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Legislature Not Done With Police Reform Proposals

The state Legislature may not be done with its police reform efforts.

Several pieces of legislation have been introduced in the past week, including legislation to prohibit military equipment from making its way to local police departments, two bills that would create a duty for police officers to report bad actions by fellow officers, legislation mandating officers be fired for misconduct and deadly force restrictions.

Assemblyman Nick Perry, D-Brooklyn introduced A.10651 to limit the circumstances when deadly force can be used by police or peace officers in New York.

Perry’s legislation would stipulate that deadly force could only be used if a person commits a felony that threatened or resulted in death or serious injury, if the officer reasonably believes the person will kill or seriously injure someone else unless immediately caught. Where feasible, Perry’s legislation states, an officer must make reasonable efforts to identify himself or herself as a police officer before using force and to warn that deadly force could be used, unless the officer has “objectively reasonable grounds” to believe the person is aware of those facts. An officer would not be allowed to use deadly force based on the danger a person poses to themselves if the person isn’t a danger to the officer or others.

“In response a series of police killings of unarmed civilians, California Gov. Gavin Newsom in August 2019 signed the California Act to Save Lives,” Perry said in his legislative justification. “This law is designed to save lives and in signing this legislation Gov. Newsom intended to send ‘a message to people all across the country that they can do more’ to prevent police shootings. New York law is significantly broader as to instances in which a police or peace officer may use deadly force.”

Perry has also introduced A.10647, which amends the Civil Service Law to reassign police officers pending certain investigations of incompetency or misconduct involving egregious behavior including, but not limited to, police brutality, intimidation, racial profiling, planting or fabricating evidence, unwarranted search and seizure, violating department procedures, and abuse of authority, and provides for an expeditious investigation of such incidents.

“This legislation will ensure that an officer who engages in egregious behavior will be relieved of their gun and badge and reassigned to desk duty while an investigation into their actions takes place,” Perry said in his legislative justification.

Perry also authored A.10645, which requires that each police officer involved in the execution of a search warrant wear a functioning and unobstructed body camera that shall be active prior to and throughout the execution of the search and during any related action following the execution of the search warrant. Assemblyman Robert Carroll, D-Brooklyn, has introduced similar legislation that amends state law to require arrests be recorded; if it is not the arrest would be void and the defendant released.

“Many police departments, including the NYPD require that officers must record certain events, including all uses of force and all arrests and summonses,” Carroll wrote in his legislative justification. “However, we have seen in many instances that body worn cameras during an arrest suddenly malfunction, are not turned on, or otherwise do not function as expected. This bill reinforces the existing NYPD procedure requiring that all arrests be recorded but would additionally void any arrest made without a valid recording. This bill would help enforce transparency in all arrest proceedings.”

Carroll also introduced A.10632, which Prohibits prior peace officers or police officers whose position as such was terminated or vacated due to misconduct from again becoming a peace officer or a police officer.

Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, D-Albany, introduced A.10630, which would amend the state Executive Law to grant immunity from liability and professional retaliation against a law enforcement employee who intervenes against police misconduct committed by another member of law enforcement.

Assemblywoman Inez Dickens, D-New York City, has introduced A.10622 to establish Conviction Integrity Units to review convictions and to make recommendations for changes in convictions and sentences.

“There are instances where evidence that may not have been made available to a prosecuting agency and/or a criminal defendant prior to trial, may have had a direct affect on the outcome of the trial verdict, conviction and sentencing,” Dickens wrote in her legislative justification. “The undertaking of a defendant’s appeal of a conviction and sentence may be costly and a very lengthy process. By establishing a conviction integrity unit, a prosecution agency … or by defendant’s application, may review and investigate plausible allegations of factual innocence, newly discovered material evidence or information discovered or received by the prosecution agency that would have resulted in a significant probability that the result would have been different. This legislation grants the prosecution agencies and defendants a timely measure to undo a wrongful conviction and release an innocent individual from prison without lengthy appeals and litigation.”

In the state Senate, Sen. Liz Krueger, D-New York City, introduced S.8574 on Tuesday to prohibit the transfer, acceptance or purchase of military weapons from the federal government. The law would extend to the New York state Police, county sheriff’s offices and all town, village and city police departments.

S.8580, sponsored by Sen. Luis Sepulveda, D-Bronx, requires police officers to report the misconduct of a police officer as well as requiring the state Division of Criminal Justice Services to establish a protocol for police departments to use when handling and recording the mandatory reports of misconduct by a police officer. Related legislation, S.8581, is sponsored by Sen. Kevin Parker, D-Brooklyn, and would establish a duty to report an unauthorized use of force by a police officer and make failure to report as a class B misdemeanor. Both bills have been referred to the Senate Rules Committee.

Sepulveda is also sponsoring S.8583, which would amend the state Civil Service Law to state that any officer who was dismissed for malfeasance or serious misconduct or who resigned or retired during an investigation into bad behavior would not be entitled to any retirement or other benefit or payment in kind. That bill has been referred to the Rules Committee.

Sen. Robert Jackson, D-New York City, has introduced S.8584 to create a crime of tampering with physical evidence if a police or peace officer turns off a body camera or deletes body camera recordings of crimes.

Sen. Robert Jackson, D-New York City, is pictured with housing advocates in Albany.

Assemblyman Nick Perry questions New York Police Department officials about plans to improve police-community relations.

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