NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York Attorney General Letitia James recently unveiled a proposal to overhaul police policies across the state.
Many on the front lines say legislative action is the future of the fight for police accountability.
As CBS2’s Cory James reports, last week James announced the Police Accountability Act, the latest move of law enforcement reform in New York.
“It would give prosecutors a critical additional tool to hold officers accountable for wrongdoing,” she said.
The act changes the state’s law for the use of force by establishing a “last resort” standard, banning lethal force based on belief a suspect committed a crime, and establishing criminal penalties for police who unlawfully cause physical injury or death.
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The changes are exactly what Isaac Ortega and thousands of others fought to see following the murder of George Floyd.
“It’s not normal for me to be pepper sprayed or tear-gassed,” Ortega told James.
“It feels surreal. This is where a lot of the action was,” Ortega said during a visit to the park. “The energy of the park has shifted.”
He says in recent months, the movement has largely shifted from protest to policy.
Rev. Al Sharpton echoing that and adding putting pressure on the Biden-Harris administration, Senate and Congress to pass laws are crucial in the continued fight.
“Because this case was almost aligned with the stars. You had a special prosecutor that did a great job, you had policemen that testified, you had a video tape,” he said. “So the stars lined up. You’re not going to have that in every case. So you’re going to have to have firmer, clearer laws. The battle now is not only demonstration, but legislation.”
That legislation is the George Floyd Policing Act, which is stuck in the Senate. The initiative is designed to stop racial profiling by law enforcement at federal, state and local levels, banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants, and also requiring deadly force be only used as a last resort after officers have employed de-escalation techniques first.
States that do not comply would lose federal policing funding.
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“There needs to be an investigation of the training,” said Dr. Delores Jones-Brown, a former prosecutor and current criminology professor.
She believes in addition to passing the reform bill, the next frontier in the fight should also include looking at law enforcement training academies and holding its owners accountable for teaching unnecessary excessive force techniques.
“We often see the cases of police officers who are not convicted, there’s testimony that they were doing what they were trained to do,” she said. “We wouldn’t treat animals the way that George Floyd was treated and the fact that the defense counsel attempted, and it’s a common pattern, but attempted to justify Chauvin’s behavior because it was something he was trained to do means the Department of Justice, and we as a public, need to inquire.”
While a number of the BLM murals painted on New York City streets are fading, social media pages capture the momentum in an effort to keep it going.
“While the numbers have lessened, we’re not seeing necessarily 20,000 people for every march, it’s really the die hards, people who have been doing it since May of last year, that are still going out everyday,” said Kevin Xavier, founder of NYCProtestCoverage.
He and other activists are proud of the transformative movement that has ignited some change, but they feel more work needs to be done.