New York City recently took an important step toward police reform. The long-anticipated Right To Know Act has officially gone into effect, with important provisions dictating police-civilian encounters. The Act includes critical laws that will help end unconstitutional searches and require that police officers both identify themselves and provide the reason for an encounter – even leaving a business card in certain interactions.
Right To Know Act
What You Need To Know
Consent to Search law -- When NYPD officers have no legal justification to search you, your vehicle or your home, they should not search you unless they get your “voluntary, knowing and intelligent” consent. This means that in these situations, officers should not search you unless:
- The officers asks for your consent
- The officer informs you that a search won’t be conducted without your consent & checks to make sure you understand
- You give your consent.
NYPD ID law that was passed has major loopholes but requires that in certain situations officers should:
- Tell you their name, rank, command and the reason they are interrupting your day.
- At the end of those interactions, if they have not given you a summons or arrested you, they should give you a business card that has their name, rank, and badge number, and their command.
During the following interactions, officers must identify themselves, the reason for the interaction, and give you a business card without you having to ask for it:
- If they suspect you are involved in criminal activity, including if you are stopped.
- If they frisk or search you (including your home, vehicle or possessions)
- Most roadblocks and check point stops
- If you are being questioned as a survivor, or as a witness to a crime
About the Right To Know Act
These bills were first introduced in the City Council in 2012, as part of the Community Safety Act package. They were re-introduced in the City Council in 2014, as the Right to Know Act to help end unconstitutional searches and to increase transparency and accountability in many of the most commonly abusive police interactions that New Yorkers face. The overarching goal of these bills was to decrease unecessary and abusive NYPD interactions experienced by New Yorkers.
The Right to Know Act Coalition, coordinated by Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), includes 200+ local and national organizations – spanning grassroots community organizing groups, legal and policy organizations, faith institutions and more. New Yorkers directly impacted by abusive and discriminatory policing led the charge to advance the passage of these critical reforms.
The 2017 passage of the consent to search law was a major victory and has been widely praised because it protects the rights of New Yorkers to refuse police searches that aren’t covered by warrants or probable cause. But the final version of the NYPD identification bill passed into law sharply criticized by police reform advocates, universally opposed by the 200+ groups in Right to Know Act Coalition, and opposed by numerous Council Members and other elected officials, because of numerous carve-outs and exclusions that can risk increased harm to community members in certain interactions, if they are not fully aware of the law’s specifics.
Now that the Right To Know Act laws have gone into effect as of October 19, 2018, CPR and Right To Know Act coalition members are incorporating education on the laws in Know Your Rights trainings, Cop Watch patrols, and other activities – to ensure that New Yorkers know their rights, realities and responsibilities with changes to the law.
Right To Know Act News
The New York Police Department ordered 10 million business cards that officers must hand out to people they stop on the street. The cards will include the officers’ names and ranks, and are required under the new Right to Know Act.