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Syracuse Common Council moving forward with Right to Know legislation

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Ellen Abbott
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WRVO News (file photo)

The Syracuse Common Council is moving forward with a long-sought piece of legislation meant to increase police transparency.

At a meeting of the public safety committee Thursday, the council listened to advice from its lawyer regarding Right to Know legislation. It's a law that requires police to identify themselves to citizens during certain interactions, provide a business card and obtain and record consent to searches. There had been questions about the council's ability to enact such legislation, but attorney Ronnie White Jr. said the council can under New York's constitution.

"The council would be well within its authority either by claiming concurrent powers that are inherent in the structure of municipal governments here in the state of New York and or by using inherent police powers to protect the health, welfare, and safety of its citizens," White said. 

Several councilors agreed with White that the city is on solid legal ground and urged the process to move to the next step, including At-Large Councilor Tim Rudd who last month blocked the council from considering other police items until the Right to Know law was passed out of committee.

"From my perspective, it's a let's go," Rudd said. "We have a path to move forward and we should have our lawyer develop a version of the law and then we should introduce it and move forward."

White is now drafting the legislation, which councilors said could be ready for the standing committee to review on September 3.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh already issued an executive order in June that requires police to take the steps outlined under the right to know law, but some councilors want the law to become permanent in Syracuse.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.