Assemblyman Otis Announces Passage of Criminal Justice Accountability Reforms To Combat Racial Bias

Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Rye), announced passage of a bill package in the Assembly and Senate this week aimed at bringing greater transparency and accountability to the criminal justice system and creating new protections to reduce racial bias and unfair treatment. Four bills were signed by the Governor on Friday.

In signing the bills, the Governor also announced an executive order tasking all municipalities and police departments in the to state to “develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs.”

In supporting the package on the Assembly floor Assemblyman Otis, stated:

“We are at a serious moment in our history. We have a long history of inequality in our country and while we’ve made some gains over the years, we’ve also lost some ground in recent years. We need to do something about it.

“I was at a rally yesterday in one of the communities I represent, the Village of Port Chester. I think we had 2000 people there. It was a rally and march of love. It was a rally and march of people who want to make this a more just, more caring society. There was unity. There was a heartfelt desire of the community to make life better, not just on criminal justice issues, but on broader issues of equality in our society.

“We have an opportunity today to address some criminal justice issues that are very important but it is bigger than that. We have an opportunity and the right moment to make this a more caring, gentle society.

I want to leave you with the words of Barbara Jordan, they mean a lot to me today, ‘What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise’. That is what we are doing here today. We have a lot of work to do to make America live up to its promise.”

Assemblyman Otis co-sponsored the package of bills in the Assembly. The measures that passed the Assembly include:

  • The Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act, which would criminalize the harmful use of a chokehold by a police officer (6144-B).
  • Repeal of section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Law to provide much-needed transparency on police misconduct and discipline (10611).
  • The New York State Body-Worn Cameras Program to increase accountability and evidence for law enforcement and the residents of the state by providing body-worn cameras to all state police officers while on patrol (8674-A).
  • The Police Statistic and Transparency (STAT) Act, to Bring Transparency to Policing Data by providing for collection of data concerning police and court activities, in order to promote transparency and help researchers and the public evaluate the effectiveness of criminal justice policies (10609).
  • Requiring law enforcement officers that discharge their weapon in circumstances where a person could be struck by a bullet to promptly report the incident (10608).
  • Creating a civil penalty for the biased misuse of emergency services, such as 911, when there is no reason to believe a crime or offense, or imminent threat to person or property, is occurring (1531-B).
  • The Right to Monitor Act, which confirms the public’s right to record public law enforcement activity (1360-A).
  • Creating the Office of Special Investigation that would investigate and, when warranted, prosecute when a person dies in law enforcement custody or after an encounter with a police officer or certain peace officers (1601-C).
  • Affirming that police and correctional agencies must provide attention to the medical and mental health needs of individuals in their custody (8226-B).
  • Creating the law enforcement misconduct investigative office (10002).