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At City Hall, Police Accountability Advocates and NYC Council Members Condemn NYPD for Violating Key Provisions of the Right to Know Act

New York – Today, members of Communities United for Police Reform, police reform advocates, and New York City Council Members held a press conference at City Hall to condemn the NYPD for violating and undermining key provisions of the Right to Know Act, a package of two police reform laws that went into effect in October 2018.

The press conference took place in advance of a City Council oversight hearing today on the NYPD’s implementation of the Right to Know Act.

The Right to Know Act is designed to reduce unnecessary interactions with police and reduce harm in some of the most common police interactions that take place. It includes two laws – a law requiring the NYPD to alert individuals of their right to decline a search when the police have no legal justification for a search other than the implied consent of an individual; and a police identification law that requires NYPD officers to identify themselves and state the reason for initiating an interaction with members of the public in a number of situations.

Police officers are supposed to proactively provide pre-printed business cards with their name, rank and command in many interactions - and their identification and business card when asked, but over the past several months, this provision of the law has been violated numerous times, according to police accountability advocates and community-based organizations.

Speakers at today’s press conference discussed recent instances of NYPD officers violating the Right to Know Act. Those violations include: not informing individuals that they have the right to decline "consent searches", not using approved interpretation when seeking to conduct consent searches of individuals who have limited English proficiency, violating the consent search law with deceptive & non-informed DNA searches and collection, failing to identify themselves to New Yorkers and explain the reason for an interaction; refusing to provide a business card, offering business cards with blank or missing information; and responding with threatening or intimidating responses when asked for identification.

Ensuring full compliance with the Right to Know Act will overwhelmingly help and protect New Yorkers of color, including youth, women, gender non-conforming, homeless, LGBTQ, and undocumented New Yorkers.

They called on Mayor de Blasio to take action to ensure that the NYPD fully complies with the Right to Know Act, and holds individual police officers accountable when they violate it.

In a recent experience, when I asked an NYPD officer for his business card, he gave me a blank card and refused to fill it out. He flat out disrespected the Right to Know Act law, me, and my broader community. We did not fight as hard as we did to get this legislation passed, only to have the NYPD essentially spit on the laws it created. The City Council needs to take action to ensure the NYPD is respecting and upholding the Right to Know Act laws,” said Victoria Davis, sister of Delrawn Small.

“Years of unconstitutional stop and frisk encounters have led to today’s deep mistrust between communities of color and the NYPD. As a first step towards rebuilding trust between the NYPD and the communities they are supposed to protect, The Right to Know Act requires the NYPD to inform individuals of their right to refuse certain searches. The NYPD is required to abide by these laws and hold their officers accountable in doing so. Today we are hearing my bill which would require the department to report on instances in which an individual has refused a search. This information offers a necessary level of transparency and will help us oversee the Department’s compliance with the Act,” said New York City Council Member Antonio Reynoso

“In our experience monitoring and documenting police activity in immigrant communities, officers almost always simply talk at the person they're targeting in English, without caring whether they understand or not. Our members have never once witnessed or experienced an officer making use of a language line available to them. This raises serious questions about the language access in the implementation of the Right to Know Act and especially the Consent to Search law. If community members have no idea what officers are saying to them, how can they give “informed consent” to a search?,” said Loyda Colon, Justice Committee Co-Director.

“The full implementation of the Right to Know Act law is urgent for young women, and trans & gender non-conforming (TGNC) young people who daily experience discriminatory interactions with police as they play outside, as they walk to school, and as they attend school. When young women and TGNC young people are stopped, these interactions can be re-traumatizing, are frequently dehumanizing and can include sexual harassment and sexual violence. An analysis of consent and power are key tenants in feminist practice - in this #MeToo movement moment - gun carrying officers identifying themselves to community members as well as gaining informed and voluntary consent to search individuals are the bare minimum expectations our city should have of the NYPD. We call on the department to do more to fully implement the full spirit and letter of the law,” said Kylynn Grier, Girls for Gender Equity.

“The New York City Police Department is not above the law, and officers who ignore key provisions of the Right to Know Act disregard the right to informed engagement that this legislation has sought to protect for all New Yorkers. We need accountability from leaders at City Hall and 1 Police Plaza to ensure that important protocols are being followed to inform New Yorkers of their rights during police encounters to prevent abusive police encounters,” said Cynthia Conti-Cook, Staff Attorney with the Special Litigation Unit at The Legal Aid Society.

Participants in today’s press conference at City Hall included: Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), Make the Road New York, Legal Aid, Youth Represent, Justice Committee, Girls for Gender Equity; Victoria Davis, sister of Delrawn Small; NYC Council Member Antonio Reynoso, lead sponsor of the consent to search law included in the Right to Know Act; and NYC Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

When it was first introduced in the City Council in 2014, the Right to Know Act was designed to achieve two key goals: reducing unnecessary interactions with police and reducing harm in the most common police interactions that take place.

The consent to search law is a major victory for police reform 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 police identification bill passed into law has been sharply criticized by police reform advocates and opposed by numerous Council Members, because it does not require police officers to identify themselves during traffic stops and many of the most common street encounters where most abusive and discriminatory policing often occurs.

The police identification law includes numerous carve outs and exclusions that were not widely supported. The original version of the police identification bill, first introduced in 2014 in the Right to Know Act, had much more teeth and was much more robust.


About Communities United for Police Reform

Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and policing practices based on cooperation and respect– not discriminatory targeting and harassment.

CPR brings together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those unfairly targeted the most by the NYPD. CPR is fighting for reforms that will promote community safety while ensuring that the NYPD protects and serves all New Yorkers.

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Topics: Right to Know Act