City council passes police oversight 'Right to Know Act'

April 20, 2017
Josh Robin

Melissa Mark-Viverito made sure her final stated meeting as city council speaker was a full agenda — and it was filled with goodbyes and controversies.

At issue were two bills dealing with how police and the public interact.

One requires that the NYPD direct officers to search only after obtaining "voluntary, knowing, and intelligent consent."

The second requires police give out business cards, including name, rank, and shield number, while noting 311 can be called to submit comments about the encounter.

Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the bills, while the largest police union has called them dangerous overreach.

But because handing out cards is not required on all police interactions, others have said the bills do not go far enough.

"So if you're not including traffic stops, that means an officer can stop you, a lot of things can happen, they still don't have to give you a card," Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams said.

The bill's sponsor grew emotional talking about the blowback.

"This has been the most challenging week of my political career," Bronx City Councilman Ritchie Torres said. "I've been the target of a never-ending stream of invective on Twitter."

For example, a Twitter account that advocates for families of people killed by police Tweeted at Torres: "Shame on you for betraying us like this, please kill your bill."

The council is also passing a number of bills that are attracting less attention, including on ferries and idling vehicles.

The city would have to study using alternative fuels on ferries.

Another bill aims to make it easier to New Yorkers to report idling trucks.

"Make no mistake: We have a long way to go in terms of stopping idling, but we're well on our way," Manhattan City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal said.

The speaker leaves with the council clearing about 700 bills just this session.

But a judge is jeopardizing another bid for a legacy, appointing a Board of Elections commissioner.

Manhattan Party Chair Keith Wright is suing. He calls it a "sad saga of cronyism and overreach by the City Council Speaker."

"I will put my ethical record and my integrity side-by-side with Keith Wright's any day," Mark-Viverito said.

Topics: Right to Know Act