NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday signed sweeping police reform bills into law, notably banning chokeholds and repealing a hotly contested state law known as 50-A, which kept officers’ disciplinary records confidential.
“Police reform is long overdue,” said Cuomo. “[George] Floyd’s murder is just the most recent murder. This is not just about Mr. Floyd’s murder. It’s about being here before, many, many times before.”
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The repeal of 50-A means police disciplinary records can be made public – including complaints against officers that have not been substantiated, according to State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
The legislation also gives the state attorney general power as a special prosecutor in cases of police-involved deaths and bans false, race-based 911 calls.
“I wish it’s a moment we’ve never had to deal with,” said Heastie. “We thought every time when it happened, when it was Amadou Diallo…Anthony Baez…Eric Garner…Sean Bell…Ramarley Graham, we thought it was time.”
“I think watching a man being suffocated by strangulation, crying for his deceased mother, I think struck a nerve,” said Heastie, noting the bills passed with bipartisan support.
The state legislature fast-tracked nearly a dozen bills following the nationwide protests over Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
Carr’s son inspired one of them, the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act, which makes using a chokehold or similar restraint by police a felony.
“It was a long time coming, but it came,” said Carr.
Another bill requires state police troopers to wear body cameras.
“We are at a moment of reckoning. There’s no question about it and I am just so thankful that I have a historic role at this moment,” said Stewart-Cousins.
Earlier in the week, the police unions denounced Floyd’s killing, but spoke out against the swift reforms.
“For our legislators, and I emphasize our legislators, to then demonize police officers as if we’re the problem…that is absolutely outrageous,” said Pat Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association.
Cuomo also issued an executive order Friday requiring local governments and police departments to develop a plan to modernize police strategies and programs.
The governor said each plan must address specific topics, like use of force, crowd management, deescalation tactics and bias training with input from the community.
Local governments must pass their plans into law by April 1, 2021 in order to be eligible for state funding.
Cuomo said, “We’re not going to be, as a state government, subsidizing improper police tactics.”