One measure will criminalize the use of Chokeholds and other forms of restraint

City Hall – The New York City Council on Thursday will vote on an historic package of legislation aimed at addressing police misconduct and enacting substantial police reforms. Included in the package is a bill to ban chokeholds and other methods of restraint, such as kneeling on a person’s neck, by police officers while conducting an arrest. Officers found guilty would be charged with a class A misdemeanor regardless of whether there is an injury. The statewide ban on chokeholds, which was recently signed by Gov. Cuomo, only applies in cases of a serious injury or death.

Two other bills in the package would enhance transparency in police interactions and allow New Yorkers to file lawsuits in response to violations. The first would reaffirm the right to record police activity and the second would prevent officers from shielding their badge numbers from the public.

There are also no guidelines for imposing discipline on NYPD employees, leading to claims of inconsistency, favoritism, and a lack of fairness. The Council will vote on legislation that requires the NYPD to develop a disciplinary matrix that outlines penalties for violations and publicly reporting on the usage of the matrix.

The Council will vote on a fifth bill that would require improvements to the NYPD’s system for identifying problematic officers. Finally, the Council will vote on legislation to create civilian oversight of the NYPD use of surveillance technologies.

The Council will also vote on a resolution in support of federal legislation that would make the use of a chokehold a civil rights violation.

In non-police matters, the Council will vote on a construction safety bill that requires all concrete mixer trucks and volumetric concrete mixer be equipped with chute closure devices during the transport of liquid concrete or materials to be mixed into liquid concrete.

Affirms the right to record police activities

Proposed Introduction No. 721-B, sponsored by Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, would affirm the right to film police activities generally, and establish a cause of action enabling individuals to sue in state court for any violation of this right.

This right would extend to any incident in which officers are preventing or attempting to prevent the recording of police activities, threatening or making any effort to intimidate a person recording police activities, stopping, seizing, searching, using any summons, or arresting any individual because such individual recorded police activities or seizing property or instruments used by any individual to record police activities.

This bill would also create a defense where recording physically interfered with an official and lawful police function. Finally, the bill would require quarterly reporting on related incidents.

“From George Floyd, to Ahmaud Arbery, to Eric Garner, we have seen a near constant stream of video of police misconduct for several years,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. “While these videos are often painful, they are also crucial. Again and again, we see that video evidence is one of the only ways to have a chance at accountability for officer misconduct. But again and again, we also see officers attempting to infringe on the right to record, and the transparency that comes with it, blocking attempts penalizing people who exercise this right. By codifying this right in city law, we further protect the ability for the public to provide transparency and demand accountability, and I thank the Speaker for recognizing the need to pass this bill now.”

Criminalizes chokeholds and other restraints

Proposed Introduction No. 536-B, sponsored by Council Member Rory I. Lancman, would criminalize the use of restraints that restrict the flow of air or blood by compressing another individual’s windpipe or arteries on the neck, or by putting pressure on the back or chest, by police officer making an arrest. This would cover chokeholds, as well as maneuvers like placing a knee on a person’s neck. Any officer found guilty of using such a restraint could be found guilty of a class A misdemeanor. Such an act would be criminalized only if used while the officer is trying to make an arrest – not, for example, acting in self-defense.

“The NYPD banned chokeholds decades ago, but tell that to Eric Garner and the hundreds of men and women choked by police officers even since his death” said Council Member Rory Lancman. “Today the Council does what the NYPD has failed to do: police the police by making it an actual crime for a cop to put someone in a chokehold or to sit, kneel, or stand on them so they can’t breathe.”

Requires on-duty police officers to display their badge at all times

Preconsidered Introduction No. ____-A, sponsored by Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, would require officers to display their shield number or rank designation at all times when the officer is performing their duties.

This bill would also create a private right of action for individuals who are subject to refusal of officers to display a shield number or rank designation.

