The State of poitics Blog: Spectrum News.
JUNE. 01, 2020 BY NICK REISMAN
George Floyd’s death after he was trapped under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer has sparked protests and unrest in more than 100 American cities, including New York City, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.
It may also spark further action by a state Legislature in Albany that is led by two black leaders, a Legislature composed of lawmakers who themselves were peppered sprayed and detained by police over the weekend.
Here are four proposals lawmakers could take up in the coming days.
1. Repeal 50a.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the first time on Saturday said he would sign legislation ending the provision that shields police disciplinary records from public view, though at the same time maintained local officials could still release the information without a change in the law.
Either way, opening the disciplinary records has been a long-sought goal for criminal justice advocates, who argue the transparency would be a start toward getting bad cops off the street. Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer charged with murdering Floyd, reportedly had multiple complaints filed against him.
Police unions, however, maintain that ending 50a would hinder officers’ ability to do their jobs and open good cops up to unnecessary scrutiny.
2. Codify special prosecutor’s office
In 2015, Cuomo created a special prosecutor’s office within the state attorney general’s office to investigate incidents in which civilians die during interactions with the police.
The office was created in order to remove the investigatory powers from local district attorneys over concerns over conflicts of interest with police.
But the order is just that — existing through approval of the governor. Republicans, who controlled the state Senate at the time, balked at approving the measure.
Democrats in the Legislature want to codify the order so it has the force of law in the hopes of strengthening the office’s investigatory powers.
3. The STAT Act
The measure as proposed by Sen. Brad Hoylman would require New York officials to report the total number of ticketed violations and arrests for violations and misdemeanors and reveal the race, ethnicity and gender of those charged.
The bill would also require the disclosure of the total number of people who die each year during interactions with police and in police custody as well as the location of police-related activity and arrest-related deaths.
4. End solitary confinement
Prison advocates see this proposal as a key one for improving the health and mental health of inmates in New York prisons, regarding the practice of isolating a person for disciplinary reasons as cruel.
But ending the practice has been easier said than done, as correction officers view it as necessary to maintain discipline in a prison.
New York has a history of being a tough-on-crime state, dating back to efforts to fight the spread of drugs under Nelson Rockefeller’s administration. Over the years, efforts to curtail crime were seen as dovetailing with making the state — especially its economic engine New York City — more prosperous and attractive for investment.
But that has gradually changed over the years. Cuomo has closed state prison facilities over upstate Republican opposition. Punishment for drug possession is not as severe as it once was.
Still, New York’s politics remain a push and pull over the years. Prior to the pandemic capturing the headlines, suburban Democrats in the state Senate were facing pressure to alter the cash bail law which largely eliminated the requirement save for violent felony charges.
In my opinion, I hope none of these changes see the light of day. Policing has never been easy, especially with the political pandering evident today.