I want to make sure you hear directly from me about the steps we’re taking in the State Legislature to combat police harassment and racial discrimination.
The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis reminds us all of the police brutality directed towards Black people, who are three times more likely than White people to be killed by police. I’ve joined my fellow New Yorkers at peaceful protests these last few days to call for justice on Staten Island, in Union Square and Times Square. I also joined a vigil yesterday at the Stonewall Inn to mark the beginning of Pride Month, an occasion that is rightfully less celebratory this year with recent events.
Many of us have protested this week, and if you do so I encourage you to stay safe by wearing a mask and maintaining social distance.
In my experience, the vast majority of protesters have been peacefully calling attention to racism and injustice. At the same time, I’ve witnessed members of the NYPD escalating the situation by charging at and attacking protesters. One of my own Senate colleagues was pepper-sprayed this weekend in Brooklyn in an unprovoked police attack. These instances must be fully investigated and any officers found responsible should be fired.
I’ve also witnessed looting and seen the dozens of smashed windows, trash fires, and overturned vehicles throughout our district. These are extremely troubling developments and I’m working with community leaders and local business owners to see how my office can be helpful.
On Monday, the Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the Assembly announced the Legislature will reconvene next week. My colleagues and I will consider legislation to combat harassment and racial discrimination by law enforcement.
Some of the bills being considered are part of the Safer NY Act, a package of bills I strongly support that would help increase police transparency and help increase accountability of law enforcement. They include:
- Legislation I co-sponsor to repeal 50-a, a statute that helps to shield police officers' disciplinary records from public scrutiny, and legislation that would codify the Governor's Executive Order establishing the State Attorney General as a special prosecutor for police violence; and
- My legislation, the Police STAT Act, which for the first time would require police departments across New York State to record and report information on who is arrested and ticketed, what race they are, where it happened, and how many people are dying in police custody.
I also introduced and carry a number of other important bills that would reform our justice system: legislation that would repeal the "walking while trans" ban, a discriminatory statute that frequently criminalizes transgender women of color; legislation to offer an automatic parole hearing to elder incarcerated New Yorkers; legislation to ban the NYPD's rogue DNA database, which endangers New Yorkers' civil liberties; and the Protect Our Courts Act, which would restrict ICE arrests of undocumented immigrants in and around New York State courthouses. I also co-sponsor the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act, which would make it a class B felony for police officers to cause serious physical injury or death to a person using a prohibited chokehold maneuver.
Although no law is a silver bullet for curing the perniciousness of racism, I think these bills are important measures Albany can take to help restore community confidence in law enforcement.
I’d be interested to know your thoughts. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any ideas or ways I can be helpful during this difficult time.