June 12, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a package of police reform bills into law Friday that seeks to improve relations between cops and the general public.
The legislation, which was hurried through the state legislature earlier this week, will make police disciplinary records public, ban cops from using chokeholds on civilians and classifies false race-based 911 calls as hate crimes.
The governor also issued an executive order requiring local governments and the NYPD to modernize police strategies and programs.
The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop last month coupled with a series of recent NYPD beatings at protests prompted officials to make law changes.
Cuomo said that relations between cops and civilians needs to be repaired and that police reform is long overdue.
“There is no trust between the community and the police, that’s what the protests have said,” Cuomo declared at a press briefing.
“And if there is no trust, the relationship doesn’t work and the police can’t effectively police,” he said.
The new laws form part of the governor’s “Say Their Name” reform agenda which he proposed last week.
Cuomo’s signature was the final step needed to repeal 50-A, which for decades had sealed police officers’ personnel records from public viewing. The bill had passed the Assembly and Senate on Tuesday.
Critics have accused the NYPD of using 50-A to hide the disciplinary and misconduct records of its officers from the public. The new law makes disciplinary records available upon Freedom of Information requests.
The governor signed off on legislation that bans cops from using chokeholds on civilians, a method roundly condemned by police reformists in light of the death of Eric Garner in 2014. Garner died after being placed in a chokehold by an NYPD officer in Staten Island. The new law carries a maximum 15 year prison sentence for offenders.
Cuomo also signed an executive order Friday that calls on all police forces throughout the state to come up with new policies and procedures when it comes to the use of force on civilians.
The order gives local governments and police departments until April 1, 2021 to implement new reforms. Should they fail to meet the deadline, they will have their state police funding pulled, he said.
Cuomo also designated State Attorney General Letitia James the power to conduct independent prosecutions for any in-custody civilian deaths.
Longtime civil rights activist Al Sharpton, who accompanied Cuomo at the signings, praised the governor for the latest round of reforms.
“Andrew Cuomo has raised the bar, and I hope every governor in this country will be asked today whether or not they’re going to do what he just did,” Sharpton said.
However, the head of the city’s largest police union slammed Cuomo and claimed the new laws would prevent cops from doing their jobs.
“We will be permanently frozen, stripped of all resources and unable to do the job,” Patrick Lynch, President of the Police Benevolent Association said.
“We don’t want to see our communities suffer, but this is what Governor Cuomo and our elected leaders have chosen.”