Assembly Member Lentol Announces Repeal of 50-a, Legislative Package to Bring Police Transparency and Accountability

Assembly Member Joseph R. Lentol (D-North Brooklyn) announced the passage of a legislative package to promote transparency and accountability within law enforcement and to improve police and community relations. This comes after the horrific murder of George Floyd and amid protests across New York City with thousands of people raising their voices in support of change and reform.

“The murder of George Floyd is a reminder that racism and inequality continue to exist in our society. All across the nation, Americans are calling for justice and accountability from our law enforcement agencies. Rallies and protests around the country and in New York prove that the time for change has come, and the time for change is now,” said Assembly Member Lentol.

Lentol has been a tireless advocate for criminal justice reform in New York State. His other legislative victories include repealing the Rockefeller Drug Laws that targeted minority communities with draconian prison sentences for minor drug possession; raising the age of criminal responsibility so that sixteen and seventeen year olds cannot be tried as adults in criminal court; and reforming criminal discovery procedures, speedy trial reform, and bail reform.

“This week, I was proud to help pass sweeping reforms to New York State law that will promote greater transparency and accountability in law enforcement. That begins with the repeal of 50-a and the passage of the STAT Act, two landmark pieces of legislation. I am especially proud to have been the prime sponsor of the STAT Act, and that after five long years of trying to move it forward, it has finally passed,” said Lentol.

“These measures are the first steps to rebuilding trust between communities and the police. The goal of good government is to promote transparency and accountability - and that is what we are doing here. The repeal of 50-a will do that and help restore public trust in law enforcement,” added Assembly Member Lentol.

Assemblyman Lentol anticipates in upcoming budget negotiations funds will be shifted to community programs, including those directed at our children and teens.

“While passing these reforms are critical, it’s not enough. We must invest in our communities by increasing funding towards our schools, true affordable housing, healthcare system, summer youth programs, and more. Protesters all across our city are calling for reform and justice, and we have to listen,” concluded Lentol.

STAT Act to Bring Transparency to Policing Data (Lentol-A10609)

The Police Statistics and Transparency (STAT) Act will require courts to compile and publish aggregate racial and other demographic information concerning arrests and court processing of lower– level offenses, including misdemeanors and violations. The bill also requires police departments to submit annual reports on arrest–related deaths to the Division of Criminal Justice Services, the Governor and the Legislature.

Under the STAT Act, the Office of Court Administration (OCA) would be required to compile limited, anonymized data concerning misdemeanor and lower-level arrests and court processing. The data to be collected and reported by county would include:

  • the number of misdemeanor offenses and violations charged;
  • the type of misdemeanor or violation charged;
  • the race, ethnicity, age and sex of the individual charged;
  • whether the individual was issued a summons or appearance ticket, was subject to custodial arrest, and whether an arraignment was held as a result of the charge;
  • precinct or location where the offense is alleged to have occurred;
  • disposition of the case;
  • if the case was dismissed, the basis for dismissal; and
  • the sentence imposed, including fines, fees and surcharges.

The legislation would also require the chief of every police department, every county sheriff, and the superintendent of state police to promptly report to the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) all arrest-related deaths. The data required to be reported to DCJS would include:

  • the number of arrest-related deaths in each county;
  • race, ethnicity, age and sex of each such individual;
  • zip code or location where the death occurred; and
  • a brief description of the circumstances surrounding each death.

The chief administrator of the courts would be required to include this information in the OCA's annual report. The data collected, without personal identifying information, would be made available to the public online, and updated monthly.

Repeal of 50-a to Promote Transparency and Accountability for Law Enforcement (O'Donnell-A10611)

This legislation repeals section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Law to provide much-needed transparency on police misconduct and discipline. These records are subject to the state Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), just like all other government agency records, while information such as personal contact information, medical history of officers, social security numbers, and use of an employee assistance program, mental health service, or substance abuse assistance service that is not mandated by a disciplinary proceeding would be protected.

The Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act (Mosley-A6144)

The Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act would create a new crime of aggravated strangulation. This offense would occur when a police or peace officer, using a chokehold or similar restraint, applies pressure to the throat or windpipe of a person, hindering breathing or the intake of air, and causes serious physical injury or death. This would be a class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Protecting New Yorkers' Rights to Record Law Enforcement Activity (Perry-A1360)

The Right to Monitor Act confirms the public's right to record public law enforcement activity and ensures that members of the public are legally permitted to record and photograph police activity, giving individuals a legal course of action if an officer interferes with lawful recording. The bill would also protect an individual's right to maintain custody and control of the recording. This change would codify rulings of many federal circuit courts, and the courts of this state, that members of the public have the right to record activity in their neighborhoods.

Ensure the Safety of Individuals in Custody (Fernandez-A8226)

This legislation affirms that police and correctional agencies must provide attention to the medical and mental health needs of individuals in their custody. In recent years there have been numerous disturbing reports of individuals who have been injured during arrest or become injured or ill subsequent to arrest and while in custody. In many cases, adequate medical care had been denied or unreasonably delayed, causing needless suffering and pain and even in some extreme cases the death of these individuals. By specifically affirming a duty of care, this legislation will help prevent individuals in custody from having to endure further distress or harm in the future.