“I am honored to sponsor this bill which will redress the rights of New Yorkers to identify police officers and empower them to take action when these rights are violated. Comprehensive police reform is only possible through a multi-pronged and joint effort in all layers of government. The legislative process is often so lengthy that advocates and members aren’t present to see the fruits of their labor. Today we have the opportunity to respond to the efforts and demands of the people in real time. I am proud to be part of a council that understands the importance of this moment and is prioritizing timely and much-needed legislation. The time is now,” said Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel.

Requires the NYPD to develop a disciplinary matrix

Proposed Introduction No. 1309-B, sponsored by Council Member Donovan J. Richards, would require the NYPD to develop a “disciplinary matrix,” which gives a recommended range of penalties for each type of violation. The NYPD Commissioner would retain the ultimate discretion to override the recommendation of the matrix, but the Department would be required to report on how often the Commissioner deviated from the matrix. The bill would also require public reporting on the development of the matrix, including the factors that were considered.

“Today’s package of bills sends a clear message to New Yorkers as well as every NYPD officer that no one is above the law, even if you’re enforcing it. For far too long, communities of color have endured injustice and fought in the battle for equal protection and civil liberties under the law,” said Chair of the Committee on Public Safety Council Member Donovan Richards. “While we still have more work to do, I would like to thank Speaker Corey Johnson, the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus and my colleagues for working to restore confidence and trust between the public and NYPD.”

Requires an expansion of the NYPD’s Early Intervention System

Proposed Introduction No. 760-B, sponsored by Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, would require the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to expand the categories of information included in its Early Intervention System (EIS) to include information like certain types of arrests made, incidents of excessive force, and ongoing disciplinary proceedings. The NYPD would also be required to increase transparency around its system by regularly reporting on the information included and how it’s utilized.

Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act

Proposed Introduction No. 487-A, sponsored by Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, would require the reporting and evaluation of surveillance technologies used by the New York City Police Department (NYPD).  The Department would be required to issue a surveillance impact and use policy about these technologies, including a description and capabilities, rules, processes and guidelines, and any safeguards and security measures designed to protect information collected. The Department of Investigation’s Inspector General for the NYPD would audit the surveillance impact and use policy to ensure compliance with its terms.

“Today’s package of police reform bills is a call to action in response to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade that ignited the start of a global movement,” said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson. “These bills are the floor and not the ceiling in ensuring transparency and oversight over the NYPD and that protections are in place for communities of color. As the prime sponsor of the POST Act and Intro. 760, I want to thank all of the advocates for their tireless work in pushing for these bills to move forward, my colleagues in the Council and Speaker Corey Johnson for his leadership. This is an unprecedented time and we are all tired, but there is more work to be done.”

Supports the Eric Garner Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act of 2019 (H.R. 4408)

Resolution T2020-6256, sponsored by Council Member Carlina Rivera, would urge the United States Congress to pass The Eric Garner Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act of 2019 (H.R. 4408) sponsored by U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries. If made law, this bill would make the use of chokeholds a civil rights violation. This would enable federal authorities to hold accountable police officers who use the deadly technique.

“Chokeholds and other violent uses of excessive force that have been used by police to kill so many black and brown Americans have no place in New York City or anywhere in this country. I’m thankful we’re voting today to ban the practice locally and that we’re voting on my Resolution calling for the passage of the Eric Garner Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act of 2019, which would ban the practice at the national level. These bills, and the others being voted on to address practices at the NYPD, are a good first step in changing the way we think about public safety in New York City. I look forward to working with the Speaker on further legislation to tackle the systemic racism and issues facing New York and American policing,” said Councilwoman Carlina Rivera.

Requires certain vehicles to be equipped with chute closure devices

Proposed Introduction No. 1354-A, sponsored by Council Member Robert F. Holden, would require all concrete mixer trucks driving through the city of New York to be equipped with chute closure devices during the transport of liquid concrete by June 30, 2021.

“Cement trucks have too often spilled materials all over the roadway when making a sharp turn or driving up a hill, and the debris can create extremely dangerous situations,” said Council Member Robert Holden. “I am tremendously proud to see this legislation pass and improve the safety of our streets for all commuters. I’d like to thank all of my colleagues who signed on or voted in favor of this bill as it will make a significant difference in all of our neighborhoods across the five boroughs.”