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Governor Cuomo Signs 'Say Their Name' Reform Agenda Package

June 12, 2020   05:00 p.m.
    Press Release from Governor Cuomo's Office:

    Governor Cuomo Signs 'Say Their Name' Reform Agenda Package

    Reforms Include Repealing 50-a; Banning Chokeholds; Prohibiting Race-Based
    911 Calls; and Appointing Attorney General as Independent Prosecutor for
    Police Involved Deaths

    Following Killing of George Floyd, Governor Proposed the 'Say Their Name'
    Reform Agenda to Reduce Inequality and Reimagine the State's Criminal
    Justice System

    Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed the 'Say Their Name' Reform Agenda
    package following the killing of George Floyd and an ongoing pattern of police
    brutality against minority communities across the nation. These landmark policing
    reforms will help reduce inequality in policing and reimagine the state's criminal
    justice system. The reforms include:

  • Allowing for transparency of prior disciplinary records of law enforcement
    officers by repealing 50-a of the civil rights law;
  • Banning chokeholds by law enforcement officers;
  • Prohibiting false race-based 911 reports; and
  • Designating the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor for matters
    relating to the civilian deaths.

    "The murder of George Floyd was just the tipping point of the systemic injustice
    and discrimination that has been going on in our nation for decades, if not
    centuries," Governor Cuomo said. "These are issues that the country has been
    talking about for a long time, and these nation-leading reforms will make long
    overdue changes to our policing and criminal justice systems while helping to
    restore community confidence in law enforcement. I want to applaud Senator
    Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie and the bill sponsors for working
    through these tough issues and for their fast action. New York State is the
    progressive capital. We never sit back and say just what the nation should do -
    we show the nation what it should do, and we did that again today."

    Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "The horrific murder of
    George Floyd, the most recent in a long list of innocent people like Breonna
    Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Tony McDade, and so many more, has led
    to a rightful outpouring of grief and anger. Black New Yorkers, like all residents of
    this state, deserve to know that their rights, and lives, are valued and protected
    by our justice system. The legislation that will be signed today will help stop bad
    actors and send a clear message that brutality, racism, and unjustified killings will
    not be tolerated."

    Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, "The tragic deaths of George Floyd,
    Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham and so many others shake us to
    the core. This week, my colleagues and I in the Assembly Majority answered the
    call of New Yorkers by passing historic reforms to our law enforcement system.
    These reforms have been championed by our members for years, and I want to
    thank my colleagues for their tireless commitment to seeing them through to the
    finish line. I would also like to thank the families of the victims and the passionate
    advocates who never tired in this fight for justice. They have courageously
    channeled their grief into a positive force for change and inspired us to deliver
    meaningful reforms here in New York."

    Repealing 50-a (S.8496/A.10611)

    Section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Law creates a special right of
    privacy for the personnel records of police officers, correction officers, and
    firefighters and paramedics employed by the State or political subdivisions. The
    current law prevents access to both records of the disciplinary proceedings
    themselves and the recommendations or outcomes of those proceedings, leading
    to records of complaints or findings of law enforcement misconduct that did not
    result in criminal charges against an officer almost entirely inaccessible to the
    public.

    Repealing 50-a will allow for the disclosure of law enforcement disciplinary
    records, increasing transparency and helping the public regain trust that law
    enforcement officers and agencies may be held accountable for misconduct.

    Banning Chokeholds (S.6670-B/ A.6144)

    In 1993, the New York City Police Department completely banned its officers
    from using chokeholds, but the ban has not prevented police officers from using
    this method to restrain individuals whom they are trying to arrest and the
    continued use of chokeholds has resulted in too many deaths. This new law
    creates criminal penalties when a police officer or peace officer uses a chokehold
    or similar restraint and causes serious physical injury or death.

    Prohibiting Race-Based 911 Calls (S.8492/A.1531)

    Recent years have shown a number of frivolous and false calls to 911 based on
    the callers' personal discomfort with other people and not for any particular
    threat. This new law makes it a civil rights violation to call 911 to report a non-
    emergency incident involving a member of a protected class without reason to
    suspect a crime or an imminent threat.

    Appointing Attorney General as Independent Prosecutor for Police
    Involved Deaths (S.2574-C/A.1601)

    This new law establishes an Office of Special Investigation within the Office of
    the Attorney General to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute cases
    where the death of a person follows an encounter with a law enforcement officer.
    The law also requires the new Office of Special Investigation to produce a report
    explaining the reasons for its decision regardless of whether it chooses to pursue
    charges. This will help improve public confidence in the criminal justice system
    by removing a potential conflict of interest in these types of investigations. This
    law builds on the Governor's Executive Order No. 147 from 2015 which
    established the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor in instances of
    police-involved deaths.