Bratton's Imminent Departure Reignites Debate Around Set of Police Reform Bills with Support in City Council

August 5, 2016
Grace Rauh

Police Commissioner William Bratton's imminent departure from the NYPD is reigniting a debate around a set of police reform bills with widespread support in the City Council. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the ofllowing report.

Police officers will be expected to offer a business card after searching someone and in some instances, be required to ask for permission before conducting a search at all. Both are reforms the NYPD agreed to adopt in a deal reached with the City Council last month.

But critics say the agreement does not go far enough. And now that Commissioner William Bratton is leaving his post next month, they are renewing their efforts to make the reforms law, not just internal changes that could be undone by future commissioners.

"As an elected official, I have been challenged to pass laws. So that's what I need to do. I need to pass laws, and I need to protect those decisions through legislation for the long-term," said City Councilman Antonio Reynoso of Brooklyn.

Reynoso is a sponsor of the "Right to Know Act," legislation he says will improve interactions between police and New Yorkers. The bills have fans in the Council, but have not gotten a vote, in part because City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito pushed to have the police department make the reforms itself, an approach also backed by the mayor.

Incoming commissioner James O'Neill was one of Bratton's closest allies in the department. He says he supports the agreement.

"I am totally committed to the deal that was made," O'Neill said.

"For me, that means nothing, because for two-and-a-half years, Bratton could have made those changes administratively and did not," said City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez of Manhattan. "So for me, it's important to pass the legislation, codify it and make it the law."

Some Council members say they are hopeful the new commissioner can be persuaded to back the bills.

"Sometimes, a change in style can lead to a change in substance," said City Councilman Rory Lancman of Queens. "Commissioner Bratton seemed to revel in his dismissal of his critics and the City Council itself. And I don't get the sense that Jimmy O'Neill is that kind of personality."

The Right to Know Act sponsors could try to force a vote over the speaker's objections, but so far, no one has made a move.

Topics: Right to Know Act