than working with community members to address issues of public safety. Community members should be notified and consulted on changes in policing practices rather than being summarily punished for familiar actions such as jaywalking. Criminalization for small offenses can bar people’s access to housing, jobs, and social services. To build trust between the community and police, communities must be heard.
Organizations Working On This Statement:
Asian Americans for Equality
CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities
Hamilton-Madison House City Hall Senior Center
OCA-NY Asian Pacific American Advocates
United Neighborhood Houses
Arab American Association of NY (AAANY)
Center for Constitutional Rights
Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM)
Make the Road NY
Picture the Homeless