Queens Lawmakers on the Move June 10, 2020

Queens County City Council News

Gianaris Hails Passage of Policing Reforms

State Sen. Michael Gianaris

State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, parts of Woodside, Maspeth, Ridgewood, Woodhaven) yesterday hailed the Senate Democratic Majority passing major new policing laws, including the repeal of 50-a and other important and long-overdue bills. 

Last year a public hearing was held to examine the repeal of section 50-a of the Civil Rights Law as part of the Senate Majority’s ongoing commitment to improving the justice system. Recent national events surrounding the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have highlighted the immediate need for these proposals.

The 50-a law shielded police disciplinary records from the public for 44 years.

“This week we take the first steps to acknowledge and begin to fix our broken system of law enforcement. While there is more work to be done, I am proud New York’s legislature is the first to act in response to the latest of many tragedies our country has seen,” said Gianaris.

Addabbo Votes to Approve Law Enforcement Bill Package

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.

State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth, parts of South Ozone Park, Ridgewood, Woodside, The Rockaways) joined his colleagues in state government this week in voting to approve a package of bills that looks to improve community relations with the NYPD, properly discipline unscrupulous law enforcement agents, while protecting those who do their policing correctly.

The list of bills addresses issues such as false 911 complaints, banning the chokehold, creating a law enforcement misconduct investigative office, increasing the amount of information the chief administrator of the courts must compile on misdemeanor offenses and violations, repealing Section 50a of the Civil Rights Law, while codifying protection of an officer’s personal information, recording of a police incident, the right for medical attention, additional reporting for the discharge of a law enforcement weapon and body cameras for State Police.

“After much negotiating, research and discussion, I decided to vote in favor of this legislative package because it increases transparency amongst governmental agencies, improves public safety relations with the community, reveals the disciplinary records of law enforcement agents who are properly investigated for misconduct, while still protecting personal information of officers,” Addabbo said. “This will help appropriately safeguard the records of the majority of law enforcement officers who do a credible job, in addition to identifying those officers who do not adhere to regulations. Whenever we can accurately inform the public and protect good public servants, everyone benefits.”

Addabbo said he has always respected those individuals who choose a path of civil service by validly putting their lives on the line for the safety of others. 

“When the police and the community work together, it produces positive results that can create true public trust and safety. I’ve seen it done across my district time and time again through full and honest communication between the police department, community groups and residents,” Addabbo said. “However, just because situations are good in some precincts, does not mean they can’t be better citywide and statewide. I believe this package of bills will further improve the relationship people have with law enforcement across the state and increase the confidence individuals should have in those who serve to protect us.”

Katz Joins City’s DAs in Support of City Legislation Restricting Chokeholds

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz joined her DA colleague from the city’s other boroughs with the exception of Staten Island in issuing a joint statement in support of city and state legislation criminalizing the use of chokeholds and similar restraints by law enforcement officers while making an arrest. 

“Police officers risk their lives every day performing a dangerous job, and we are grateful for their service. We offer our support and respect for those who continue to uphold their sworn duty to serve and protect, doing so with NYPD’s core values of courtesy, professionalism and respect of the community,” the DAs said.

“We also acknowledge the need for increased accountability. We support the efforts of the Council today to pass legislation to amend the administrative code to respect the right to record police activities, to require visible shield numbers and rank designations, and to establish procedures for an early intervention system with record-keeping and reporting requirements that will allow the police department to identify officers who may be in need of enhanced training or monitoring.”

Besides Katz, also signing off on the statement were Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark.

Queens Congressional Delegation Sign on to Fed Police Reform Act   

The entire Queens Congressional Delegation, with the exception of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, signed on as co-sponsors to the House  Justice in Policing Act of 2020, the first-ever bold, comprehensive approach to hold police accountable, change the culture of law enforcement and build trust between law enforcement and the nation’s communities.

This includes U.S. Reps. Gregory Meeks, Grace Meng, Thomas Suozzi, Hakeem Jeffries, Nydia Velazquez and Carolyn Maloney.  

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020:

  • Prohibits federal, state, and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling, and mandates training on racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement.
  • Bans chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants at the federal level and limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.
  • Mandates the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal offices and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.
  • Establishes a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave on agency from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.
  • Amends federal criminal statute from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard to successfully identify and prosecute police misconduct.
  • Reforms qualified immunity so that individuals are not barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights.
  • Establishes public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities to re-imagine and develop concrete, just and equitable public safety approaches.
  • Creates law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices and requires the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama’s Taskforce on 21st Century policing.
  • Requires state and local law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age.
  • Improves the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and creates a grant program for state attorneys general to develop authority to conduct independent investigations into problematic police departments.
  • Establishes a Department of Justice task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, state and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct.