Contact: Dan Morris 917-952-8920 press@changethenypd.org

At City Hall Thursday, Police Reform Groups, Jumaane Williams, Elected Officials, and Families Impacted by Police Violence Called for Passage of the Safer NY Act and Repeal of 50-a, New York’s Harmful Police Secrecy Law

New York, NY — Today, at City Hall, police reform groups, elected officials, and families impacted by police violence held a press conference and rally calling on the state legislature and Governor Cuomo to pass the Safer NY Act and repeal 50-a, New York’s harmful police secrecy law. 

The Safer NY Act is a package of state bills that would ensure criminal justice reform also increases police transparency and accountability, and enhances public safety in communities across New York.  

One key component of the Safer NY Act is a bill to repeal 50-a, the harmful and widely criticized state law used by the NYPD and other police departments to hide police misconduct and discipline records. 50-a has been used to protect abusive police officers and police departments from public accountability for brutality, sexual misconduct, lying, and other actions. 

As a state legislative package, the Safer NY Act includes: the PoliceSTAT Act (A-Lentol/S1830A-Hoylman) requiring statewide reporting on policing of minor offenses and deaths from police interactions; repealing 50-a (A2513-O’Donnell/S3695-Bailey); strengthening and codifying the Special Prosecutor Executive Order (A1601-Perry/S2574-Bailey); reducing Unnecessary Arrests (A4053-Aubry/S2571-Bailey) by banning custodial arrests for non-criminal violations, and passing the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (A1617-Peoples-Stokes/S1527-Krueger) to legalize marijuana under a marijuana justice framework.

Speakers at the press conference and rally Thursday included: Victor Dempsey, brother of Delrawn Small, who was killed by NYPD in 2016; Joshua Lopez, nephew of John Collado, who was killed by NYPD in 2011; New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams; City Council Member Donovan Richards; City Council Member Antonio Reynoso; City Council Member Inez Barron; City Council Member Ben Kallos; State Senator Jamaal Bailey; State Senator Jessica Ramos; Assembly Member Harvey Epstein; Assembly Member Dan Quart.

Additionally, leaders of groups involved in the Safer NY Act coalition participated, including representatives from: Arab American Association of New York, New York Civil Liberties Union, Youth Represent, Make the Road New York, Justice Committee, Showing Up for Racial Justice – NYC, Legal Aid Society, Picture the Homeless, MomsRising, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, and Bronx Freedom Fund.

Ninety organizations are part of the growing Safer NY Act coalition, which is calling for calling for the state legislature to prioritize passage of the Safer NY Act legislative package of police accountability bills after the state budget is finalized.

Photos from today's news event are available here: twitter.com/changethenypd.

“It has been nearly five years since the murder of my son Eric Garner, and years of cover-ups and delayed justice by the NYPD. While I continue to demand that the NYPD charge and fire all officers who engaged in misconduct related to my son's death, I am also fighting to prevent future families and survivors of NYPD violence from suffering the indignities that my family has had to endure - This is why I am calling on the New York State legislature to pass the Safer New York Act this year - including a full repeal of 50-a, the Police STAT Act and the Perry/Bailey Special Prosecutor legislation. Families who have lost their loved ones to police violence deserve real transparency and accountability,” said Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner.

“New Yorkers cannot continue to be kept in the dark about the critical decisions police officers make every day, including what happens when officers kill the people they are sworn to protect. The bills included in the Safer New York Act will give New Yorkers access to the information they need to hold police officers accountable for misconduct and to begin undoing the harms of aggressive policing practices on communities of color, particularly through the legalization of marijuana. Thousands of New Yorkers have needlessly been funneled through our criminal justice because of marijuana prohibition, and the state legislature has an enormous opportunity to address the disparate harm marijuana arrests have had and reinvest them directly into the communities most harmed by prohibition,” said Michael Sisitzky, Lead Policy Counsel for the New York Civil Liberties Union

“Our law enforcement officials are tasked with a difficult job in ensuring the safety for all New Yorkers. Unfortunately, due to a lack of transparency, there continues to be a divide between members of the community and law enforcement, resulting in an often tenuous relationship. We need to strengthen and improve our community and police relations in New York State, this why I am proud to sponsor a set of bills for the Safer NY Act. The people must have trust in any system they take part in, and these bills place us closer to having true transparency and accountability in our State,” said State Senator Jamaal Bailey. 

“New York cannot truly claim to be a progressive state so long as we have a criminal justice system that disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, including LGBTQ New Yorkers and people of color. We need to fundamentally rethink the way police departments engage with the communities they serve. I introduced my Police STAT Act to increase transparency and give the public and policymakers an accurate accounting of how our criminal laws are being enforced and against whom. I'm proud to be working with Senator Bailey, Senator Krueger, my colleagues in the Assembly, and our allies in the movement to reform our criminal justice system, and ensure that all New Yorkers -- no matter their background -- have equal justice under the law,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman.

“The way courts have been interpreting Civil Rights Law 50-a is a far cry from its original intent and has served to further stress an already difficult relationship between the agencies tasked to serve communities and the people. 50-a has been used time and again to handcuff departments eager to provide transparency, and as a barrier to hide behind for those that view sunlight as a threat to the status quo. Over the past few years we’ve seen activists, the free press, and elected officials that inquire about disciplinary proceedings or bodycam footage only to be denied due to 50-a. My records along with thousands of other city and state employees are, and should always be, public. I look forward to seeing the same amount of transparency apply to all public servants once 50-a is repealed,” said Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell

“It’s urgent that we pass each and every one of these legal reforms in this legislative session in order to bring comprehensive change to our criminal justice system and transparency to our law enforcement. Together these common sense policies would make tremendous progress on behalf of the many New Yorkers who are unjustly criminalized and incarcerated. Additionally, the Safer NY Act includes Senator Bailey’s important special prosecutor bill—which I strongly favor over similar, weaker proposals—in order to fully investigate police killings and deaths of New Yorkers in police custody,” said State Senator Julia Salazar.

“50-a has made it impossible to hold the police accountable. Everywhere across this country, police are entrusted with immense power, but in New York that power remains largely unchecked.  Blocking the release of disciplinary records allows the police to operate with near impunity and shields them from public scrutiny. Ending the terrorization of communities of color and restoring some resemblance of trust in law enforcement must include the full repeal of 50-a,” said Assembly Member Dan Quart.

“New Yorkers deserve transparency from the institutions meant to keep them safe. I’m proud to stand with Communities United for Police Reform as they call on my colleagues to pass the #SaferNYAct package. Increasing police accountability is necessary to make our communities safer and is a step in the right direction to address the systemic inequities that burden our most vulnerable neighbors. Increasing transparency, shining a light on police secrecy, and reducing unnecessary arrests will make all New Yorkers safer,” said Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon.

“The over-reliance on aggressive enforcement of minor offenses and other violations has also contributed to the erosion of trust between many New Yorkers and police. The Safer NY Act presents an important suite of reforms to reverse this negative trend. By eliminating arrests for minor offenses and increasing the transparency and accountability of the NYPD, more trust can be built between police and the community members, especially communities of color and low income New Yorkers, who have experienced strained relations with police in our city and across the country. I am proud to support the bills in this package and the efforts of the organizers doing this critical work,” said Assembly Member Harvey Epstein.

“For decades, New Yorkers of color have endured racially skewed and harsh policing practices. However, state policy has prevented basic transparency around these actions. In New York City, the NYPD has routinely used a flawed interpretation of 50-a to shroud cases in secrecy, helping to shield officers from accountability and deny families justice. I urge the New York State legislature to pass the Safer NY Act which would repeal 50-a, increase transparency in police-civilian interactions, and ensure that the marijuana market is just and equitable upon its legalization. Thank you to members of the New York State legislature for championing these reforms and Communities United for Police Reform for their commitment to ending discriminatory and abusive policing in New York,” said City Council Member Antonio Reynoso.

“New Yorkers in Black and Brown communities need to be safe from all forms of discriminatory and abusive policing. The lack of transparency and accountability for officers who have continuously killed members of our community is shameful. 5 years after Eric Garners death we continue to see the failures of this criminal justice system in cases like Saheed Vassell, yet still communities most vulnerable do not have systems that track, prevent, and/or hold officers accountable when they commit egregious acts of harm. Criminal Justice Reform must include the voices of our communities, and our communities demand that the Legislature passes the Safer NY Act and improves police accountability,” said Darian X, Youth Organizer for Police Accountability, Make the Road New York.

“The Safer NY act is extremely important to us families who've lost loved ones to the police because it will help increase police accountability and transparency. Passing legislation that makes all cases of police killings and deaths in custody the jurisdiction of the special prosecutor unit in the Attorney General's office is particularly important to the families because we can never get justice from district attorneys, who work hand in hand with police officers and rely on them to do their job. We also need to repeal 50a because 50a makes it so families cannot find out basic information on our loved ones' killers,” said Joshua Lopez, nephew of John Collado and member of Justice Committee.

“The Arab American Association of New York (AAANY) urges the New York State Legislature to pass the #SaferNYAct. AAANY is a community-based organization that offers direct services and advocacy for the Arab American and Arab Immigrant community in NYC. Our members and the people we serve are often victims of discriminatory and abusive policing, including undue surveillance. Passing the #SaferNYAct will encourage and ensure police transparency and accountability, keeping our community members safe from abusive policing practices that often have negative impacts on their immigration status and sometimes lead to deportation. To continue to serve and protect our communities, we hope the NYS Legislature will pass the #SaferNYAct,” said Rama Issa-Ibrahim, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York.

"Few communities suffer more than homeless people as a consequence of the complete lack of police accountability and transparency. We're considered easy prey for officers looking to reach their quota, even if it means violating someone's rights. Right now, police officers have entirely too much discretion about when to arrest someone and when to issue a ticket. Discretion = discrimination. By ending unnecessary arrests and increasing police accountability and transparency, the #SaferNYAct will make the state safer for all New Yorkers- homeless and housed alike," said Nikita Price, Picture the Homeless.

“Take On Hate NYC supports the Safer NY Act as a real policy change that challenges institutional police abuse and discrimination across New York. The passage of the Safer New York Act will help build safer communities and protect the rights of low-income communities of color and immigrant communities who are disproportionately impacted by the inherent bias in law enforcement policies. The Safer NY Act will go a long way in achieving transparency and accountability, values that New York should stand behind and help codify and strengthen to ensure there is a future for all New Yorkers,” said Zachariah Barghouti, Advocacy Specialist, Take on Hate – NY.

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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: Safer NY Act