Amid weeks of nationwide civil unrest over police brutality since the death of George Floyd, New York state lawmakers completed passage of 10 pieces of legislation in three days to reform the way police do business.
Remote voting by the Senate and Assembly began Monday and finished Wednesday afternoon. Both houses passed bills that criminalize police chokeholds and require state police to wear body cameras. Two other bills will give the state attorney general more authority to investigate police departments and police-related shootings.
Response to the legislation was swift in some quarters.
“Planning is underway,” according to a statement on body cameras from the state police public information office Wednesday. “We’ve received vendor responses to our solicitation for interest. Details about the program are still in development, and we do not yet have a cost estimate.”
In another development, Attorney General Letitia James appointed former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and New York University law professor Barry Friedman as special advisors to help guide and support her investigation into the recent interactions between the New York Police Department and protesters after videos and reports of some police officers responding with excessive force. Friedman is the founder and faculty director of the Policing Project at New York University.
It’s been said that if you are black in America, you or someone you know has had a bad encounter with police. This is forcing a long-overdue attempt to reform policing, not only in New York state, but nationwide.
We are in a historic place at a historic time to right the wrongs of police-related deaths of black men, including George Floyd, who were fathers, sons and husbands, and are now catalysts of a global movement. The 10-bill package enacted by the state Legislature on Wednesday won’t eradicate systemic police racism, but it is a big first step toward social change and a means of giving people hope.