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Politics and Government

Police in NY required to report gunfire, provide health care under new laws

Ken Hawkins

Law enforcement officers in New York will now be required to report when they discharge their weapon on the job and provide medical and mental health care to individuals in their custody under a pair of bills signed Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

A third law will require the state to track demographic data on arrest-related deaths and low-level offenses, including misdemeanors and violations.

"These critical reforms will help improve the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve and take us one step closer to righting the many injustices minority communities have faced because of a broken and unfair system,” Cuomo said.

The new laws were part of a package of legislation approved last week by the state Legislature in response to the death of George Floyd. Cuomo has now signed most bills from that package, but a few still remain, including one that will require body cameras for the State Police.

Those bills were intended to place new regulations on how members of law enforcement do their jobs and how they interact with the public, particularly communities of color.

Under one of the bills signed Monday, members of law enforcement will now be required to report, verbally to their supervisor, whenever they have to discharge their weapon in a way that an individual could have been struck by a bullet. That report has to come within six hours.

Officers will also be required to file a written report of the incident within 48 hours of it happening.

Assemblyman Nick Perry, D-Brooklyn, said the new law will provide more accountability over officers who choose to use their weapon on the job. He said the law should be dedicated to Jayson Tirado, who was killed by an officer with the New York City Police Department.

“This law won't punish him, but its enactment will assure us that the next officer that commits this type of wanton criminal act of being judge, jury and executioner will face some accountability,” Perry said.

Another bill will make police officers liable for damages if they don’t provide medical and mental health attention to someone in their custody. That wasn’t previously required of members of law enforcement.

“In far too many of these cases, adequate medical assistance has been denied to these individuals or been so delayed that individuals have suffered needless, pain and suffering,” said State Sen. Jamaal Bailey, a Democrat from the Bronx who sponsored the bill.

A third bill signed Monday will require the state to start tracking new demographic data, which could be used to identify racial disparities in the criminal justice system, according to the bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan.

“Because of this legislation, we'll finally have the data necessary to identify and root out the systematic and discriminatory policing practices that law enforcement uses to target Black and Brown New Yorkers,” Hoylman said.

Under the new law, called the Police Statistics and Transparency Act, or STAT Act, courts will have to compile and publish demographic data, including racial breakdowns, on low-level offenses, including misdemeanors and violations. That data will be updated monthly.

Police departments will also be required to report arrest-related deaths to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, and submit annual reports to the governor and Legislature.

Police unions largely opposed the package of bills approved last week, criticizing Cuomo and the state Legislature from considering the ideas. Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association in New York City, called the bills “failures” last week.

Cuomo is expected to act on the remaining bills in last week’s package in the coming days.