Though each are now wealthy hip-hop moguls, Jay Z and Russell Simmons grew up as young men of color on the streets of New York, an experience deeply reflected in their art and work. That makes them uniquely relevant and influential in discussions about potential reforms in policing tactics in the city.
According to AP reports, the MC and music-business titan met with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to offer ideas for changing the city's policing strategies, and how police are held accountable in instances of brutality.
The recent events in Ferguson, Mo., and New York's Staten Island, where unarmed African American men were killed by white officers who were later not indicted for their actions, have galvanized activists into seeking police reforms.
At the centerpiece of Jay Z and Simmons' conversation was a request that special prosecutors be deployed in case of police brutality. The reform is one of several changes in policing and criminal justice that Cuomo is considering in the wake of the death of Eric Garner.
The meeting did rankle some conservatives, however. David Laska, a spokesman for the state's Republican Party, told the New York Post that "Given Jay Z’s history with the law, he’s as serious a source on police policy as Vladimir Putin is on freedom of speech."
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