“Minority lawmakers push for police reform bills to pass in Albany”
“Last Friday, me and Assemblymember [Diana] Richardson went to the Barclay Center to protest for peace and our peace was met with pepper spray,” state Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D-Brooklyn) said in Brooklyn, one of several locations where pols gathered.
When chaos erupted during the protests near Fort Greene Park, he and Richardson were pepper-sprayed along with other protestors.
Myrie was also put in handcuffs before officers recognized him.
“We are high profile, so people pay attention. But brutality is not unique to us. In fact, it is in the DNA of this country,” he shouted.
Other lawmakers met elsewhere, in The Bronx, Queens, Syracuse, Rochester and on Long Island.
They plan a return Monday to Albany, and will take up several measures including a controversial law that blocks the public from viewing the confidential files of police, firefighters and corrections officers.
Sponsored by state Sen. Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx) and Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell (D-Manhattan), the bill would repeal section 50-a of New York’s civil rights law that allows law enforcement to refuse disclosure of personnel records.
It’s been on the books since 1976, and was intended to shield officers from “improper personnel record exposure” during criminal prosecutions.
But repeal advocates charge that broad court interpretation has made it nearly impossible to get at an officer’s disciplinary records, arguing lack of transparency protects bad cops.
“The idea that there’s some special, personal information that would get leaked in this process isn’t true.
If anyone wanted that information, they could get it on their computer rather than waiting for a FOIL request to be fulfilled,” O’Donnell told The Post in a phone interview.
“47 states don’t have 50-a laws. What that meant was, within days of Mr. Floyd’s murder we had access to information about his murderer’s history.”
“But to this day, those young, primarily black men whose lives have been lost at the hands of the New York City Police Department – their families still don’t know their story and that’s just wrong,” he added.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he will sign “any” repeal or reform legislation in the wake of explosive protests across the state, but added he has yet to speak with either state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) or Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx).
“Well, there are a number of concerns about how you do it,” he mused during his Thursday briefing in Albany, without adding details.
He has also said in recent days that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio could unveil the records right now if he wanted to, without state legislation. De Blasio said he also backs a repeal.
“The NYPD is the most restrained and professional police department in the nation. We have already undergone at least two decades of legislative reforms,” said PBA President Pat Lynch in a statement.
“A crime committed by a police officer 1,000 miles away does not justify rushing through a dozen more ill-considered bills. The legislators pushing these measures aren’t concerned about creating sound policy, just exploiting the politics of the moment.”
Other bills being considered include: a measure that would block false 911 calls related to hate crimes and another expanding the use of body cameras.
Another measure would impose stricter penalties for use of chokeholds — in direct response to the 2014 death of Eric Garner, who died of strangulation after NYPD office Daniel Pantaleo following his use of chokehold.