New York introduces laws to combat police brutality

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jun 13 2020 09:33 AM | Updated as of Jun 13 2020 09:40 AM

NYPD officers ride horses down 5th Avenue as some stores are seen opened, as phase one of reopening after lockdown begins, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New York City, New York, US, June 12, 2020. Eduardo Munoz, Reuters

NEW YORK, United States - The state of New York on Friday adopted a series of laws designed to put an end to police brutality against the African-American community, a sign of the impact that nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd are having.

Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo officially signed 10 laws that the two houses of the state legislature passed earlier in the week.

Among the measures is a law forbidding chokeholds being used by law enforcement officers that was named in memory of Eric Garner, a black man suffocated by New York police in 2014.

The state also repealed legislation that designated as "confidential" any document pertaining to professional evaluations of police officers, including records of disciplinary proceedings.

In the future, the public, including members of the media, will be able to access such records through freedom of information requests, without requiring a court order.

After Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on May 25, the city police department revealed that Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed him by kneeling on his neck for nearly 9 minutes, had been the subject of 18 abuse complaints in his 20 years on the job.

The details of the complaints have not been revealed.

Floyd's death sparked widespread protests across the United States.

Cuomo also announced on Friday he would be signing an executive order obliging the state's almost 500 police departments to "develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs in their community."

The measures address some of the key issues raised in the massive protests across the country, such as racial inequality, the excessive use of force by police, and transparency in the process of filing complaints against officers.

Any of the departments that have not adopted their new plan by April 2021 will lose their state funding, Cuomo said at a press conference, flanked by Democratic leaders of the state assembly and civil rights activist Al Sharpton.

"These bills mean some substantive change, so that we won't be sitting here going over this after the next situation," said Sharpton.

He said the threat of withholding funding from police departments that fail to implement change "is a model for where we ought to be, dealing with 21st century civil rights in this country."