In the days after George Floyd was killed by now former police officer Derek Chauvin, the New York state Legislature moved quickly to pass a package of long-sought police reform bills.
A measure that largely shielded police disciplinary records from public view, known as 50A, was repealed. It was preceded by bills to boost body-worn cameras and the right to record police activity and a new law for compiling police statistics.
For advocates, it's been a year of successes after a wall of opposition to any change. Police departments, meanwhile, tell a different story: a year of retirements and a lack of recruits.
But Democratic lawmakers say more work is needed, and are likely to continue to press forward with criminal justice and police reform measures as the legislative session winds to close in the coming days.
"We still are dealing with a very rotten system and I'm hopeful that we will continue to work towards reform and dismantling in some instances a system that has been oppressive," said state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, a Democrat from Brooklyn who has been a chief architect of the reform measures. "You're not going to extract what has been in the DNA in this country over night."
And it has also been in the DNA of New York politics to focus on tough-on-crime laws over the last generation. But state lawmakers in recent years, empowered by Democratic majorities in the state Senate and Assembly, have been able to unwind many of those policies in recent years.
And now lawmakers are considering new bills that would deal with virtually every aspect of the criminal justice system — from the point of arrest, to trial and to incarceration. Lawmakers are also considering a change to qualified immunity for police officers, as well as a program bill by Attorney General Letitia James that would require police officers to only use force as a last resort. Both measures face an uncertain path forward in the Legislature.
Myrie is calling for the passage of a bill that would lead to the sealing and eventual expungement of criminal convictions for millions of New Yorkers. At the root of the argument is ensuring people with convictions will still be able to find work after their sentence is complete.
"After you've served your sentence, paid your dues to society, we still have a state of affiars here where you are perpetually punished because of your entanglement," he said.
Still, law enforcement officials themselves have concerns. Columbia County Sheriff David Barlett said fewer and fewer people want to put on a uniform and badge.
"We've had numerous people on our lists just say no, they don't want to police officers anymore," he said. "So getting qualified candidates to come and become cops is tough."
Bartlett is backing a package of bills introduced by Republicans in the Senate that would boost penalities for resisting arrest and assaulting an officer as well as revealing personal information about an officer.
"I'm not a politician, I never claimed to be," he said. "I'm just a police officer. But we would like to see support across the aisle. People back us and the job that we're doing."