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Police Accountability Advocates and Progressive Leaders Call on Governor Cuomo and State Legislative Leaders to Pass Safer NY Act, Including Special Prosecutor, #PoliceSTATAct, and Full Repeal of 50-a Before June 19

Families of those killed by police slam Governor for threatening to rollback special prosecutor Executive Order

Albany - Today, a coalition of more than one hundred organizations from across New York called on Governor Cuomo and state legislative leaders to pass the Safer NY Act, a package that includes a bill to repeal 50-a (New York’s harmful police secrecy law), a bill to strengthen the Special Prosecutor Executive Order, a bill to increase transparency of police interactions and other police accountability bills.

These organizations are part of the growing coalition urging Governor Cuomo and the state legislature to prioritize passage of the Safer NY Act in the remaining days of the legislative session, which is set to end on June 19.

The Safer NY Act package includes:

  • Strengthening and expanding the Special Prosecutor Executive Order (A1601-Perry/S2574-Bailey);
  • PoliceSTAT Act (A-Lentol/S1830A-Hoylman) requiring statewide reporting on policing of minor offenses and deaths in police custody;
  • Repeal of 50-a (A2513-O’Donnell/S3695-Bailey); 
  • Reducing Unnecessary Arrests (A4053-Aubry/S2571-Bailey) by banning custodial arrests for non-criminal violations; and the
  • Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (A1617-Peoples-Stokes/S1527-Krueger), which would legalize marijuana under a marijuana justice framework.

To make their case, families of New Yorkers killed by police, advocates and elected officials held a rally in the State Capitol behind Assembly Chambers 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.

This news event featured a number of elected officials, including  Assemblymembers Nick PerryDanny O’Donnell, Walter Mosley, Harvey Epstein, Dan Quart, and State SenatorsJamaal Bailey, Julia Salazar, and Brad Hoylman.

Additionally, many Safer NY Act coalition members were present, including leaders of Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), New York Civil Liberties Union, Arab American Association of New York, Justice Committee, Bronx Defenders, FIERCE, Legal Aid Society, Girls for Gender Equity, Make the Road New York, Brooklyn Movement Center, and Brooklyn Defender Services.

Representatives of several families whose loved ones were killed by police also participated, including Gwen Carr (mother of Eric Garner), Iris Baez (mother of Anthony Baez), Valerie Bell (mother of Sean Bell), and Hawa Bah (mother of Mohamed Bah).

“It was alarming to hear Governor Cuomo say he would not renew the Special Prosecutor Executive Order, especially after he put forward language in his executive budget earlier this year that would have taken us backwards. I was shocked that once again the Governor did not reach out to us and we were not a part of the discussion before he made his announcement. I call on the Governor to support police reforms that move us forward like Assemblyman Perry and Senator Bailey’s Special Prosecutor bill, the Police STAT Act, a full repeal of 50-a, and the rest of the Safer New York Act package so that my family and other New Yorkers have access to basic information related to the killings of our children by police and so that we can prevent others from experiencing the ordeal my family has gone through for the past five years since Eric was murdered by police," said Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, killed by NYPD in 2014.

“Families who’ve lost loved ones to the police fought hard for the special prosecutor executive order in 2015, but we always saw it only as a first step. There are still too many police killing cases that are still subjected to the systemic conflict of interest district attorneys have in these cases because the executive order doesn’t go far enough. We need to expand and strengthen the scope of the special prosecutor by passing the Perry/Bailey bill this session. The families will not settle for a watered-down special prosecutor law,”said Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell who was killed by the NYPD in 2006.

“Black residents of Central Brooklyn know that when NYPD officers do something wrong, justice looks the other way. Passing the Safer NY Act this session would be an opportunity for the NY State Legislature to deliver real accountability, from data reporting to ending police secrecy laws to empowering a special prosecutor to investigate all police killings and deaths. To do otherwise would send the message that New York’s legislators value the police over the people,” said Kesi Foster, Lead Organizer at Make the Road New York and spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform.

“Far too many families have been deeply damaged, having to endure not only the death of a loved one, but also the sickening feeling of helplessness that the truth could be covered up and never brought to daylight. That justice would never be done, because the system is set up to deny justice. This bill will serve to help restore trust in our criminal justice system, which is the foundation of our democracy. It will be a tremendous message that we are serious about real criminal justice reform in this Empire State. Too often we have failed to succeed in enacting good common sense reform policies, because such reform is misrepresented as attacking the police, or attacking the prosecutor, or attacking the judge. There should be no untouchables in the search for truth. No one should be immune to accountability and transparency in executing the awesome power and authority that comes with those law enforcement positions,” said Assemblyman Nick Perry.

