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Large Coalition Tells Governor Cuomo and State Legislature: Criminal Justice Reform Requires Passage of the Safer NY Act and Full Repeal of 50-a, New York’s Harmful Police Secrecy Law

Albany, NY – Today, a coalition of more than ninety organizations from across New York called on Governor Cuomo and the state legislature to pass the Safer NY Act, a legislative package that includes a bill to repeal 50-a, New York’s harmful police secrecy law. 

Participants gathered at the staircase outside the Senate Chambers in the state capitol building to emphasize that comprehensive criminal justice reform requires passage of the Safer NY Act, a package of bills designed to increase police transparency and accountability, and enhance public safety in communities across New York.

Discriminatory and abusive policing continues to be the main front-end driver of unjust mass incarceration and immigrant detention/deportations.   

More than ninety organizations are part of the growing Safer NY Act coalition, which is calling on Governor Cuomo and the state legislature to prioritize passage of the entire Safer NY Act in the remaining weeks of the legislative session.

The event featured the following: State Senator Jamaal Bailey, Assembly Member Dan Quart, Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell, State Senator Julia Salazar; Members and leaders of the Safer NY Act coalition, including the following members and partners of Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) and the Safer NY Act coalition: Make the Road New York, New York Civil Liberties Union, Moms Rising, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Legal Aid Society, NYC Anti-Violence Project, Justice Committee, Arab American Association of NY and others; and representatives of families whose loved ones were killed by police, including Valerie Bell (mother of Sean Bell, who was killed by NYPD officers in a hail of 50 bullets in 2006) and Victor Dempsey (brother of Delrawn Small, killed by NYPD Officer Wayne Isaacs in 2016).

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 in police custodyrepealing 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.

Yesterday, the PoliceStat Act was voted out of the Senate Codes Committee – a clear sign of momentum for the growing movement to expand police transparency and accountability throughout New York.

“The Safer New York Act is a critical package of legislation that will improve police accountability and transparency in New York state. While we have seen significant efforts from the NYS legislature to address criminal justice issues, it's necessary to reiterate that police reform cannot be forgotten in the conversation. Abusive policing is the frontline driver of the system of mass incarceration, and is the way many New Yorkers of color first experience the criminal legal system. Criminal justice reform is incomplete without addressing discriminatory and abusive policing - the legislature should move swiftly to pass the Safer New York Act bills this session,” said Monifa Bandele, spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform and MomsRising.

“My son, Sean Bell, was killed by the NYPD in a hail of 50 bullets on his wedding night, yet none of the officers involved were ever held accountable. Since then, I have dedicated myself to fighting for systemic change so that future families have a stronger chance at justice than my family did. That's 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, as well as passage of 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 Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell who was killed by NYPD in 2006, and Justice Committee representative

“While we were able to achieve some momentous reforms in our budget in the form of discovery, bail and speedy trial, as well as an implementation of a statewide policy on data collection concerning collection on use of force in New York State, there is still significant work left to be done in order to make all New Yorkers safe. 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,” said State Senator Jamaal Bailey.

“Transparency is one of the cornerstones of government and public service that is truly there for the people, and that’s why Section 50-a needs to be repealed immediately. I’m proud to have sponsored the bill to repeal 50-a, and to support the other reforms in the Safer NY Act. I know our coalition of elected officials, grassroots organizations like Communities United for Police Reform, and activists has been key to advancing this legislation, and I thank them all,” said Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done reforming our pre-trial laws this session. Now it’s time to address the next step and reform the overpolicing of our communities. Each of these bills will put power back where it belongs: in the hands of the people. I’m a proud co-sponsor of this package of legislation and I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass these bills this session,” said Assembly Member Dan Quart.

“The Safer NY Act will not only reform aggressive enforcement by the NYPD, but once passed, will help rebuild the disintegrating trust between the NYPD and community members. People of color know all too well the abusive and dehumanizing tactics used by the police force. We are well overdue for this package of bills. I am proud to support the bills in this package,” said Assembly Member Harvey Epstein.

“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 Reem Ramadan, Arab American Association of New York.

"Girls & TGNC (trans and gender non-conforming) young people of color are forced to interact with police daily as they access services for survival, as they walk down the street in their communities, and while they are in school. The Safer New York Act aims to improve the safety of girls across the state and their interactions with police. It is important to better understand which groups of people are being stopped for low level offenses across New York State, it is urgent to stop arresting young people when a summons could be given as an alternative, and it is absolutely a moral imperative to answer the call from families who have lost loved ones to police violence by passing a strong Special Prosecutor bill,” said Kylynn Grier, Girls for Gender Equity.

"New Yorkers deserve marijuana justice now—communities can’t wait any longer. Each day marijuana legalization is not passed, someone is arrested, deported, evicted or loses custody of a child because of criminalization. Each day that New York’s leaders maintain prohibition, someone can’t pass a background check, has their parole revoked, or loses a job. It is past time for the NY legislature to pass the Marijuana Regulation Taxation Act and address the more than 800,000 arrests that took place in the last 2 decades alone,” said Melissa Moore, Drug Policy Alliance.

"#SaferNYAct offers transparency and accountability that is desperately needed in order to end racially and economically discriminatory, abusive policing. It's well-past time to end the status quo of systematically profiling, criminalizing, and incarcerating people of color. These bills will help that process and bring to light the harmful, unjust reality of law enforcement in NY," said Samantha Sachs, Showing up for Racial Justice – NYC.


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: Police STAT Act Repeal 50-A Safer NY Act