Progressives push police reform bill opposed by de Blasio

November 13, 2014
Azi Paybarah

Ritchie Torres. (William Alatriste for the New York City Council)Allies of Mayor Bill de Blasio gathered outside City Hall Thursday afternoon to urge passage of a bill they say is in line with his goal of improving police and community relations but that he has opposed.

The bill, dubbed the Right to Know Act, would require officers to get verbal or written consent before searching a person when there is no warrant or probable cause. De blasio told reporters on Wednesday he doesn’t support the bill, saying it may interfere with officers’ ability to perform their job.

Asked Thursday how problematic the mayor’s opposition is, one of the bill's sponsors, Councilman Ritchie Torres of the Bronx, said “it’s not clear” the mayor read the legislation, which also calls for officers to formally identify themselves during street stops.

Another supporter, Kirsten John Foy of the National Action Network, said the legislation is paramount for cementing police reform.

“We are undermining all of the reforms we have undertaken so far and have been successful at achieving. We stand at risk of losing all of the progress that we have made because we will force officers that don’t want to change progressively, into the darkness.”

The bill is also supported by Councilman Brad Lander, who is from de Blasio’s home neighborhood of Park Slope; co-chairs of the Council's progressive caucus, Antonio Reynoso and Donovan Richards; Carlos Menchaca of Sunset Park—home of several recent clashes between police and residents; New York Communities for Change, an advocacy group that supported de Blasio’s election last year; 32BJ SEIU, a large organized labor union representing property service workers; Communities United for Police Reform, an umbrella organization that worked with de Blasio on other legislation but which dropped its alliance with his political consultants, BerlinRosen; and the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was a co-sponsor of a 2012 version of the bill, said Wednesday the bill was changed and she has not taken a position on the new version.

Reynoso said 22 Council members have signed onto the legislation. In the 51-member body, 26 votes are needed to pass the bill and 36 would be needed to override a mayoral veto.

“We’re not creating a new right,” Torres said. “We’re simply affirming a right that has an existence within our Constitution. This is not about stops. This is not about frisks. This is not about searches based on probable cause or arrests. The only thing this law would do is prevent unlawful searches."