“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 is 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 families have suffered for too long from the destructive effects of marijuana prohibition. Heavily racialized enforcement has meant that African American and Latino communities have borne the brunt of this misguided policy, with young people locked up in jail, and locked out of jobs, housing, and education. Allowing adult personal use, with appropriate regulation and taxation, is the kind of smart, responsible, fact-based drug policy that our communities desperately need. There is still time to get this done and do it right," said State Senator Liz Krueger.

“When it comes to accountability and transparency in our law enforcement, New York is trailing behind other states. New Yorkers whose lives have been harmed by criminalization of marijuana cannot afford to wait for us to responsibly legalize adult-use cannabis. Passing the full Safer NY Act would bring transformative, positive changes to our state’s criminal legal system, police departments, and our communities,” said State Senator Julia Salazar.

“50a is one of the worst anti-transparency laws in the country and it is regularly used to shield the police from public scrutiny, and accountability,” said Assemblymember Dan Quart. “Despite continued challenges to the law, it stands stronger today than it did a decade ago. There is only one way forward: a full legislative repeal.”

“Police officers hold a tremendous amount of power, and the decisions they make often have life-changing consequences for the communities they serve, yet policing in New York continues to operate under a shroud of secrecy, even when officers use aggressive tactics, abuse their power, and harm the people who they’re supposed to protect. The legislature can lift this shroud by passing the Safer New York Act and giving New Yorkers access to the information they need to hold police officers accountable,” said Michael Sisitzky, Policy Counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union.

“There has been legislative inaction in Albany on issues of police violence and police accountability for too long and the consequence is deadly. That needs to change this session. We are calling on Governor Cuomo, Speaker Heastie and Majority Leader Stewart Cousins to get police reform done now and get it done right and without compromise. That means passing the five bills of the #SaferNY Act, including the Bailey/Perry Special Prosecutor bill as it stands, the repeal of 50a -the police secrecy law- and the Police STAT Act,” said Yul-san Liem, Co-Director of the Justice Committeee.

“Black residents of Central Brooklyn know that when NYPD officers do something wrong, justice looks the other way. Passing the Safer NY Act this session would be an opportunity for the NY State Legislature to deliver real accountability, from data reporting to ending police secrecy laws to empowering a special prosecutor to investigate all police killings and deaths. To do otherwise would send the message that New York’s legislators value the police over the people,” said Anthonine Pierre, Deputy Director of the Brooklyn Movement Center.

"Marijuana prohibition and the uneven enforcement of our drug laws have long been symbolic of a two-tiered criminal legal system. Today, black and brown New Yorkers continue to be targeted and prosecuted for marijuana use even as wealthier, white New Yorkers enjoy de-facto legalization. We need marijuana justice that strives to undo the untold damage that the War on Drugs has caused. We're urging lawmakers to support the passage of the MRTA so that we can finally deliver social and economic equity to the communities that have long suffered the consequences of marijuana prohibition--not just in criminal legal system, but in areas like immigration, family law, housing, and employment as well,” said Eli Northrup, associate special counsel with the Criminal Defense Practice at the Bronx Defenders.

“Each year across this state, thousands of New Yorkers are arrested for low-level marijuana possession, which can trigger months and years of ICE detention and deportation, sever access to essential public benefits, and result in the loss of one's children to foster care,” said Anthony Posada, Supervising Attorney of the Community Justice Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “Decriminalization has failed to prevent this devastation and only continues the damage done to our communities. With the time that we have left in the session, Albany must enact the revised Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act to legalize marijuana, expunge past convictions, and to invest in the communities that have shouldered the brunt of prohibition.”

“Despite efforts to limit enforcement, marijuana prohibition continues to upend the lives of thousands of New Yorkers each year, as people are still arrested, facing deportation and eviction, and threatened with the loss of their children because of marijuana-related allegations or convictions,” said Jacqueline Caruana, Senior Staff Attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services. “Until marijuana is legalized, the people we represent, who are disproportionately Black and Latinx, and their families will face these devastating consequences. It is imperative that the New York State legislature act now and pass the MRTA to legalize adult use of cannabis, expunge conviction records, and reinvest in communities most harmed by marijuana criminalization. Furthermore, while the MRTA will prohibit the police's use of marijuana as a pretext for searches and harassment, it will not eradicate all abusive policing, and for that reason we also call on the Legislature to pass the entire Safer NY bill package to improve transparency and accountability." 


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