June 11, 2009

Assembly Passes Legislative Package To Improve
Police And Community Relations

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol announced the passage of a seven-bill legislative package to encourage greater cooperation between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve throughout New York. The package includes legislation that prohibits the use of racial or ethnic profiling in stops and searches, requires in certain circumstances that an on-duty police officer who discharges a weapon be tested for drugs and alcohol, and encourages increased compensation for police officers who utilize foreign languages during the course of their work.

Silver noted that while six of the seven bills were passed on the floor Wednesday, one of the bills already passed in the Assembly earlier this year.

"The foundation of safe and successful communities is effective communication and trust between residents and law enforcement," Silver (D-Manhattan) said. "This package will increase community and police cooperation by clearly prohibiting profiling of citizens based on race or ethnicity. Our communities draw strength from our diversity and this legislation encourages hardworking police officers in communities where English may be a second language for some residents, to use their own foreign language skills to better communicate with residents."

"Racial and ethnic profiling in police work has become an increased source of tension between minority communities and law-enforcement across the country," Lentol (D-Brooklyn) said. "In some instances, this has created a barrier of alienation and mistrust for our officers conducting meaningful police work. This legislation not only prohibits this practice, but also gives victims of racial profiling a right of action. Creating better relationships and rebuilding trust between police and minority communities will enhance community safety, a top priority of the Assembly Majority."

In addition to prohibiting racial and ethnic profiling, one of the bills in the package (A.1676/Wright) requires police departments to collect and maintain data on traffic stops and "stop and frisk" actions, which would be submitted regularly to the Division of Criminal Justice Services. The legislation also permits victims of racial or ethnic profiling to seek recourse against those who would use race and ethnicity as a basis for exercising their powers.

"I once again commend Speaker Silver for his strong leadership and support on these issues," said Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright (D-Manhattan). "This package of bills gives us hope. We look for improved community relations, equity, parity and justice. Taken together, this legislation will make our communities stronger through improved communication and better community relations."

The Assembly also passed a measure requiring that New York City police officers who, in the course of their duty, have discharged their service weapon and such discharge results in the death or serious physical injury of another, and credible evidence suggests that such discharge may have been unlawful, to be tested for drugs or alcohol (A.1477/Wright). The legislation would help to insure an officer's fitness at the time of firing a firearm.

In addition, the Assembly passed legislation designed to reward police officers who make use of a foreign language during the course of their duties (A.5950/Espaillat). The bill gives greater incentive to those who speak foreign languages to seek employment in police departments and helps police better communicate with growing multi-lingual immigrant communities.

"This measure encourages greater communication between community residents and local police precincts," said Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan). "It allows increased language-salary compensation for officers who utilize other languages while on duty. This will play an important role in linking our police forces with the communities they serve."

As a part of the Assembly's commitment to increased cooperation among law enforcement and communities across the state, the Assembly also passed measures to:

"The Assembly continues to take the lead on meaningful reform," said Assemblywoman Michele Titus (D-Queens) "These bills will help address obstacles and improve police and community relations, particularly in minority communities across this state."

"This package of legislation is an example of the Assembly Majority's commitment to fostering better relationships between our hardworking local law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve," concluded Silver.