Police officers who were either fired or forced to resign because of disciplinary reasons may not be able to work as officers in other jurisdictions in the state of New York should a bill announced Saturday become law.
“If you have the power and the privilege to enforce the law, you must be held to a higher standard,” New York State Senator Brian Benjamin, who is sponsoring the proposed bill, told CBS News. “That standard has to include making sure that cops know that they can’t just do whatever they want to do.”
Benjamin is collaborating with New York City Council member Francisco Moya and New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on the bill, which is being proposed at both the city and state level.
Should the bill pass, officers who resign while under investigation, while they are the subject of disciplinary action that could result in their termination, or while facing pending criminal charges resulting from their actions while on duty would be unable to be hired in the state as a police officer. The law would apply to police officers coming from out of state as well.
“Accountability is a must,” Benjamin said. “It is the first step to justice,”
Benjamin told CBS News that the killing of Daunte Wright in Minnesota is what inspired the provision. Kim Potter, the officer charged in the fatal shooting of Wright, resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department last week. If Benjamin’s proposed law were enacted, Potter would not be eligible to be hired as a law enforcement officer in the state of New York.
“The culture of policing is so toxic that this kind of a situation with Kim Potter and Daunte Wright could happen and enough is enough,” Benjamin said. “We have to be much more aggressive and much more clear.”
Benjamin said he is confident the legislation will pass, citing the recent murder conviction of Derek Chauvin — the former police officer who killed George Floyd — and his own success getting police reform legislation signed into law. The New York State Legislature last year passed the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act, a bill sponsored by Benjamin that prohibits the use of chokeholds by law enforcement and allows for officers who injure someone using a chokehold “or similar restraint” to be charged with a class-C felony.
“A bill like this is a common sense bill,” Benjamin said. “I actually don’t have any concerns about it passing because the bill is a very basic bill and it’s hard for anyone to justify, particularly in this moment, the idea that if a cop was fired in one jurisdiction, they can get a job in another jurisdiction.”
Civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton was with Benjamin to announce the introduction of the bill.
“We’ve seen police officers fired from their posts for their actions, and then go work for the police force in another jurisdiction. This is not right,” Sharpton said Saturday in a press release. “The family of Eric Garner never even saw a courtroom. This family never got a chance to hear if their son’s killer was ruled guilty. In this moment, following the trial of George Floyd, New York needs to stand up and legislate, and that’s what these leaders are doing.”
Benjamin said that people should “reimagine public safety” and “redesign the whole process.”
“When we think about what safety looks like and what are the pieces of it, place law enforcement appropriately within that structure,” Benjamin said. “I am not in favor of abolishing the police, but I am in favor of making sure that we are only spending money on law enforcement that is essential for public safety.”
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