New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed the police reform bill that — voted by the Legislature this week as part of a package of law enforcement reforms — repeals a 1976 statute known as Section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Law, which was originally enacted to exempt police officers from being cross-examined during criminal prosecutions, according to the bill.
In 50-a’s place, the legislation has added language that makes such records subject to the Freedom of Information Law requests from journalists and the public and create new units within the attorney general’s office to investigate police misconduct and probe fatal shootings by police.
In addition to amending 50-a, Cuomo signed three other long-sought police reform bills approved by the Legislature. One measure grants the state attorney general’s office the ability to investigate and potentially prosecute incidents when a person dies in custody or after an encounter with a police officer. Another makes it a hate crime to call 911 to report false claims based on a person’s race. Also included in the reform bill is the “Eric Garner Act,” which bans officers from using chokeholds and allows prosecutors to charge cops if they do and injure or kill someone.
Cuomo also announced that he is issuing an executive order requiring police agencies across New York to work with their respective communities to address use of force by officers, crowd management, implicit bias awareness training, and more. Communities are expected to come up with a plan that is approved by local legislative bodies by April 1, 2021, otherwise state funding for the police departments could be in jeopardy.