Since its inception last year, award-winning cable TV and digital network BRIC TV has strived to publicize and expose the lesser-known issues affecting Brooklyn.
From breaking segregation in schools to LQBTQ civil rights to the effects of gentrification, BRIC TV has provided a voice for those that often cannot be heard.
“We focus on local issues with national implications,” BRIC TV Producer Raquel Salazar told the Brooklyn Eagle. “When you think about the media, we did such a disservice this season, and I think we’re really inspired to do the opposite of what mainstream media does. We’re inspired to tell stories that are underrepresented or misrepresented often by the mainstream media or that are just not as hot.
“Most of the issues that Brooklyn faces everyday have national implications,” she continued. “We really do represent the world here. We have immigrants, we have refugees, and we are so diverse in religion and backgrounds… Not many cities, not many boroughs, neighborhoods and districts can say that and say that with pride.”
Many of these issues are discussed at BRIC TV’s “#BHeard Town Halls,” where the network hosts local politicians, activists, journalists and community members to discuss important, often contentious, issues facing the borough. During these meetings, “no topic is off-limits, and no viewpoint is ignored.”
One such issue — which wasn’t discussed at the town hall but was depicted in a documentary shot and produced by Salazar — was the Right To Know Act.
The film, titled "Police Reform, Ramarley Graham, and The Right To Know Act,” details the story of how the city pushed hard to legislate a promising police reform this year, but ultimately failed when City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and former NYPD Commissioner William Bratton struck a deal to implement the act administratively, but not by law.
If enacted, the Right To Know Act would have required NYPD officers to identify themselves and provide their name, rank, command and a phone number for the Civilian Complaint Review Board at the end of police encounters that do not result in arrest or summons. Officers would have also had to provide a specific reason for their law enforcement activity, such as a vehicle search or a stop-and-frisk.
The act, if made legislation, would have also allowed New Yorkers to deny searches that do not have any legal basis. In addition, police officers would have been required to explain to the person that he or she has the right to refuse a search.
“We know through the documentary and through our history with the NYPD that they can change policies, but that doesn’t mean that those changes are taking place out on the ground with their police officers like with the incident with Eric Garner,” Salazar told the Eagle. “The police said that you can no longer do a chokehold, but then you see with Eric Garner that they did in fact use it. So if it were a legislative proposal then it would have been against the law to do a chokehold.
“You could have held that [police officer] accountable, but because it was made administratively, it’s just very hard to hold the police officers accountable for the policies they are breaking.”
The NYPD told BRIC TV in a statement, "We worked and continue to work closely both with City Hall and City Council to implement policy change in an expeditious manner."
The documentary features City Councilmember Ritchie Torres, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, former NYPD Sargent David Grinage and journalist Samar Khurshid from the Gotham Gazette.
BRIC TV also speaks with Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham, who was shot and killed by a police officer in the Bronx in February of 2012. Graham's family filed a lawsuit against the city of New York, which was settled for $3.9 million in 2015.
“Our political structure in New York City shows you that you can elect an elected official, you can tell them what is going on in your community and what you think should change, they can bring that to the table, create a law, be there to support that law and pass it legally and then when it doesn’t happen, that’s very concerning,” said Salazar. “That’s very troubling to think that after all of that, at the end of the day, the decision is made by one or two people.
“Are our voices being heard at the end of the day in a democracy?”
To watch the documentary, visit ow.ly/s8Ax305jp9B.