NEW YORK—The State of New York is launching a campaign to remind people that assaulting traffic or sanitation officers is a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Police commissioner Ray Kelly, Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes, and CWA Local 1182 president James Huntley held a press conference outside Brooklyn Borough Hall calling for a cease in assaults of traffic and sanitation officers.
“They do life-saving work every day, letting fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars to get to the scene,” Kelly said. “They make traffic and commerce move in this city, and they deserve every bit of protection from the law.”
Section 120.05 of the New York State penal code, enacted in July 2008, makes preventing a officer “from performing a lawful duty” a class D felony. 2008 saw 59 assaults on officers, 11 of which occurred after the legislation was amended to include traffic and sanitation officers, according to Huntley and Kelly. Huntley is the president of the union representing New York City uniform traffic and sanitation enforcement agents.
Traffic and sanitation officers had lobbied for such legislation since 1986. Their work on the front lines often involves dealing with angry drivers. Unarmed traffic officers are often subjected to such dangers as being dragged behind a car, shot at, and punched, according to Mark Rosenthal, president of DC 37 Local 983, the union of NYC Motor Vehicle Operators.
To enforce the law, the effect of a police unit dealing specifically with prosecuting those who assault officers will be expanded to each of the five boroughs and all over the State, according to Hynes. The new program is similar to the DA’s Office’s Assault on Police Officer program, but it specifically protects traffic enforcement agents from attacks. Both programs consist of a team of prosecutors and investigators that work on cases of assault.
There are also plans to launch an ad campaign to raise public awareness of the penalty resulting from assaulting an officer. A sample poster was on display at the press conference featuring several city officers eyeing the viewer, who is handcuffed and behind bars.