ALBANY, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo Wednesday said he plans to sign criminal justice reforms into law this week for New York State.
The State Assembly and Senate have passed a package of police accountability bills and other criminal justice reforms following protests and outrage over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“There’s a moment for change and we’re going to make change and we’re going to pass legislation this week that I’m going to sign that is going to lead the nation in police reform,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing on Wednesday.
One of the most talked-about reforms is the repeal of the statute known as “50-a” for its section in state civil rights law. 50-a has been in place for 44 years to shield the release of police disciplinary records.
Another reform bill about to become law will require State Police to wear body cameras while on patrol. The agency is one of the last statewide units in the U.S. not to be using body cameras.
A third reform is known as the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Bill in honor of the man who died while in a chokehold of a New York City Police Officer in 2014.
Even though the NYPD had banned the use of chokeholds by police officers back in 1993, an officer placed Garner in one after finding him selling loose cigarettes on a New York City sidewalk.
Garner fell and can be heard on video recording saying ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breath”. The bill, soon to be law, makes this a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
“We’ve seen it, we’ve seen it, we’ve seen it but we haven’t done anything and now it’s time to act, that’s what people are saying. And they’re right. And we’re going to act in the State of New York, and we’re going to act this week,” Cuomo says.
Another reform creates an Office of Special Investigation within the Department of Law, under the State Attorney General.
This unit will be used to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute any incident of a person whose death was caused by a police officer or peace officer.