New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday signed into law a set of sweeping police reforms which include a repeal of a controversial statute in the state Civil Rights Law (CRL) that blocks public access to police disciplinary records.
Cuomo said in a tweet that the “nation-leading legislation” that he signed bans chokeholds, prohibits false race-based 911 calls, and ends Section 50-A of the CRL, which makes disciplinary records of police, fire, and corrections officers subject to public disclosure via Freedom of Information requests.
It comes amid a wave of reform sparked by the police-custody death of George Floyd.
“The truth is, police reform is long overdue, and Mr. Floyd’s murder is just the most recent murder,” Cuomo said ahead of signing the bills. “It’s about being here before–many, many times before. Today is about enough is enough,” Cuomo said.
The governor signed the bills alongside advocates that included Rev. Al Sharpton, Gwen Carr, and Valerie Bell, as well as New York State Senate Democratic Leader Andrew Stewart-Cousins and State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
New York state lawmakers earlier this week repealed 50-A, a move that was hailed by the New York City Bar Association as a positive step toward transparency and accountability.
“With the repeal of CRL 50-a, patterns of police misconduct–including repeated misconduct by individual officers–will no longer be shielded from public view, and law enforcement will be more accountable to the communities they serve,” the association said in a statement.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday backed the repeal with enthusiasm.
“The fact that this has happened is seismic,” de Blasio said at a virtual press briefing on Wednesday. “It will open the doors to tremendous transparency, and I think it’s going to help intensely.”
Unions opposed the repeal, arguing it eliminated an important layer of protection to law enforcement officers as the release of potentially sensitive information could endanger police.
Paul DiGiacomo, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, the union representing New York Police detectives, told NBC4 New York that de Blasio changed tack on the 50-a repeal.
“Mayor de Blasio flip-flopped, once again. The other day, he said publicly that 50a needed to be changed, but not fully repealed. The only thing he consistently does is turn his back on the brave men and women in blue who he relies on to keep every New Yorker safe,” DiGiacomo said, according to the report.
In an earlier statement, DiGiacomo said, “police in New York City and across the country are under attack, both physically and by elected officials.”
“Our work to keep people safe–at any cost–is being drowned out by calls to defund police departments and arrest officers based on a few seconds of video on social media,” he continued, adding that police received insufficient support from elected officials.
“Their decisions are based on appeasing the loudest anti-police protestors instead of fact,” DiGiacomo said of the actions of officials.
Also on Friday, Cuomo said he will sign an executive order requiring local governments and agencies to “develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies.”
He said communities must create and implement such plans by April 1, 2021, otherwise they will be ineligible for state funding.