On June 8th, the Legislature returned to Albany for three Session days where they passed a package of police reform bills in response to the George Floyd killing. The measures passed include:
- The Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act, which creates a new crime of aggravated strangulation, which would occur when a police or peace officer causes serious physical injury or death by using a chokehold or similar restraint. The crime would be a class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
- Legislation requiring officers, whether on or off duty, verbally report the discharge of a weapon where a person could have been struck within six hours of the incident, followed by a written report within 48 hours of the incident.
- The STAT Act, which aims to bring transparency to policing data by requiring the Office Court Administration (OCA) to compile limited, anonymized data concerning misdemeanor and lower-level arrests and court processing. The legislation also requires the Chief of every police department, every County Sheriff, and the Superintendent of State Police to promptly report to the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) all arrest-related deaths and specific data related to such deaths.
- Legislation that would prevent the biased misuse of emergency services. Under this legislation, any person who calls a police officer or peace officer without reason to suspect a violation of the law, any other criminal conduct, or an imminent threat to a person or property, but motivated instead by a belief of perception regarding race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation of an individual, could be held liable for such conduct in a civil action for injunctive relief, damages or other appropriate remedies.
- The Right to Monitor Act, which protects New Yorkers’ rights to record law enforcement activity by stating that members of the public are legally permitted to record and photograph police activity, and providing a legal course of action if an officer interferes with lawful recording. The bill also protects an individual’s rights to maintain custody and control of any recording.
- Legislation aimed at ensuring the safety of individuals while in custody.
- Legislation requiring Division of State Police officers to wear body cameras at all times while on patrol. The legislation also allows the Attorney General to investigate any instance where a body camera failed to record an event.
- Legislation establishing an Office of Special Investigation within the Offices of the New York State Attorney General, which would investigate and, if warranted, prosecute incidents of a person dying in law enforcement custody or after an encounter with a police officer or certain peace officers.
- Legislation promoting transparency and accountability for law enforcement by repealing section 50-a of the New York Civil Rights law, which has allowed police officers to refuse the disclosure of their personnel records to the public without their written consent. The legislation also amends the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to establish new definitions related to the terms “law enforcement disciplinary record,” “law enforcement disciplinary proceeding,” “law enforcement agency,” and “technical infraction. When responding to a FOIL request, law enforcement agencies will be required to redact certain information from law enforcement disciplinary records, including the officer’s medical history, home addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, social security numbers, and the use of Employee Assistance Program and any mental health or substance abuse services.
It is currently unknown if the Legislature has any plans to return for Session before the end of the year. However, we are continuing to closely monitor the Legislature’s actions, and will inform you of any changes or announcements.