Body Cameras for All New York State Police Officers (Walker-A8674)

This legislation will establish the New York State Body-Worn Cameras Program to increase accountability and evidence for law enforcement and the residents of the state by providing body-worn cameras to all state police officers while on patrol.

Under the bill, the Division of State Police would provide body-worn cameras to all New York State Police officers to be worn at all times while on patrol. The cameras would record:

  • immediately before an officer exits a patrol vehicle to interact with a person or situation, even if there is a dash camera inside such vehicle which might also be recording the interaction;
  • all uses of force, including any physical aggression and use of a non-lethal or lethal weapon;
  • all arrests and summonses;
  • all interactions with people suspected of criminal activity;
  • all searches of persons and property;
  • any call to a crime in progress;
  • investigative actions where there are interactions with members of the public;
  • any interaction with an emotionally disturbed person; and
  • any instances where officers feel any imminent danger or the need to document their time on duty.

The legislation would also allow the attorney general to investigate any instance where body cameras fail to record an event. At the discretion of the officer, body cameras may not record:

  • sensitive encounters, including but not limited to speaking with a confidential informant, or conducting a strip search; or
  • when a member of the public asks such an officer to turn off the camera, provided, however, such officer may continue recording if he or she thinks a record of that interaction should be generated.

The Division of State Police is required to preserve the recordings of the body-worn cameras and perform all upkeep on the equipment.

Creating Office of Special Investigation to Investigate Deaths in Custody (Perry-A1601)

The legislation would establish an Office of Special Investigation within the Offices of the New York State Attorney General that would investigate and, if warranted, prosecute incidents of a person dying in law enforcement custody or after an encounter with a police officer or certain peace officer. District attorneys and officers in local police departments work closely together in important and sensitive matters. When an individual dies after an encounter with police or in law enforcement custody, it would promote public confidence to have the circumstances of the death investigated and reviewed by an independent prosecuting agency.

Requiring Officers to Promptly Report Discharge of a Firearm (Perry-A10608)

This legislation will require law enforcement officers that discharge their weapon in circumstances where a person could be struck by a bullet from a weapon must promptly report the incident.

Under current statutes, law enforcement officers are not required to report the discharge of a weapon, even in circumstances where a person may have been struck. This legislation would change that, requiring that police and peace officers, whether on or off duty, verbally report discharge of a firearm where a person could have been struck within six hours of the incident, followed by a written report within 48 hours. This change will aid in upholding the professional dignity of our police officers, in addition to saving state resources. This bill seeks to keep the bond between police officers and the community intact.

Prevent the Biased Misuse of Emergency Services (Richardson-A1531)

Recent years have shown a number of distressing racially or ethnically motivated calls to 911 for selling water, cutting grass or using the swimming pool. This legislation that would create a civil penalty for the biased misuse of emergency services, such as 911, when there is no reason to believe a crime or offense, or imminent threat to person or property, is occurring.

Under the bill, any person who summons a police officer or peace officer without reason to suspect a violation of the law, any other criminal conduct, or an imminent threat to a person or property, but motivated instead by a belief or perception regarding race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation of an individual, could be liable for such conduct in a civil action for injunctive relief, damages or other appropriate remedies.

Emergency services should be readily available for anyone in eminent danger. Having 911 call centers continuously dispatching police, fire or EMT services for non-emergencies leaves their resources short if an actual emergency is reported at the same time. This bill is not to discourage the intended use of 911, but to inhibit its blatant misuse.

Creates Law Enforcement Misconduct Investigative Office (Taylor-A10002)

Establishes the Law Enforcement Misconduct Investigative Office within the Department of Law headed by a Deputy Attorney General to receive and investigate complaints from any source or on their own initiative concerning allegations of corruption, fraud, use of excessive force, criminal activity, conflicts of interest or abuse in a local law enforcement agency.

The office would be empowered to investigate and recommend whether disciplinary action, civil or criminal prosecution or further investigation by an appropriate federal, state or local agency is warranted and assist in such investigations.

The State Inspector General, MTA Inspector General and the Port Authority Inspector General would be granted similar authority to investigate police officers in agencies under their jurisdiction. The office would report annually to the Governor, Legislature and Attorney General.

Prohibit Law Enforcement from Using Racial and Ethnic Profiling (Bichotte-A4615)

This legislation passed in the Assembly and awaits passage in the Senate. It enacts a statewide ban on racial and ethnic profiling by police and law enforcement agencies and allows victims of racial and ethnic profiling or the state Attorney General to bring an action in court for damages or injunctive relief to stop the agency’s improper actions. Requires the state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to create methods for law enforcement agencies to record data about individual traffic stops and investigative encounters with civilians. Information compiled about stops, frisks and other police encounters would be published in annual reports and on the DCJS website. The bill also allows individuals profiled in violation of law to bring civil lawsuits for damages.