An energized coalition in New York state is fighting to pass a series of reform bills that together will improve police accountability and transparency across the state.
Doesn’t the public have a right to know the data on arrests for low-level offenses, deaths in police custody, and which officers have a record of abuse and misconduct? And wouldn’t it make sense to have fair and thorough investigations when police kill someone? And shouldn’t we reduce arrests for very low-level offenses, and end marijuana prohibition and the over-policing that accompanies it?
Each bill is important, but together they would be a giant step forward for all New Yorkers. Read more about each bill below.
• Police Statistics & Transparency (STAT) Act (A5472A-Lentol/S1830B-Hoylman) This legislation would require police departments across the state to record & report demographic and geographic data on enforcement of low-level offenses (including violations and misdemeanors) to improve transparency of policing activities across the state. This bill also requires public reporting of deaths in police custody. The common- sense provisions of the Police STAT Act were part of recommendations issued by former President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
• Special Prosecutor Legislation to strengthen and codify Executive Order 147 (A1601A-Perry/S2574A-Bailey) This legislation authorizes the Attorney General’s office with jurisdiction in all cases of police killings and deaths in police custody, strengthening and memorializing EO147. The bill, if enacted, would help to ensure fair and thorough investigations and – when warranted – effective prosecutions in tragic incidents that the criminal justice system has historically failed to address.
• End Police Secrecy – Repeal NYS CRL Section 50-a (A2513-O’Donnell/S3695-Bailey) 50-a is a state statute that carves out special and unnecessary exemptions for police, fire and corrections. The state of New York is arguably the worst in the nation in terms of hiding police misconduct and discipline due to the expanded interpretation of 50-a in recent years. 50-a is routinely used to shield police misconduct and failed police disciplinary processes from public view. A repeal of 50-a would provide much needed transparency on police misconduct and discipline in New York State, and help address the systemic lack of accountability for officers who engage in misconduct. Other existing FOIL statutes will continue to protect individual officer privacy once 50-a is repealed – including officer home addresses, phone numbers and other private information.
• End Marijuana Prohibition and Invest in Communities – Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act (A1617-Peoples- Stokes/S1527-Krueger) This comprehensive legislation will remove marijuana from consideration under the Controlled Substances Act, and will authorize the personal use and cultivation of marijuana. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) will help address the discriminatory enforcement of marijuana prohibition statutes and will ensure that there is reinvestment in the communities most impacted by the war on drugs.
• Reduce unnecessary arrests for non-criminal offenses (A4053-Aubry/S2571-Bailey) This legislation will help end harmful and needless arrests for violations, which are minor, non-criminal, ticketable offenses. Arrests for violations disproportionately impact communities of color, carry significant social & public costs to taxpayers, and can jeopardize employment opportunities, immigration status, and access to health, housing, and other programs for those subjected to these unnecessary arrests. By making the law enforcement action commensurate with the offense, this legislation can help reduce financial resources spent on minor infractions, and increase resources available for meaningful safety measures for all New Yorkers.