Lawmakers started passing legislation on Monday, aimed to start reforming the policing system itself.
While a few legislators made the trek back to their freshly sanitized desks, the threat of COVID-19 caused many lawmakers to gather for committees in front of their computers. Senator Tom O’Mara even participated in a Senate Codes meeting while driving.
Both houses plan to pass a package of at least a dozen police reform bills. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie who has been fighting to pass some of these bills for decades noted the importance of the moment.
“To see that they're actually now going to have a chance to become law really warms the heart,” Speaker Heastie said. “It makes you feel like 20 years, for at least me personally, 20 years of wanting a fair and just system, it's finally coming along.
The New York state Senate and Assembly passed five bills on Monday that are a part of their ‘policing reforms legislative package.’
- The Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act
This bill is named after Eric Garner who died in 2014 after NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo placed him in a chokehold. Garner also said the same phrase as George Floyd in Minneapolis, “I can’t breathe.” The officer, Pantaleo, did not face criminal charges and was fired five years later. This new legislation would allow police officers to be charged with a Class C felony if they use the chokehold and cause serious injury or death.
- The Right To Monitor Act
This bill would allow for officers arresting a person to be filmed by anyone in the vicinity not being arrested. It would also let this person keep their recording as long as they are not physically getting in the way.
- Civil Penalty For Biased Misuse of Emergency Services
This bill would allow for a person to be sued if they falsely claim a person of a protected class, is threatening them. Different version of this bill was proposed after the viral video of a white woman in Central Park called 9-1-1 on a black man claiming he was threatening her, after he asked her to put her dog on a leash.
- Reporting Incidents of Discharged Weapons
This bill will require law enforcement officers, on or off duty, to report any incident where they discharged a weapon near where people could be hit. This does not include when they are at a shooting range. The officer will be required to immediately (within 6 hours) report the incident with their superior.
- STAT ACT
This bill will require courts, statewide, to collect demographic data on a range of metrics including ethnicity, race, age and more. Courts will be required to compile and publish this data of all low-level offenses, including misdemeanors and violations. It also requires police departments to submit annual reports on arrest-related deaths to the Department of Criminal Justice Services and to the Legislature and Governor.
On Tuesday, lawmakers plan to pass another four bills that are a part of their police reform agenda. A bill that has gained national momentum, is repealing Section 50-a of the Civil rights Law. Senator Jamaal Bailey carried the bill that repealed Section 50-a in the Senate.
“When you're talking justice reform and police reform it's not just one bill,” Senator Bailey explained. “This is a moment we have to seize and I think my colleagues are recognizing that.“
- Repealing Section 50-a
This statutory framework has been in effect for more than 40 years. It was created to keep law enforcement’s personal information private during investigation. A judge can release these records if they are found to be relevant to a case or with the written consent of officers. However, for years this law has been used to prevent police departments from disclosing an officer’s disciplinary records. This bill would repeal Section 50-a and replace it with a statute that will allow for the release of police officers, firefighters, and correctional officers’ personnel records, including disciplinary records to be released. These records would be subject to FOIL, but all sensitive information would be redacted after personal information such as cell phone numbers, addresses and health information.
- State Troopers Required To Wear Body Cameras
The New York State Police are the largest primary state law enforcement agency not equipped with cameras. NYSP earlier this year launched a pilot program that looked at equipping some troopers with the cameras. But no final program has been adopted by the agency yet. This bill would require State Police to wear body cameras starting next April.
- Duty To Provide Medical Attention
This bill would amend the Civil Rights Law and require law enforcement officers to provide medical and mental health attention to a person under arrest or in custody.
- Racial Profiling
This bill passed the Assembly on Monday, and could possibly pass the Senate on Tuesday. This bill would prohibit police officers from using racial and ethnic profiling and a procedure must be set up to review complaints against police for profiling. This bill would also allow for damages to be brought against police departments if there is racial profiling.
And on Wednesday both houses plan to pass two more bills to wrap up their agenda:
- Setting Up AG’s Office As A Special Prosecutor
This bill would create an Office of Special Investigation under the Attorney General which will investigate officer related deaths.
- Creation Of An Oversight Office
This bill would establish the The Law Enforcement Misconduct Investigative Office and would review, study, audit and make recommendations regarding policies and practices of local police departments.
“What this whole next few days will do, is give police the kind of rules that they never really had frankly from government,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins explained. “I think police have kind of had their own rules. And now we're asking them to do this, don't do that.”