Public Advocate Jumaane Williams today utilized one of his first acts in office to join with police reform groups and families impacted by police violence on the steps of city hall and call on the state to pass the Safer NY Act and repeal 50-a, a police secrecy law.
As a state legislative package, the Safer NY Act includes: the PoliceSTAT Act (A-Lentol/S1830A-Hoylman) requiring statewide reporting on policing of minor offenses and deaths from police interactions; reducing unnecessary arrests (A4053-Aubry/S2571-Bailey) by banning custodial arrests for non-criminal violations; and passing the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (A1617-Peoples-Stokes/S1527-Krueger) to legalize marijuana under a marijuana justice framework.
The repeal of 50-a is a key component of the package as police reform groups say is shields police departments to hide police misconduct and discipline records. It has been used to protect abusive police officers and police departments from public accountability for brutality, sexual misconduct, lying, and other actions, say police reform groups.
“As NYC’s public advocate, I’m proud to have introduced a bill into the NYC council calling on the state legislature to
#repeal50a, this will help make the NYPD more transparent and accountable,” said Williams.
But the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), the union representing the rank-and-file NYPD members say repealing 50-a would expose hundreds of thousands of civil servants — not only police officers, but firefighters, corrections officers, probation officers and others — to harassment and intimidation.
“Before lawmakers rush to placate the anti-cop extremists, they need to consider the safety of the state’s hardworking public safety professionals, and the safety of the New Yorkers we protect every day,” said PBA President Patrick Lynch.
However, longtime Assemblyman N. Nick Perry (D-East Flatbush) argued at the rally for the need to pass the entire package of police reform bills.
#SaferNYAct is designed to bring the bad cops to justice. It is not designed to get at the good ones. We all have an interest in passing these set of bills,” said Perry.
Many of the 90 organizations that are part of the Safer NY Act coalition were at the rally and called for the state legislature to prioritize passage of the bills after the state budget is finalized.
“It’s urgent that we pass each and every one of these legal reforms in this legislative session in order to bring comprehensive change to our criminal justice system and transparency to our law enforcement. Together these common sense policies would make tremendous progress on behalf of the many New Yorkers who are unjustly criminalized and incarcerated,” said State Sen. Julia Salazar (D-Bushwick, Cypress Hills, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, East New York).
Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon (D-Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO) said New Yorkers deserve transparency from the institutions meant to keep them safe.”Increasing police accountability is necessary to make our communities safer and is a step in the right direction to address the systemic inequities that burden our most vulnerable neighbors. Increasing transparency, shining a light on police secrecy, and reducing unnecessary arrests will make all New Yorkers safer,” she said.
City Council Member Antonio Reynoso (D-Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick) said for decades, New Yorkers of color have endured racially skewed and harsh policing practices while state policy has prevented basic transparency around these actions.
“In New York City, the NYPD has routinely used a flawed interpretation of 50-a to shroud cases in secrecy, helping to shield officers from accountability and deny families justice. I urge the New York State legislature to pass the Safer NY Act which would repeal 50-a, increase transparency in police-civilian interactions, and ensure that the marijuana market is just and equitable upon its legalization,” he said.